Discovering Ethnic Paris

Review and RecipeHere it is. My very first cookbook review. On a book received especially. I am both excited and a little confused: what information on the book is interesting, what is too much? How will I keep you, interested? So I will just dive right in.

I received ‘The Ethnic Paris Cookbook’ by Charlotte Puckette and Olivia Snaije 2 weeks ago . It arrived early in the morning at work, so everyone wondered what this colourful book is all about.

The book is still ‘hot off the press’, available in the USA since 19 March 2007 (on the old continent available through Amazon FR or Amazon UK ) . And, as the title says, it is all about discovering ethnic Paris. The book is a guide through ethnic recipes from Paris, with chapters on Cous Cous in the Cafetaria (Morocco, Algeria, etc), Bo Bun Business (Vietnam, Cambodia, etc), Waiting for Wagashi (Japan), Africa sur Seine (Cameroon, Senegal, etc), and the Best of Mezze (Lebanon, Syria, etc).The book reads both like a cookbook and a guide to Paris. The individual chapters are divided into appetizers, main courses and desserts. On almost every other page you can read a little review or tip on where to shop, eat and enjoy ethnic Paris. And the absolute major plus point of this book are the many addresses and maps pointing you in the direction of ethnic restaurants in Paris. These restaurants alone should be reason enough for every foodie to own the book. Literally, a guide to ethnic restaurants in Paris. A must, if like me, you love going out to eat and trying out different restaurants (be it Brussels or Paris). I have already bookmarked a couple for my next trip to Paris.

Two things which took a little bit of time getting used to: there are no photos, and (almost) all measurements are volume rather than weight. But there is a catch. The book is beautifully designed by Dinah Diwan, with very colourful and expressive drawings, and there is always a way around the volume-weight conversions.

No book can only be judged by its cover though, so to give you the ultimate review we also got cooking. At random we chose a Moroccan recipe from the ‘Cous Cous in the Cafetaria’ – the lamb tagine with artichokes and peas.

Tagine d’Agneau aux Artichauts et Petit Pois (serves 6)

2tbsp vegetable oil
3 pounds (1 1/2kg) lamb from the shoulder or leg, cut into large cubes
2 onions, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 small lemon, seeded and diced
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen peas
1tbsp ground ginger
2tbsp ground cumin
1/2tbsp saffron threads
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2×9-ounce (250gr) packages frozen artichoke bottoms, defrosted and rinsed
1tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup celery leaves, coarsely chopped

  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a large heavy saucepan over high heat. Add the meat, onions, and garlic and cook, turning the meat to brown on all sides, about 10min. Add the lemon, fresh peas (if using), and enough water to barely cover. Bring to the boil, reduce heat and simmer, skimming off any scum that forms on the surface. Combine the ginger, cumin, saffron, salt, and pepper in a small bowl. Add a ladle of simmering broth and mix well. Stir back into the pot, cover, and cook for 45min, or until the meat is tender;

  2. 10min before the meat is done, place the artichoke bottoms in a single layer on top of the other ingredients in the pot. (If using frozen peas, add them at this point). Cook until the artichokes are easily pierced with a knife.

  3. Spoon the lamb and vegetables into a warm serving bowl. Taste the broth and reduce, if necessary, before adding to the bowl. Serve drizzled with the olive oil and garnish with the celery leaves.

Now I can not tell you if the dish is supposed to look like this or not, but I can vouch it tasted like Morocco. The food was delicious, easy to make and everyone enjoyed their ethnic (Paris) dinner.

If you do buy the book, please let me know. Would love to hear your own impressions and discoveries on ethnic Paris. Bon appetit.
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