While a spring of enforced outdoor dining may have left some hesitant about alfresco cuisine, as summer approaches many will be ready to consider digging the barbecue out once again. Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich's new book, Chasing Smoke: Cooking Over Fire Around the Levant, promises a taste of the Eastern Mediterranean – although it sadly cannot guarantee the weather.
The husband-and-wife team are behind a trio of sites in London, with their debut, Honey & Co, having opened in 2012. Their third site, Honey & Smoke, which opened in 2017, takes inspiration from the traditions of the Middle Eastern grill, a topic that also forms the basis of the couple's newest book.
Chasing Smoke outlines some basic barbecue tips, but this is mere guidance, not rules, with the couple advising "you can splurge on a super-style Green Egg ceramic contraption or buy a cheap disposable barbecue tray, and get amazing results from either". This sense of accessibility extends to the recipes, with each detailing a non-barbecue method (with the exception of hot smoked chicken, which tells those without a fire pit: "No way, José").
Chapters include ‘fruit & vegetables', ‘fish & seafood', ‘birds', ‘lamb & other meats' and ‘bread & unmissables', but equally as important are the stories of the couple's travels across the Levant. Many tales relate a recipe or technique learned from someone they met, from Tayab, the "Spielberg" of Adana kebabs, to Ramzi, a Jordanian dental technician who shares both ‘galayet bandora' (a tomato stew) and a newly discovered Arabic reggae-dubstep song.
Communality is vital to barbecuing, with the book's introduction proclaiming: "Where there's smoke, there is fire, and where there's fire, there are often people and stories and something good cooking. Where there's fire, food, friendships and memories are made." As the UK moves out of lockdown, the social aspect of dining together is sure to appeal to guests and hospitality staff alike.
Chasing Smoke: Cooking Over Fire Around the Levant by Sarit Packer and Itamar Srulovich (Pavilion, £26)
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