Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich are the husband and wife chef duo behind the very successful Honey & Co in London, sometimes affectionately referred to as the Honeys. Hailing from Israel, their food is full of the vibrant colours and flavours of the Levantine region that encompasses Israel, Jordan, Egypt and Turkey, amongst others. Their cookbook Chasing Smoke: Cooking Over Fire Around The Levant focuses on food cooked over fire; perfect for anyone who enjoys cooking and eating outdoors.
It’s their fourth cookbook after Honey & Co: Food From the Middle East, Honey & Co: The Baking Book and Honey & Co: At Home. The new book documents fire-cooked recipes, stories and culinary culture collected in their favourite cities across the region, and also reflects the food they serve in their restaurants.
The book starts with a travel dialogue jumping straight in to a visit to Cairo in Egypt, from the moment their guide and driver picks them up from the airport, through a hair-raising race through the traffic, to an impromptu stop to eat baladi in a street known across the city for its delicious grilled food. As they eat, they make plans with Mustafa to explore Cairo and Alexandria, part of a “trail of smoke” the duo have been following all their lives. That journey took them from their homes in Haifa and Jerusalem to many places around the world – first the wider Mediterranean region Israel sits within, and outwards to Morocco, the islands of Greece and many more. They include in their story here the Lebanese restaurants of London’s Edgeware road and the Turkish ones along Green Lanes, and of course their own grill house, Honey & Smoke, located at the north end of Great Portland Street.
Next comes some practical advice on how to barbeque, mixed together with more personal stories and memories. There are notes on weights general preparation and fire safety, and guidance on brines and salt rubs.
Recipes are categorised into five ingredient-lead chapters: Fruit & Vegetables; Fish & Seafood; Birds; Lamb & Other Meats; and Bread & Unmissables. Each chapter is stuffed full of tempting, full-flavour recipes. I’ve bookmarked smokey aubergines with tomato and labaneh; sweet potatoes baked in the embers, almond tahini and smoked almonds; whole baked red onions with sage, honey and walnut dressing; figs with manouri cheese and pomegranate dressing; spiced courgettes with goats’ yoghurt and grapes; tuna shish with chermoula and preserved lemons; red mullets with sweet lemon dressing; spit-roasted chicken with honey-garlic butter; joojeh (chicken) kebabs in yoghurt and saffron; chicken wings in spicy pomegranate molasses; new season garlic and lamb kofta; patlican (lamb and aubergine) kebabs; tahini BBQ lamb chops with fresh plums and spiced plum sauce; beer-braised smoky pork ribs; smoked beef short ribs with black pepper and orange; fire-top knafe (a cheese and pastry dessert); and grilled stone fruits with rosemary and rose syrup. Honestly, I would very happily eat virtually every recipe in the book; they are highly alluring.
What I particularly like is that recipes range from quick and very simple dishes that are easy to pull together, to more complex (but still straightforward) ones that are perfect for when you have more time, are keen to expand your repertoire and up your barbeque game!
Another fantastic touch – which makes this one of the best barbeque cookbooks from a rain-leery British perspective – is the inclusion of instructions for cooking the dishes in an oven or on the stove, should the weather outdoors fail to cooperate. It’s such a stress reliever to not have to guess times and temperatures, if you do need to switch to cooking indoors.
Every chapter is indulgently replete with beautiful images, from vibrant and appealing photographs of each dish (shown either on the grill or simply plated), to evocative travel images of places (and their people and food) that Packer and Srulovich visited for inspiration. There are glorious pictures too of food markets with their abundant piles of colourful fresh produce. ‘Visual feast’ is a cliché but it is an apt one to use here.
A feature I appreciate as a lover of culinary travel are the destination focus pieces interspersed throughout the book. These cover Alexandria in Egypt; Al Salt, Petra and Wadi Rum in Jordan; Acre and Haifa in Israel; Adana and Gaziantep in Turkey; Heraklion, Kallipoli and Thessaloniki in Greece, and London here in the UK. These are fascinating, informative and as beautifully illustrated as the rest of the book, providing a real insight into local foods and cultures, and the adventures Packer and Srulovich enjoyed whilst researching. You will learn too about food traditions associated with religious events such as Ramadan, Eid al-Fitr, Hannakah and Shavuot.
Cooking from the book is a delight!
We made Sardines grilled in vine leaves using leaves from our own grape vine, following the tip to blanch them in salty water before using. We’ve grilled fish on the barbeque before, and even inserted slices of lemon in the cavity but wrapping them in vine leaves provided extra protection that allowed the fish to cook through without the surfaces burning too much – a little blackened charring is wonderful, but too much and it becomes acrid.
Honey & Smoke’s adana kebabs were fabulous, and this time we used the extra notes about cooking without a barbeque to bake them in the oven. Not only were they delicious piled into naans with a pile of salad, yoghurt and herbs, leftovers were perfect with fried egg and toast the next morning!
Grilled corn with honey and urfa chilli butter was one of the firs dishes we made, having just got some urfa chilli in a mixed box of spices from BoTree Farm. The flavoured butter took seconds to make and it made one of my favourite barbeque veg even more delicious!
This is a book we are excited to cook from! The flavours are bold, delicious and refreshingly straightforward to achieve, and we are already looking forward to the warmer, lighter (and hopefully less rainy) months to arrive so we can resume our efforts to cook over fire with Packer and Srulovich.
Recipes From Chasing Smoke
We are delighted to share these two recipes from the book, with permission from publisher Pavilion [first recipe posting tomorrow].
- Grilled Cabbage with Chilli Garlic Butter
- Chicken Shish in Sweet Confit Garlic Marinade
- Whole Burnt Aubergine with Charred Egg Yolk, Tahini and Chilli Sauce
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Kavey Eats received a review copy of Chasing Smoke: Cooking Over Fire Around The Levant by Sarit Packer & Itamar Srulovich from publisher Pavilion Books. Book photography by Patricia Niven.