Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons – Diana Henry

By | February 9, 2012

I’ve had this book for two whole weekends and I can’t wait for next weekend to get back in the kitchen with it. I don’t use cookbooks anywhere near as often as I used to, as I can simply search for a recipe on line in much less time than it would take to search my bookshelves, but this book offers something much more.

Each chapter starts with a wonderful essay about the upcoming ingredients, telling tales of eating meals in Spain, Greece, Iran, Turkey and more. These are each written with real love not only for the food, but the people. The chapters are arranged unconventionally, with titles such as “Food From The Hearth”, “Fruits Of Longing” and “A Bowl Of Fresh Herbs”, inviting you in. Most of the dishes I’ve made so far I’ve never even heard of, let alone tasted. One upside is that no-one will know if they’ve gone wrong, they have no frame of reference.

So far I’ve made a refreshing grapefruit and Campari granita, a Turkish pizza with pomegranates, and flatbreads with onions and Italian cheese. I’ve made my own cheese from yogurt and there’s lemons pickling in the kitchen. I have big plans for anchovies and an Iranian style mezze meal next weekend.

Diana Henry assumes that you want to cook, are happy to experiment, and won’t mind a few things going wrong. With one Spanish shrimp and noodle dish she’d warned me how not to mess it up, but then offered handy rescue tips for when I’d ignored that advice. The recipes are written clearly, with the instructions in a sensible order, no getting half way through before you discover you need an element of a dish to have been prepared 24 hours ago and no unnecessary ‘banter’ in the directions to take you off track.

I’m just a little bit in love with Crazy Water, Pickled Lemons, and my family is delighted with the affair I’m having, it’s working out great at dinner time.

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