December 2022 COTM: Arabesque by Claudia Roden


I looked in the book to see if there was a recipe for mujaddara, and there was not one. But a search for lentil dishes in the index brought me to this recipe, which is like a mujaddara with pasta instead of rice. You fry onions until well caramelized. In another pot, you cook lentils, and then when they are about done, add tagliatelle to the pot and cook until the pasta is done. You drain, and toss the lentils and pasta with olive oil, the onion, salt, black pepper, and parsley. I deviated from the recipe just a bit. I used French green lentils. I seasoned the dish with some cumin and red pepper flakes (added to the onions near the end of cooking). The end result was a pasta dish that tasted a lot like mujaddara, which is a good thing. We both enjoyed it. This came as a relief, since the first two dishes from the book were not noteworthy. This one, I would repeat.



I had a few sweet potatoes languishing, and they weighed more or less the pound called for in this recipe from the Starters and Kemia chapter.

To make it, a coarsely chopped onion is sautéed in olive oil till golden, then you add your peeled and cubed sweet potatoes, barely cover with water, and stir in ground ginger, ground, cumin, paprika, salt, and more olive oil. I deviated a bit here, adding a few cloves of minced garlic and the spices to the onions and sautéing for a minute before adding the sweet potatoes and water. (I forgot the oil, but this was not a problem given that more olive oil is also added to finish.) All this is simmered until the sweet potatoes are tender and the liquid has reduced. I had a feeling the water would not reduce down to a sauce consistency by the time the potatoes were cooked in the saucier-shaped pan I used, and this proved correct, so I removed them and the onions with a slotted spoon and reduced the liquid further before finishing the dish. If I make this again, I’ll use a shallower, wider sauté pan to facilitate the reduction. To finish the salad, you add more olive oil, green olives, optional preserved lemon (which I used), lemon juice, and chopped parsley.

I’m pleased to say that this was a success, delicious both warm and at room temperature, and I certainly don’t regret adding garlic. The acidity, salt, and brininess of the lemon juice, olives, and preserved lemons balance the inherent sweetness of the sweet potatoes and onions well, keeping it all from tarting too cloying. Leftovers weren’t as attractive, with colors muted, but were no less tasty.


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This had my name all over it. I love lemon and olives and it was a cold night so something braised sounded extra good. First, let me say that when I pulled out my copy of the book, I was surprised by home much I had cooked out of it when it was COTM. I don’t think I made this back then, but given how much it appeals to me, it is possible that I just didn’t make note of it.

Onions are sauteed in olive oil. Once the onions soften, add garlic, saffron and powdered ginger (I thought of using fresh ginger, but didn’t). Add the chicken pieces (I went with all dark meat instead of cutting up a whole chicken) and season, pour water over it, and cover for about 40 minutes. Stir in lemon juice, chopped cilantro, parsley (I skipped the parsley), preserved lemon peel, and olives and simmer uncovered until reduced. I added cayenne since we like heat. This was good - even very good, but I felt like there could have been more lemon. But I’d definitely make it again. Served over couscous with diced zucchini and peas.




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I made this a week ago and am just now getting around to writing it up. I made a half recipe of this using Impossible ground instead of lamb (Impossible comes in 12 oz packages, and the recipe called for 24 oz of lamb, so it worked out well). You mix the meat with grated onion, salt, pepper, cinnamon, and allspice. I tweaked the spicing just a bit, reducing the cinnamon and upping the allspice. I personally don’t like too much cinnamon in savory dishes. It’s a strong flavor that can overwhelm other seasonings. You are supposed to make a cavity in the meatballs and put some pine nuts in the center, but the recipe gives the easier option of just mixing the pine nuts in with everything else, and that is what I did. The recipe asks you to roll the meatballs in oil before baking. I did not do this, it seemed fussy and unnecessary. Instead, I just greased my baking pan. The meatballs get baked at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes (I used the shorter time), then covered in sauce and baked for 35 minutes more. The sauce is just tomatoes (I used canned), sugar, garlic, salt, and pepper, whirled in the blender.

We enjoyed this, because what’s not to like? While I would make this again, I’m not sure the dish was memorable enough that I will think to make it again, if you know what I mean. There are so many meatball and sauce recipes out there, and they are almost all good. I’m not sure this version distinguished itself from the pack. We served it with the pilaf on p. 196



This is part of a recipe for roast chicken. I just made the pilaf and served it with the meatballs and tomato sauce from p. 310. You wash, soak, and drain basmati rice. I make sure to drain mine long enough that it gets dry again. You fry some onion in oil, then add pine nuts. Add the rice and stir until coated with oil. The recipe has you add stock and spices at the same time. I added the spices first, to the sautéing rice and onion. The spices are salt, pepper, cinnamon, and allspice. As in the meatball recipe I reported on above, I adjusted the amounts of cinnamon and allspice to my liking (less cinnamon, more allspice). You also add currants or raisins at this time. It was currants for me. I then added the stock. You cook by the absorption method. The recipe has you stir in some butter at the end of cooking. I did stir some in, but frankly thought it was unnecessary and would skip it next time.

Perfectly good pilaf, but like the meatballs, I’m not sure it distinguishes itself from all the other pilafs in the world enough that I will think to make it again. Pictured with the meatballs above.


Palicanli Pilav

This starts with roasting diced eggplant. Then you fry some onions, pine nuts, tomatoes, sugar and the rice; then add water, currents, allspice and cinnamon and cook until the rice is done. Finally you fold in dill and the eggplant. Overall it’s pretty simple to make.

Confessions first: I cut the eggplant too small and a lot of it stuck to the aluminum foil even though I added plenty of oil prior to roasting. If you make this, stir the eggplant occasionally.

I also left out the sugar, which I pretty much always do when making savory recipes.

This was pretty decent, but not exciting enough that I’m likely to make it again soon.

If you, or a person you know, has texture issues with eggplant, this is a good type of eggplant dish to try. Diced eggplant is firm and not slimy…and roasting never hurt anything, either.

Even though I’m used to putting cinnamon in savory dishes, since I make a lot of Indian food, there was still a moment after I dumped in all that cinnamon and allspice when I thought it was smelling suspiciously like a dessert. Nevertheless, it all came together just fine in the end - cinnamon, dill, eggplant and all.

All the Indian food might be the reason this felt a bit lacking to me. I kept wishing it had chickpeas in it and thinking it needed more spices, like coriander or cumin. Lemon might have been a good addition, too. Then again, I’m sure it’s not intended to be a main dish, so I might be expecting a little too much of it. It was perfectly fine, just not my dream pilaf.



This is a bulgur salad with tomato, lemon, peppers, scallions and herbs, served in lettuce leaves. It didn’t actually happen.

At the very last minute, I noticed that the recipe called for FINE-ground bulgur, which I gather is more of a specialty product. Since I was looking forward to trying this, and had all the other ingredients, I carried on with my plebian medium-ground bulgur, and poured boiling water onto it as instructed.

Well, that didn’t work out. I’m guessing the problem was with the type of bulgur I was using rather than with Roden’s instructions. She says you shouldn’t be tempted to add more water, since the lemon and tomato will help soften the bulgur. However, after sitting for 20 minutes, my bulgur was still hard as a rock and there was no water left to absorb, so I decided to cut my losses.

I expect to try making this again with the correct type of bulgur, and in the meantime I’ll remember to read recipes more carefully.


I had this book for many years but was never inspired to cook from it. Reading your reviews it became very clear to me that it needs to go into “donate” box.
Thank you all who took the time to cook and to review!


Same for me. I was able to get it as an ebook from my library.

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Same for me. I got Arabesque when it came out and realized that I already had much better versions of the recipes from Paula Wolfert and Ottolenghi. And it went out.

The January thread for Mexican Everyday and More Mexican Everyday is up:



This layered dish piqued my interest. While it had multiple components, it was pretty easy to pull together. You make a tomato sauce with onion, garlic, chili, tomatoes, salt, pepper, and sugar. The base layer for this is toasted pita chips. You open up the pita to a single layer, toast them, and break into pieces. For the kebabs, you mix ground meat (I used Impossible) with minced onion, parsley, salt, and pepper. This is formed into sausage-shaped kebabs which are baked in the oven. Another layer is simply yogurt, whisked, at room temp. And the garnish is pine nuts that have been fried in some butter with sumac. You layer the dish up, pita chips on the bottom, then tomato sauce, then the yogurt, the pine nuts, and the kebabs arranged on top. We enjoyed this very much with the variety in texture and temperature of the components. Served with the eggplant with walnuts and garlic from p. 157



For this recipe, you are asked to cut eggplant into lengthwise slices, that are then brushed with oil and baked. I had large globe eggplant, so I cut them crosswise instead. While the eggplant cook, you make a pesto-like concoction of sautéed garlic, walnuts, and parsley. When the eggplant is cooked, you are to brush them with some wine vinegar, then top with the pesto. I had the vinegar portioned out and all ready to go, but completely forgot to brush the eggplant, instead skipping straight to the pesto topping. These are supposed to be served cold, but I served them warm, and would do so again. I didn’t miss the vinegar at all, and suspect I might prefer these the way I made them. The walnut/garlic/parsley paste was plenty of flavor. We like the eggplant a lot! This might be my favorite dish from the book, with the kebabs above as a close second.


Still looking forward to cooking from this book, but my postings will be late. Interesting to hear the various reports.


The “pesto” sounds really interesting, and as usual, your pottery is stunning!

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I finally made the Daoud Basha (lamb meatballs) that @LindaWhit recommended ages ago and they were delicious! Used a pre- made lamb kofta mix from a local butcher that was seasoned very similarly and kneaded in chopped Marcona almonds and some olive oil. Baked with a bit of oil as directed until lightly browned, then added tomato passata thinned with some chicken broth and seasoned with half-sharp paprika (an idea from a different version of this recipe). Served garnished with cilantro and with some plain yogurt on the side. Definitely worth repeating!



I bought this cookbook long before I joined CH. And it was for this particular recipe. I want to say that this is my go-to base recipe for this dish. But over the years, I have tweaked it here and there. Like LLM1, I think this recipe is delish. I normally serve it over couscous as is traditional, but noodles are okay as well, if that’s what you have.

Now, for my tweaks. I use chicken broth instead of straight water. I want more depth of flavor, not less. I also add the lemon juice to the broth and let it sit until needed.

I DO use a whole chicken with white and dark meat. I eat the white meat first and leave the dark for the leftovers.

I add in double the olives and preserved lemon.

And I use the variation by adding in a jalapeño or serrano with the onions and usually taste for lemon flavor and add in some extra at the end.

Plus, I use half the herbs when called for and half when served. I like the way that looks better and I eat with my eyes first. So for me, this works. And makes this tagine tasty.

This book isn’t a wow book. And it was written mid-2000s and I think a lot of books have been written since covering the cuisines covered in this book. This book is not those. I think this was written when things from this part of the world seemed exotic and different and new. And there weren’t a lot of English writer/author/chefs from those regions getting book deals from the West. And at that time, traditional publishing was the way. And for so many reasons, I always felt like this was my intro 101 to these cuisines and other cookbooks later were the graduate level classes.

I think the value in this book is if you like to dabble in these cuisines, but don’t necessarily want to deep dive into them. This is a VERY good book for that. And since it covers three cuisines, that’s two other books you don’t need and can use for some other cuisine.