Stuffed vine leaves saved my life is written by British television presenter Nadia Sawalha and was launched on the back of Nadia winning the 2007 Celebrity Masterchef in Britain. The book contains some of Nadia's family history and the dishes Nadia associates with each relative and some events. Most of the dishes are Lebanese with some original contributions by Nadia, her children, and her British mother, plus a nice Moroccan recipe.
There are 280 pages with most containing recipes. There are plenty of photographs of the finished dishes and none of the preparation stages. A small number of recipes could benefit from pictures of some preparation stages.
I skipped through the first 200 pages trying to find something to cook. A lot of the dishes use five cloves of garlic in a dish where one clove would drown the taste of the food. Garlic is an anaesthetic that kills your sense of smell and taste. Nadia must be a top level garlic user with olfactory and gustatory nerves burnt away by the dreaded G.
Page 224 has a Moroccan dish with no garlic and it looks like it would be a good meal with some tiny adjustments. For those trying the recipe, buy low fat minced lamb or make your own. Change the
3-4 tbsp olive oil from tablespoons to teaspoons. Forget the sugar because there is a mass of sugar in the tomatoes and tomato puree. I tried the recipe and the taste is excellent. You need some steamed green vegetables or salad with the meal instead of the recommended chips and bread. I enjoyed the recipe enough to look for books on Moroccan food.
After the overload of garlic, excess carbohydrate and fat is the next problem. Full time dedicated carnivores and builders labourers will like the fat and calories. For everyone else, you need to alternate the dishes from the book with food.
Many of the dishes use lamb and lamb in Australia has too much fat. Some cuts of lamb have almost as much fat as protein. You have to trim the fat off to make an edible meal. Lamb mince and lamb sausages are often made from the fatty bits trimmed off the worst cuts. If you want minced lamb, you may have to search hard to find genuine low fat mince. Beef is readily available in low fat mince but not lamb.
Tabbouleh is a healthy dish described on page 124. Instead of using it as a tiny accompaniment, the it is often presented in restaurants, use it as a major salad at the start and throughout a meal. If you are not laying bricks all day, you can leave the wheat (burghul) out of the tabbouleh or use far less than the amount specified. The fat (olive oil) can be reduced to zero as the oil is just a preservative to stop the salad drying out between preparation and serving.
If you trim the garlic, fat, salt, and carbohydrates, there are some interesting ideas here. I think some other books show a better balance. This would be a good book for people who like the British Masterchef series and not a good choice for someone who wants to learn about cooking. If you are interested in Lebanese cooking as performed in Britain, it could be a good book. For everyone else there are books with a better balance of information about middle eastern cooking, the ingredients, and techniques.