In The Taste of Egypt Dyna Eldaief strives to make the familiar home cooking of her Egyptian childhood accessible to American homes as well. This cookbook contains the basic elements of the Egyptian meal, broken down into snacks and starters, main courses, and sweets, as well as a fairly extensive section on the basic equipment and ingredients and base recipes necessary for this style of cooking. Eldaief, who grew up in Australia, has a voice that sounds very Western and she makes extensive use of that throughout her book.
The value here is not only in the recipes, which vary from the few Middle Eastern standards most Western home cooks will be familiar with, but in the stories. Each recipe starts with a story of the author’s memories of this particularly recipe in her home growing up. This has the effect of making the recipes appear to be very long and wordy – a potential drawback as inexperienced cooks may be easily overwhelmed. The other drawback is that Eldaief gives quantities in grams, with a conversion to ounces following. Having the conversion in the recipe is great for experienced cooks who are used to weighing ingredients, and will have the necessary tools. However, many novice cooks are not used to measuring their ingredients by weight rather than volume (although everyone should try it – it only takes a basic kitchen scale and is much more accurate!) The last criticism of this book is that while it is beautifully illustrated with a combination of line drawings and photographs of Egypt, it contains relatively few images of the actual food, which can be difficult even for experienced cooks when they are making a dish for the first time (it’s always nice to know what something should look like!). That said, many of the recipes in this book are relatively simple and completely within the grasp of the experienced home cook.
Even though the overall cuisine may be new to Western palates, many of the individual ingredients are Western pantry staples, and many of the recipes are quite simple with a relatively small number of ingredients. Although less experienced cooks may be slightly intimidated, if they jump in, they will find the recipes easy to follow, and more experienced cooks will find this book an accessible and delightful way to add variety to their repertoire.
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