Délices des Mille et Une Nuits (Kamal Mouzawak)

January 7, 2013  •  Category:


This is a unique cookbook. Designed around the story of The Thousand and One Nights, this book is a work of art created by Kamal Mouzawak, written by  Malek Chebel and illustrated by Anne-Lise Boutin. 

Kamal’s contribution to the book is a special collection of recipes. Each recipe conjures visions of the famed Bagdad court and is infused with poetry. His recipe for stuffed cucumbers (cored and filled with rice, ground meat, cinnamon and pepper), or his baked fish stuffed with ground walnuts, sumac, cumin, thyme, saffron and sprinkled with rose water, are just two examples of simple yet refined dishes. Kamal candidly confessed to me last week that his favorite recipe is the one called fouliya in which fava beans are first sprouted, then cooked with rice, chard and a cilantro and garlic sauce. 

Most of all, I loved Kamal Mouzawak’s judicious choice of dishes which meant to convey through the subtle use of spices and flavors (rose water, sumac, coriander, ..) and specific ingredients (eggplant, Seville oranges, pomegranates, walnuts), the atmosphere of this magical period in Arab history. 

The book is rich with  scholarly pages describing the sophistication of life in Bagdad (Mosul, Basra, Damascus, Aleppo or Cairo) in the tenth century by Malek Chebel. Malek Chebel is a famed psychoanalyst, anthropologist and historian who has distinguished himself  with his works on Islam and the Arab culture (coined “Enlightened Islam” L’Islam des Lumières).

Last, but not least, the charming, dreamy  graphism of Anne-Lise Boutin. Her work uses a reduced palette of navy, black, reds, pistachio green and ochre which contributes to the fantasy-like images. 

In conclusion, this is a book which made me happily escape into the world of One Thousand and One Nights and which I will read again and again; I am also planning to make most of Kamal’s  fifty recipes and post them! 

The book today  is available in French; it has recently been translated into Italian with a most sensitive and scholarly effort by Fulvia De Luca.  Hopefully the English translation will be made available in the near future. 


20 Comments  •  Comments Feed

  1. Belinda @zomppa says:

    Those drawings are amazing! Would love them for my living room…or kitchen…

  2. Velva says:

    What a beautiful book. Stories woven into traditional recipes is a wonderful thing. I think it is a great idea to take your readers on the journey of enjoying some of these recipes.

    Take care.

  3. Priya says:

    A wonderful book, every bookshelf should have it.

  4. Darya says:

    Oh, merci beaucoup pour cette belle référence ! Moi qui suis une amoureuse de livres de cuisine liés à l’histoire, je sens que c’est un livre fait pour moi.
    Bonne année !

  5. Dana says:

    What a gorgeous book!

  6. Susan says:

    It looks like a wonderful cookbook, Joumana! I love the beautiful illustrations. Although I can read some French, I don’t think I would trust myself with a recipe 🙂

  7. Heavy Hedonist says:

    Oh, I so want to read this. How fast can one learn French??? Perhaps I’ll wait for the Eng. translation, but what a great concept!

  8. Tom Tall Clover Farm says:

    I love discovering new books, new food, and new views through your eyes. Thanks for generously sharing your world!

  9. Nadji says:

    Je connais Malek Chebel mais pas Kamel Mouzawak. Un livre que je m’offrirai rapidement.
    Très bonne année 2013 , paix et gourmandise (plus, plus).
    A très bientôt

  10. domi says:

    Enfin le livre magique des mille et une nuits…aux mille et une recettes. Bisous et passe un bon WE

  11. Anne-Marie Petros says:

    I’m so happy you are covering Kamal’s efforts. His book, his restaurant Tawlet and his farmers market are a genius effort in Lebanon…..as is your website and blog!!!!

  12. Alicia (foodycat) says:

    That is such a beautiful book! Fortunately, the person I want to give it to is very comfy cooking in French.

  13. Leigh says:

    Where can I purchase this book? I am intrigued. I took 7 years of French, but it’s been about 6 years so I am rusty but can make due. I am in the states, Dallas, Texas to be exact.

    • Joumana says:

      @Leigh: You can buy it on Amazon. I have heard from friends who have gone to Yemen about the country and its people; friends have told me that children there do not beg. They simply ask for a pencil.

  14. Leigh says:

    Also, you have made me a fan of Kamal. I have been to Yemen, anyone willing to go there and do any sort of work to help people out is doing a service. It is the poorest country in the Middle East and one of the poorest in the world.

  15. Anas says:

    can’t wait for the English copy!!!

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