Levantine Harvest by Lara Ariss: Book review

Levantine Harvest by Lara Ariss: Book review

About the author:

Lara Ariss originally worked in the advertising, before leaving the industry to retrain at Le Cordin Bleu in London. She now runs a catering company in Beirut, specializing in artisan Bundt cakes, traybakes, and other desserts. Levantine Harvest is the chef’s first cookbook.

What’s the concept?

One of the most well-known foods to be exported from the Middle East, Lebanese cuisine is popular around the world. From New York late-night takeaways to Lebanese delis on the streets of Paris. In this recipe book however, the author goes on a journey back to the roots of Lebanese cooking. In Levantine Harvest, author Lara Ariss reflects on how during her childhood in the country, she developed an affinity and respect for nature, along with local seasonal produce. “Stored in my memory banks of taste are many significant dishes,” she writes. “My father’s lemon and garlic-infused fava beans, dripping with olive oil, my grandmother’s stuffed vine leaves, rolled to perfection; my brother’s weekly craving for silky hummus and finely chopped tabbouleh.” Watch out for the beautifully scripted inside cover too, with photographs of the author’s handwritten recipes in both Arabic and English.

How user-friendly is the book?

All recipes in the book are planned around seasonally available produce in Lebanon. There are also useful colour-coded symbols at the top of each recipe, alerting you to which season the dish works best in. The menu key is straightforward, with recipe instructions clearly laid out and easy enough to follow for even kitchen novices. The recipes range from the basic Lebanese staples (tabbouleh and labneh), to the more complex kibbeh. Ultimately even the most complex recipes in the collection are achievable for the everyday cook. This is reflected in the equipment needed too – most recipes require no more than your basic kitchen set up (oven, fridge and mixing equipment). Indeed, well-known Lebanese-Australian chef Greg Malouf who wrote the forward for the book says the recipes play to the strengths of Lebanese cuisine: “the success of the collection is that Lara truly understands that Lebanese food is, at heart, simple home cooking.”

What are the recipe highlights?

The collection is packed full of wholesome homecooked Lebanese dishes. The country’s culinary history weaves its way through the different recipes. In some, you can witness the country’s Mediterranean flare (the stuffed artichoke hearts and baked sardines with tomatoes are both tasty). In others, the country’s Middle Eastern roots are more palpable. Certainly with the kafta with tahini sauce, and the tasty rocket and date salad. Elsewhere you can taste influence from the traditional spice route and northern Levant (the Iraqi Biryani chicken recipe is deliciously moreish). Be sure to spend time over the dessert section too – fans of Lara Ariss’s dessert catering company can try their hand at some of her much-loved sweet recipes. The wholesome Lebanese flavours, along with the beautiful food photography by Natalie Naccache will have you eager to try out the recipes in this visually stunning book.

Details: For more information about Levantine Harvest, visit Lara Ariss. If you enjoyed this article, you may enjoy these recipes.