A Book of Middle Eastern Food

by Claudia Roden

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Recommended by

Caroline Conran

Food writer

Like a genie out of a bottle, a whole culture, perfumed, aromatic, deep and complex, emerged from this book when we first opened its pages. We suddenly changed from good old roasts to kitchens piled with pine nuts, pistachios and almonds, with saffron, apricots, sumach and preserved lemons. And it all works - yes, you really can make a spit and roast a whole lamb on it and learn the origins of the Méchoui at the same time - that is definitely the spirit I want in a cookery book.

Josceline Dimbleby

Food writer

I had this book early on, when my childhood in Syria and the tastes I loved there was still vivid. Claudia is not only a brilliant and inspiring writer; her recipes are also completely reliable as she tests them out herself in her own kitchen which should be a must for guiding the home cook and is by no means usual now in today’s chef and TV cook’s world. This like all Claudia’s books is for reading as well as cooking.

Diana Henry

Award-winning food writer and author. Columnist at The Sunday Telegraph

I bought this along with the Chez Panisse Menu Cookbook and both books moved between my bedside table and my kitchen for years. This is food in a cultural context and I was blown away by the fact that someone was writing about food in this way, working as an anthropologist as well as a cook. The prose is elegant and the recipes are terrific. I’ve cooked nearly every dish in here.

Lucy Malouf

Food writer and editor

This was one of the first books that I bought and cooked from as a student and it’s one that I still refer to constantly today. It’s everything I want from a cookbook: part social anthropology, part personal history and part recipes. Few can match Roden’s knowledge of the region; for me it’s the benchmark.

Bee Wilson

Food writer and historian

Without this book, there would arguably have been no Moro, no Ottolenghi, no Persiana. Its influence on British cooking has been huge. I am reminded of Roden every time I eat a tabbouleh or an orange and almond cake. The great surprise is that the recipes - from 1968 - remain as fresh as ever.

Nik Sharma

Food writer

When I wanted to learn more about Middle Eastern cooking, an author recommended I read this book. It remains my number one resource. Not only does it contain a comprehensive collection of recipes from this vast region but it also shares the context behind the recipes.

Cheryl Cohen

Farmer's market organizer

Hard to choose between this and the book of Jewish food. I love the way Claudia writes, the breadth of historical detail and the way recipes come to life. My first edition fell apart, so I was delighted with the new revised edition.

Jenny Chandler

Food writer

The first cook book I really read and still dive into regularly, 30 years later. All Claudia Roden's books are inspirational but this opened up an entirely new world of food and culture not just to me but to the British nation.

Vicky Hayward

Food writer

I discovered how to make hummus and rethink non-European cuisines thanks to Claudia’s book. Today I also value the way it shows what food can mean; here we see how it holds together community in exile.

Cat Black

Food writer

Again this is to do with my parents wonderful cooking when I was a child. It wasn't until I tried to cook myself that I realised how many of my favourite of my Mum's dishes originate here.

Annabel Langbein

Author and celebrity cook

Amazingly researched, passionate, authentic writing and food, and the first to introduce us to a magical world of flavours from the Middle East.

Aliza Green

Chef and author

When I only owned three cookbooks, this was one I turned to over and over for its anecdotes, authentic recipes, and charming drawings.

Sybil Kapoor

Writer and broadcaster

Still surprises me with Roden's dreamy recollections and delicious and reliable recipes. I return to it again and again.

Sara Jenkins

chef/owner Porsena & Porchetta

After three years living in Beirut as a child this book was my key to recreating those flavors as an adult.

Betty Fussell


Vast in geographical and historical scope, Roden explores the roots of Western Culture in unexpected ways.

Len Fisher

Former food scientist, writer and broadcaster

Claudia is the doyen on Middle Eastern cookery, and this book is an absolute must.

Rita Erlich

Food writer

As rich in food culture as the recipes are good.

Elisabeth Luard

Food writer and illustrator

Personal, accurate, never bettered.

Barbara Santich

Author and food scholar

Janet Floyd

Professor of American Literature & Culture

Allegra McEvedy

Chef, writer and broadcaster

Pascale Beale

Owner and Founder of Pascale’s Kitchen

Glynn Christian

Food writer and author

Lindsey Bareham

Author and writer

Joyce Goldstein

Author and consultant

Nadia Arumugam

Food writer

Jake Tilson

Artist, graphic designer and author

Clare Marriage

Chief Executive, Doves Farm Foods

Rachel Laudan

A Food Historian Cooks

Naomi Duguid

Writer and photographer

Chantal Coady

Founder of Rococo Chocolates

Letitia Clark

Food writer

Paulette Licitra


Joan Nathan

Cookbook author and food journalist