Moro East by Sam and Sam Clark

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Moro East by Sam and Sam Clark

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Category: Cookery
Rating: 4/5
Reviewer: Sue Magee
Reviewed by Sue Magee
Summary: A celebration of the last year of the Manor Garden Allotments in East London with seasonal recipes to take us through the year. As you might expect the book is particularly strong on vegetables. There's a strong Eastern Mediterranean influence is the spices and flavourings. Highly recommended.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 320 Date: November 2007
Publisher: Ebury Press
ISBN: 978-0091917777

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Moro East is the third book from husband and wife chefs, Samantha and Samuel Clark - better, if somewhat confusingly known as Sam and Sam Clark. The inspiration for the first, The Moro Cookbook, was brought about by their restaurant of that name in Clerkenwell. Casa Moro: The Second Cookbook was inspired by their home in Spain, but this latest book comes from very different roots.

Imagine an area of land bordered on one side by the River Lea and on another by the Grand Union Canal. You'll have approached with care because you had to go through some rather insalubrious areas to get there but once you were over the bridge you were in the Manor Garden Allotments - a tiny part of the Eastern Mediterranean in East London - where the Clarks grew vegetables for seven years, but, perhaps more importantly became part of a community of Turks and Cypriots who showed them how to make use of every part of the plant. You'll notice that I've spoken of this in the past tense. Have the Clarks given up, moved on? No - the Manor Garden Allotments have been bulldozed to make way for a hockey stadium for the 2012 Olympics and this book shows the last year of vegetable growing on the site and the glorious food that has been eaten.

The arrangement of the book is simple and ingenious. All soups, main courses, etc are grouped together but within each section the dishes are in order of the seasons. You get a light broth or a wanderer's soup in spring, courgette and beetroot soups appear in summer with a cauliflower and cumin soup in autumn and a spiced lamb soup in the winter. There are many more recipes for each season, but you'll see how you can move through the year using seasonal produce.

I had my reservations about the first book by the Clarks - the ideas were good but I didn't feel that the recipes made the journey from a restaurant kitchen to the home successfully, but that doesn't apply in the second and third books where the recipes started life in the home - or out on the allotment. The balance of spices is more natural - something which doesn't generally happen when you simply divide a restaurant menu down to get the required number of helpings. The inclusion of recipes from the Turkish and Cypriot communities is a brainwave.

I'm thrifty by nature and the idea of using as many parts of the plant as possible appeals to me. After two weeks away in the early summer the Clarks went to the allotment to find that rain and sunshine had created havoc and the seedlings had been smothered by weeds and poppies. A neighbour asked if she could pick the poppy leaves and these she put into a rolled-out flat bread with feta cheese. When cooked it was delicious - and the weeding had been done. Onion tops, celery leaves and many other parts of plants which at best usually only find a home on the compost heap all feature in the recipes. Tortilla with onion tops anyone?

Based around the allotment as the book it, it's not surprising that its real strength lies in the vegetable dishes and once again we have recipes to take us right through the year. Occasionally ingredients are used which those of us without access to a specialist shop (or an East London allotment!) might find difficult to obtain but the Clarks have been very good at suggesting alternatives and there's a real encouragement to experiment which isn't always evident in 'ethnic' cookbooks. I made some tahini dips at the weekend and they were stunning.

The slightest part of the book is probably the section on puddings, but quite honestly I don't think that I would want to eat more than fruit after some of the wonderful meals in the book, but if you do have a sweet tooth then poached cherries with almond cream would be most tempting. I would also enjoy the apple puree with crème fraiche but I doubt that I would go as far as making a caramel to drizzle thinly over it for a family meal - and the recipes in this book are for the family and not for the restaurant.

The blending of the story of the allotments with the food has been done skilfully. It could have turned into a political rant against a system which allows allotments to be bulldozed - but doesn't. It's more of a celebration of what has been achieved over the years and of the community which developed there. The photography helps. It's natural - people are caught doing what they obviously do naturally and even where people pose they look happy to be there. The food photography has the look of home cooking and some dishes I could have eaten off the page. I can just about smell the jewelled pumpkin rice as I look at it.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending this book to the Bookbag. After some rather good meals at the weekend my husband asked me to pass on his thanks too!

For another book where food is eaten almost straight from the land we can recommend A Taste of the Country by Jimmy Doherty. If allotments interest you then you will almost certainly enjoy Robin Shelton's Allotted Time and for a book which looks at making the most of every bit of food in the kitchen we think you might appreciate The New English Kitchen by Rose Prince.

Buy Moro East by Sam and Sam Clark at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Moro East by Sam and Sam Clark at Amazon.co.uk


Buy Moro East by Sam and Sam Clark at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy Moro East by Sam and Sam Clark at Amazon.com.

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Rose Prince said:

Have just read your review - of Moro East. It is a wonderful book. Interesting that your review did not spot the obvious - that this is a book about British food. With all the hysteria about immigrant populations invading the UK, there all the time, are the most fascinating cooks, growing veg and cooking it on the institution that is a British allotment. Make what you want of it. But I am a huge fan of this book, but then I would be, As Samantha Clarke is my sister. thanks for the recommendation at the end of the review. All the best, Rose Prince.