Since I had heard so many wonderful things about Sabrina Ghayour‘s other books (it seems that when I talk cookbooks with people over Instagram, Persiana is often cited in people’s top cookbook lists) I decided to accept the publisher’s offer to send me a copy to try and review. When Bazaar arrived, I was instantly curious how a self-described “world’s safest bet for winner of the ‘Least Likely To Turn Vegetarian’ prize” would come up with an entire cookbook of vegetarian recipes. While she says in the introduction that she has “written this book with meat-eaters in mind, because [she] feel[s] it is we who really need the most help and inspiration when it comes to preparing simple meals without meat, which have plenty of flavor and satisfy all at the table” I feel that as a vegetarian I could definitely use some help in this department too! Even after a decade of meatless-eating I’m still finding that I need inspiration on how to serve easy, delicious meals to my all vegetarian family. What started off as my husband and I eating mainly block cheese, pasta, and tofu has turned into a family of three where I need to remember that there are vegetables in vegetarian.
Ghayour takes her inspiration from the traditional markets (for which the Persian word is “bazaar”) of the Middle East because this is where produce is fresh and vibrant. Nothing fancy, trendy, or gimmicky. I really appreciated Ghayour’s view of home cooking because, while the ingredient lists and recipes provide a guide, she doesn’t want home cooks to stress about getting the recipe perfect but, instead, to find pleasure in food and make the recipes their own. For those who are curious –there is no index for people looking to find out which recipes are vegan, but the book is full of vegan-suitable dishes. Some of the recipes are already vegan while some may need simple substitutions (for example dairy or eggs). I was able to easily source all the ingredients in my local markets and grocery stores (for anyone worried that they might encounter tofu, this is a tofu-free vegetarian cookbook).
Bazaar is organized into 9 chapters: Light Bites & Sharing Plates, Eggs & Dairy, Soups & Bowl Comfort, Pies, Breads & Pastries, Salads for All Seasons, Moreish Mains, Cupboard Sustenance, Spectacular Sides, and Sweet Treats. I really appreciate the diversity of the recipes — fresh salads to celebrate the hottest summer days, warming soups and comfort foods for the coziest winter dinners, fun treats to enjoy with a coffee — a little something for everyone! Aside from the recipes that required yeast and time to rise, none of the recipes took overly long to prepare. Most dishes in Bazaar would be perfect for a weeknight meal or a “Meatless Monday.”
After cooking almost a dozen recipes from Ghayour’s Bazaar, I’m not sure if there’s anyone — devoted meat-eater or otherwise — who wouldn’t find this book completely delicious! Each recipe I served my family offered new takes or techniques on popular recipes. Take her recipe for World’s Best Toastie — a grilled cheese that’s been reimagined using grilled halloumi, harissa, honey, tomatoes, and her “Shaken” Sweet Quick-Pickled Onions. When I first tried the recipe, I had no bread, so I used flatbreads and the result was the same — a much more filling and tasty sandwich. It checked all the boxes — sweet, salty, a bit spicy, and so juicy. I think everyone wanted a second sandwich! And, it was with this recipe that I found another recipe that’s been on constant repeat in my kitchen — the shaken onions. While most quick-pickled onion recipes require you to prepare a vinegar/sugar mixture to immerse the onions in and let them sit for awhile, Ghayour’s “shaken” version is so quick because all you do is add onions to a jar with a bit of vinegar, sugar, and salt, seal the jar and shake vigorously for a couple minutes. Then the pickled onions are ready to enjoy — which we did on the sandwich and in many other dishes from salads to pastas.
Many of her recipes focus on convenience — such as using basmati rice in her take on a risotto. I didn’t mention to my husband that I was making the Lemon, Black Pepper, Pecorino & Cabbage Rice (she took a favourite dish — spaghetti cacio e pepe for inspiration) because I knew if he heard there would be cabbage and cheese in a dish he would prefer plain with a heavy dose of soy sauce he’d convince me to make it his way (I’m a total sucker for what my daughter calls “the cutie eyes” — so if one of them turns their cutie eyes on me I’m a goner!). Instead of following the recipe exactly, I found that I completed most steps in my trusty Instant Pot and the resulting risotto was phenomenal! Truly! Even my “I’d rather have plain rice” husband came back for another big helping.
Oftentimes I feel like people shy away from recipes that involve dough because it seems too difficult or time consuming. Some of my favourite recipes in Bazaar are the dough-based ones. From the Date-Stuffed Naan to the Za’atar-Rubbed Pittas (not to mention those delightfully buttery Baklava Buns) I found recipes that I’d make again and again. The texture of the breads is soft and enticing — I think one of my husband’s favourite recipes that I’ve made him (ever) are the Za’atar-Rubbed Pittas. Ghayour’s dough recipes are easy to mix and knead together and offer the perfect opportunity for novice bakers to practise their skills. Even if you’re a little short on time there are recipes such as the Potato, Scallion & Goat Cheese Hand Pies that use store-bought puff pastry. So, if you’re looking for something to quickly make for a snack or meal then you don’t have to start from scratch with the dough. And, after trying these I can see all sorts of filling combinations I can try using her recipe as the base.
Salad is almost synonymous with being a vegetarian. And, while Ghayour’s Bazaar goes to prove that vegetarian cuisine is so much more than just that, the salads she’s created for the book are really spectacular. She takes the most basic spinach salad and by adding grated zucchini, fresh peas, and toasted seeds dressed in a preserved lemon dressing she offers something deliciously different. Even a beet and goat cheese salad is given a little zing by rolling the goat cheese in za’atar seasoning and adding some blackberries. The Blackberry, Beet & Za’atar Goat Cheese Salad is such a colourful dish! I was able to pick up all the salad ingredients at the market and even the zucchini (which I would have roasted) was given a bit of a different treatment because Ghayour’s recipes really celebrate the glory of using fresh produce.
At this point in the year, I’ve cooked from and reviewed almost 3 dozen cookbooks and I would happily place Bazaar in my top five books of 2019! The recipes appeal to anyone regardless of their dietary preferences and the food is so delicious! Even as I wrote my review, I was making the Rice & Vegetable Aash w/ Puy Lentils for dinner and my 5-year-old claimed, “this is the best soup you’ve ever made!” Ghayour’s recipes have given my family so much pleasure! If you’re curious to see what else we’ve been enjoying, then head over to my dedicated Facebook post or click on my custom Instagram hashtag #eatworthybazaar.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Manda Book Group and Mitchell Beazley for providing me with a free, review copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.