Why buy it?
If you’ve eaten at Shane Delia’s Melbourne gastro temple Maha Bar & Grill, you’ll know to expect artfully plated, powerfully flavoured plates of food with a Middle Eastern bent, driven by techniques honed in formidable French kitchens. So, what’s surprisingly endearing about his cookbook is that the focus is not to his signature restaurant style but, instead, it is a heartfelt homage to his cooking roots: his Maltese grandfather, Nenu, and his wife’s Lebanese parents. Nenu passed his cooking wisdom to his grandson via Sunday lunches – a tradition and a mandate in one in the Delia household. Shane’s familial culinary rites of passage – slaughtering and breaking down a rabbit for stuffat tal-fenek (rabbit stew); earning his badge of manhood diving for sea urchins with his dad in the Mediterranean; learning to roll lamb kibbeh only to be humbled by his mother-in-law’s perfectly shaped ovals lined up in regimental rows – intersperse the recipes that Shane has collected from his family and travels from Turkey to Morocco (a Fez recipe for a cinnamon and honey pumpkin purée scribbled in Arabic and translated into English by his father-in-law). It’s these kind of home-cooked meals that make you want the Delia family to adopt you, but it is Shane’s interpretation that elevates these generations’ old recipes into the canon of modern Middle Eastern cuisine.
Get set to dust off your spice shelf. Recipes are straightforward and conversational, and you may be surprised how many Middle Eastern ingredients (and spices) you already have in your pantry, although a visit to a specialised grocer for Aleppo pepper and lemon sea salt (Shane’s magic ingredient) will deliver authenticity.
Savoury and sweet worlds collide in the yoghurt and orange blossom jelly with strawberry and sumac granita, as refreshing as it is creative – a deconstructed Redskin Split, if you will, for grown-ups.
Most surprising dish
Maltese pork sausages, a traditional recipe from the Delia’s family butcher – so good you can eat them raw.
"Slow-cooking meat in olive oil and animal fats is a very luxurious way of cooking. It’s like you’re sending it to a massage retreat for the weekend: first you exfoliate the meat by rubbing it with a blend of herbal oils and salt, then you gently submerge it in a warm rehydrating bath of olive oil, organic spices and aromats, and let it rest for hours on end."
Those who are at a loss over what to do with the rest of that bottle of pomegranate molasses or orange blossom water, and anyone looking to spice up their repertoire with impressive yet achievable everyday dinners.
Cook the book