Bazaar is Sabrina Ghayour’s fourth book and her first foray into a cookbook with a purely vegetarian set of recipes. I was intrigued to see how a confirmed omnivore would tackle the subject, particularly as I aim to cook vegan or vegetarian 2-3 days a week, so a new source of ideas from a non-vegetarian is welcome.
I first recall Sabrina from an old series of Channel 4’s Come Dine with Me in which she filled the screen as an irrepressibly warm and generous host. I seem to remember that she won but whether she did or not, her ancestral Persian-inspired cooking and personality piqued my interest. It seems it did the same for the public in general, enough to open the door for her to regularly appear on a variety of TV cooking programmes and publish cookbooks and magazine recipes riffing off the Persian theme, jumping off from there to explore the flavours of the Middle East.
I already own Persiana so when I opened Bazaar: Vibrant Vegetarian Recipes, the format was comfortingly familiar. The photography and styling bounces with sunny colour, making it a bright, inviting book to cook from. It’s full of crimsons, verdant greens, saffrons, tangerines… jewel colours that draw you in and (right now with the rain lashing down outside) make enticing recipes look even more attractive. Don’t get me wrong, ‘brown food’ really does taste good but there seems to be an added endorphin rush from eating a dish that feels steeped in sunshine.
The book format itself is simple. There’s little in the way of introduction: two brief pages in which Sabrina explains why she’s focused this book on vegetarian food despite (or perhaps because of) her cultural upbringing very much expecting meat as the completing factor in any meal. The recipes each have a short and pithy introduction that you can hear in your head in Sabrina’s voice; they are very ‘her’. Each has one of those vibrant, beguiling photos too, great when your visual senses are half of the story when it comes to choosing what to cook.
The layout of the chapters also has that personal touch and reflects her love of producing generous, attractive and sustaining food. Divided into ‘Light Bites & Sharing Plates’, ‘Eggs & Dairy’, ‘Soups & Bowl Comfort’, ‘Pies, Breads & Pastries’, ‘Salads For All Seasons’, ‘Moreish Mains’, ‘Store-Cupboard Sustenance’, ‘Spectacular Sides’ and ‘Sweet Treats’ you already feel as if the author wants you to be nourished and comforted by what you’re about to make.
There’s that wonderful added bonus in any well-produced cookbook, a decent index. For those times when you think, ‘Yes, I do have a couple of wrinkly old aubergines I need to transform’ or ‘I know I spotted a hazelnut-based cake but my frazzled brain has no idea what it was called’, a comprehensive index is a boon!
And well, that’s it. A simple, vivid, easy to use book that makes you want to try something a little different. In typical Sabrina fashion, there’s nothing that looks too daunting. I decided to trial the book with a few recipes that intrigued me for various reasons: Mushroom, Tahini & Harissa Spaghetti, inspired by Sichuan dan dan noodles (sounded … um … odd); Lemon, Black Pepper, Pecorino & Cabbage Rice (I’m a bit of a risotto purist, would this work?); Aubergine & Caramelised Onion Kuku (a frittata needs to be packed with flavour to hold my attention); and finally Roasted Parsnips with Harissa Orange Glaze (sounded tastebud-poppingly delicious).
My verdict on how the recipes are written to start with: they’re obviously tried and tested. They’re clearly described and logically divided into stages that reflect the order in which you’d carry out the instructions. There are short and manageable ingredients lists. The serving sizes are generous (I guess I should have expected this!). I followed each instruction using the specified ingredients and found no difficulties in turning out something that looked like the picture in the book (just one word of warning: if you’re going to chop 1 kg of mushrooms in a food processor, several small batches is the way to do it, as I learned).
And the recipes I made are indeed just a bit different from the norm (maybe I ‘chose lucky’, but reading through the rest of the book I suspect not). That alone makes this an attractive book for the vegetarian in your life bored with the same old dull veggie lasagne or mushroom risotto, or for an omnivore unconvinced that a mushroom or an aubergine can satisfy.
The Mushroom, Tahini & Harissa Spaghetti is complex: simultaneous earthy and zingy, rich but bright-flavoured enough to sustain that richness through a full bowlful.
The Lemon, Black Pepper, Pecorino & Cabbage Rice was a zesty, light, bright bowl of loveliness which I already want to experiment with, maybe adding peas and pea shoots next time (always a good sign when I want to play with a recipe for the fun of the dish) and far from the take on a creamy bowl of risotto I’d expected to get.
Aubergine & Caramelised Onion Kuku (I also crumbled in a little feta as suggested in the recipe intro) was the most involved of the four recipes (precooking the aubergines is a must) and made a great alternative to the standard frittata-alikes I’d cooked in the past: the aubergines added body and umami alongside the sweet onions to make a filling and flavour-packed lunch, saffron-loaded for added loveliness.
Finally, the Roasted Parsnips with Harissa Orange Glaze fulfilled their promise – a piquant side with very little effort – and will be a regular in our house.
I really like Bazaar. It’s a beautiful book that uses the flavours Ghayour is most associated with in an imaginative, exciting and very accessible way. Itwould work well in a jaded vegetarian’s kitchen or as an accessory for an omnivore looking to add more veggie dishes to their repertoire without compromising on flavour.
You can’t accuse the recipes in Bazaar of being wishy-washy on any level. There are a generous 100 or so recipes including a couple of drinks so there’s lots to choose from. I’m looking forward to trying Rice & Vegetable Aash from the “Soups and Bowl Comfort” section, Carrot, Halloumi & Dill Balls from the “Light Bites & Sharing Plates“ section and the mouth-wateringly evocative Spiced Chocolate, Black Pepper & Coffee Mousse from the “Sweet Treats” section. And my newly-vegetarian brother-in-law may well be getting a dinner invitation.
Recipe from the book
Coming soon, Sabrina’s recipe for Turmeric, Spinach & Sweet Potato Fritters.
Bazaar by Sabrina Ghayour is currently available on Amazon UK for £13 (RRP £26). Recipe and image published courtesy of publishers Mitchell Beazley. Images of cooked recipes by guest post author, Nicky Bramley.