December 2022 COTM: Arabesque by Claudia Roden

But I thought EYB also indexes blogs?
And they also have a new feature: if the link they provide to the recipe is broken, you can report it to them easily and they’ll look to see if it’s available at another link. Jane at EYB helped me find a replacement link for one such broken link recently.

Djaj M’Ammar Bil Kesksou

Made this yesterday, a whole chicken was rubbed with a mixture of lemon juice, ground ginger, cinnamon, olive oil, salt and pepper. Breast side down in a cast-iron pot with several spoonful of water. I cooked about 45 minutes at 190ºC/375ºF in a fan oven with the breast side down. Turned the chicken and brushed some honey and put back in the oven for another 10 minutes before spooning the stuffing inside the chicken and cooked for another 10-15 minutes. (The recommended cooking time in the book is 1.5 hour at 400ºF for a 3-3.5 pound chicken).

As for the stuffing, cooked the couscous with my usual method, meaning soaked them in hot salted water for a few minutes, added sugar, ground cinnamon, orange blossom water, soaked raisins, roasted crushed almonds, butter and sunflower oil (which I skipped, but I added a bit more butter). Without the proper equipment, I found spooning the stuffing inside a chicken took quite some time.

Served with leftover sauce from the pot. (which I didn’t, as much of the bottom of the pot was carbonized due to the honey and not much liquid left.)

The chicken was tender, with a crispy skin. I didn’t use up all the stuffing, and served the rest of the couscous side by side with the cooked stuffing. I didn’t find the stuffing cooked inside the chicken very different from the remaining couscous stuffing, so I think one can skip the process.

Nothing exciting or big discovery since I have cooked from a lot of similar Moroccan recipes, but a tasty tajine nevertheless.


Khiar Bil Na’na

Not easy to find a starter or kemia without tomato, which is now off-season, well actually cucumber too, but the difference in taste is less obvious.

Pretty easy and straightforward, grated the peeled cucumber, mixed with lemon juice, orange blossom water, olive oil, salt and chopped mint leaves.



The author claims in the headnote that sautéed chicken kebabs are more tender and juicy than grilled ones. OK, but grilled ones are… wait for it… grilled. In this recipe, chunks of chicken are sautéed and seasoned with just salt and pepper, and finished with parsley and either lemon or sumac (I used sumac). They are served with an equally similar pilaf, in which tomatoes are puréed in a food processor, combined with water and a bouillon cube (I used Better Than Bouillon), and this mixture is brought to boil. Rice is added, with salt, pepper, and some sugar. Butter is folded in at the end of cooking. The pilaf skips the step of sautéing the rice in the pot before adding liquid. Instead you boil the liquid and then add the rice. I feel this gives an inferior texture compared to the sauté method. I followed the recipe as written this time, but in the future would do it my way. For the chicken, I used Daring vegan chicken pieces. The pilaf was fine but not memorable, and I can get better results without a recipe. The chicken was fine, but simple. I would have preferred more spicing and for the chicken to be grilled, but the stove method is a nice alternative for when the weather doesn’t cooperate with grilling.


HUMMUS - p. 249

I made this with the proportions given in the recipe. I just cooked my chickpeas in the Instant Pot from unsoaked instead of soaking and cooking on the stove. For 1 1/4 cup dried chickpeas, you use the juice of 2 lemons, 3 cloves of garlic, 3-4 tablespoons tahini, and salt to taste. To my taste, this was too much lemon and not anywhere close to enough tahini. And yeah, I could tell that just from reading the recipe, but made it as written anyway. I was actually pleasantly surprised by some of the hummus recipes in Flavors of the Sun even though they had less tahini than I like, so I thought I’d give this one a try and see if I liked it better than I expected to. Nope. It just lacked richness and tasted flat. I did go off on my own and make a topping of pine nuts, tomato, and onion sautéed in olive oil, instead of the plain olive oil topping suggested in the book.


This has been a first: an older book that I have and think I want to cook from is selected, but when I flip through it, I see very little I want to make. I’m actually thinking I’ll be able to unload it. It’s not that there are not some appealing recipes, but most of them use summer vegetables like eggplant and tomato that I have no urge to consume right now. Or, I have the recipes in another book.
I do have some dessert recipes flagged, so we’ll see, but taking one book out of my overcrowded collection is actually a welcome outcome for COTM for me!


Tagline of Lamb with Caramelized Baby Onions and Pears p. 106
This has been a longstanding favorite at our house. The pears add a mild sweetness which counteracts the gaminess of the lamb. This is one of those dishes that smells heavenly while it’s cooking. I usually make quinoa alongside with chopped pistachios and dried cranberries or cherries. Great autumnal dinner.



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.


Vote for our January COTM here:

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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.