Beyond the kebab

It’s been a while since my last book review, but this one is well worth checking out. Chef Sharon Salloum, of Darlinghurst’s Almond Bar takes her first foray into food writing with her first book, (aptly named) Almond Bar.

Why should you care? Fans of Sharon’s cooking include celebrated Australian culinary icon Christine Manfield, so that’s a pretty compelling start. Add to that, her features on SBS’ Food Safari and her regular bouts of touring and cooking classes, Sharon is a woman on a mission and that mission is to spread the word about the joys of modern Syrian food.

Leading the way for the next generation of Middle Eastern cooks, Sharon’s style channels all the rich traditions of Syrian cuisine, and then takes them to a new and brighter place. Think spice-laden scents and jewel bright tones, from pomegranate-studded char grilled capsicum and walnut, or striking black tahini and chickpea dips, to tender, braised meat dishes and rosewater-scented dessert delights.

There’s a super handy pantry section that outlines all the essentials of a Syrian pantry, convenient for building up your collection of Middle Eastern cooking basics and there’s also a list of suppliers spread around Australia to help you get on your way. Best of all though, this book incites you to call all of your friends and family and invite them over to share food – there’s a warmth, simplicity and accessibility about Sharon’s food that makes you want to actually pick up these recipes up and cook them (a strange notion perhaps, but how many beautiful cookbooks do you pick up and put down just as quickly because it seems all too impossible?).

There are 100 recipes that run the gamut from quick and simple snacks and finger food, to mid week wonders and indulgent desserts, in short, it’s a build-your-own feast of exotic delights. A worthwhile investment in your cookbook collection, or a fitting gift for someone who loves sharing food. Now all you need to do is plan your next gathering…can I come?

Almond Bar by Sharon Salloum
Publisher: Lantern, $39.95