Food of Life, Fourth Edition (25th Anniversary): Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies by Najmieh Batmanglij

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Notes about this book

  • PinchOfSalt on April 12, 2022

    I first purchased the Kindle version of this title but returned it in favor of a hardcopy. The Kindle version consists only of images of pages. Without any text, there is no ability to navigate this version other than flipping pages or skipping to particular page numbers: no ability to search for text, no links from the Table of Contents to sections or individual recipes, etc. Worse, the images of the text do not render crisply (or even with consistent approach to spacing) on my PC screen. It's as if the publisher, perhaps concerned with digital rights management, generated a very imperfect set of page images based on the book's underlying digital text and illustrations. Very disappointing, especially considering the relatively high price being charged for the Kindle version.

  • Rella on November 29, 2016

    There are two versions of this book here on EYB. 1) 1997 which has 272 recipes indexed. 2) 2011 which has 482 recipes member indexed. I just purchased the 25th anniversary edition 2016, which has 640 pages. The wrapper shows: 193382347X, which I assume is ISBN 10:1-933823-47X.

  • ellabee on July 21, 2015

    The original version; second edition (New Food of Life) greatly revised to reflect availability of more ingredients in U.S., interest in lighter alternatives. Third edition (Food of Life) similar to second but with added Persian cultural material.

  • TrishaCP on July 01, 2013

    This is an encyclopedic work- think Mastering the Art of French Cooking or Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking, for Persian food. The book contains detailed information about Persian ingredients, and how to use them, as well as information on Persian culture that helps one better understand the context of the meals- really helpful if you are not familiar with Persian culture. The book also provides helpful instructions on how to make vegetarian versions of many of the meat-based dishes. For example, all of the khoresh (stews/braises), can be made vegetarian. The dishes I've tried so far have been delicious. This may not be the best book for anyone with a more casual interest in Persian cooking- because there are specialized ingredients required and a good amount of sweat equity needed for some of the recipes.

Notes about Recipes in this book

  • Borscht [vegetarian variation] (Borsh)

    • radishseed on February 23, 2015

      This is okay, but it has an odd, ketchupy aroma and flavor that I'm not crazy about.

  • Apple khoresh (Khoresh-e sib)

    • radishseed on December 12, 2015

      1. Halved the recipe. 2. Made it vegetarian by substituting Tofurky Lightly Seasoned Chick'n (don't judge) for the meat. 3. Converted it to a slow cooker dish by browning the onions and spices and then adding them to the slow cooker with 2 cups veg broth and the split peas and other seasonings. Cooked for 6 hours on low, then sautéed the Chick'n and apples, added them to the cooker, and cooked for 1 more hour. Ate with rice. SO GOOD.

  • Rice with eggplant and pomegranate [vegetarian variation] (Bademjan polow)

    • radishseed on October 27, 2014

      This came out good, but very oily. I was halving the recipe, so it's possible I miscalculated the amount of oil to use...In any case, trust your instincts (as I should have) and add less if it seems an unreasonable amount.

  • Fava bean and dill khoresh [vegetarian variation] (Khoresh-e gol dar chaman)

    • radishseed on February 02, 2015

      I was surprised by how little of this I ended up with after I'd halved the recipe (which is mostly the same as the meaty version, but with the meat omitted). Maybe three small servings. I'd probably try replacing the meat with something else (like tofu, tempeh, or other vegetables) to bulk it up a bit. Filled out the meal with flatbread, yogurt, and (store-bought) olive tapenade, all of which tasted great together.

  • Persian Gulf-style shrimp with herbs and tamarind (Ghalieh maygu)

    • radishseed on May 04, 2015

      I love the herb-tamarind sauce!

  • Cauliflower kuku (Kuku-ye gol-e kalam)

    • radishseed on March 18, 2015

      This would be nice with a couple of tablespoons of currants or even barberries added, because I love tiny, tart berries with cauliflower. Also, it has too much salt. 1/2 to 1 t. would be good.

  • Mung bean and turnip soup (Osh-e maash)

    • radishseed on January 12, 2015

      "Mung bean and turnip soup" is an unfortunate name for such an interesting recipe. I made a trip to the Middle Eastern grocery to get kashk, which I've never tried before, to make this. I think a good substitute would be a mixture of something thick and creamy (yogurt, sour cream, or crème fraîche) with a strong, smelly, meltable cheese (like Brie).

  • Lentil dip (Adasi)

    • radishseed on February 25, 2015

      I'm glad I went out of the way to find angelica/golpar, a new ingredient for me. It adds an almost funky, cheesy umami flavor to this dip (I played on that by adding a little feta on top). I was also lucky to spot some hard-to-find Seville oranges at the grocery store. This is good with pita chips.

  • Tomato and cucumber salad, Shirazi-style (Salad-e gojeh khiar [Shirazi])

    • TrishaCP on June 13, 2016

      This is a very simple salad so it really needs the best and freshest ingredients to shine. I like the flavor of tomato skins and seeds so didn't take the step of removing them. I had pretty small scallions and definitely could have used more.

  • Yogurt, cucumber and rose petal dip (Mast-o khiar)

    • TrishaCP on July 19, 2014

      This dip is completely refreshing. I omitted raisins, fresh thyme and oregano, but used extra parsley instead as it was what I had on hand. It goes perfectly with the chicken kabab recipe.

    • Ganga108 on December 21, 2021

      A Persian take on the cucumber raita. A beautiful dish, chock full of herbs, green raisins, walnuts, spring onions, and topped with mint, green raisins and dried rose petals. The rose petals and green raisins are easily available in Afghan or Middle Eastern shops. I use Indian yoghurt (desi yoghurt) as it is the thickest by far. Other yoghurts might need to be drained in some muslin cloth before using. The dish is a cooling, summery dish, perfect as a dip, raita like salad accompaniment, or as a sauce/dressing for other components of a meal (try it with falafel for example).

  • Caspian green garlic omelet (Sira bij)

    • TrishaCP on June 05, 2016

      Green garlic is really nice with eggs, and it was here too. I reduced the oil except for a few teaspoons since I was using a non-stick skillet. Baking powder is common in the kuku recipes in this book, but I didn't get much lift from using it here, so would probably omit the next time.

  • Fava bean kuku (Kuku-ye shevid-o baqala)

    • TrishaCP on March 12, 2013

      I made this using frozen favas from last summer. Similar to a frittata, but less eggy with lift provided by baking powder and since it is only 8 inch sized- a good option if you are only feeding a few. The dominant flavor was dill- which was heaven with the favas- it feels like you use tons of dill, but the flavor is perfect. I didn't have onions so used spring onions instead and wouldn't make that substitution again- I missed the oniony background notes. Really nice to bite into the sliced garlic as you make your way through this.

  • Shish kabab

    • TrishaCP on July 19, 2014

      Some herb from the marinade added an unpleasant bitter taste to the final product. Maybe it was the bay? Not nearly as appealing as the Chicken Kabab recipe from this same book.

  • Chicken kabab (Jujeh kabab)

    • TrishaCP on July 15, 2013

      The classic chicken kebab recipe and it does not disappoint. I used boneless, skinless thighs and would do so again. I also had saffron water frozen in cubes a la Paula Wolfert, and that will save you a step here if you have that too. This kebab does cry out for a sauce (even with the moisture from the tomatoes)- I used a garlicky yogurt one.

  • Pistachio khoresh-e fesenjan

    • TrishaCP on May 25, 2016

      This was really very good. The sauce had a wonderful sweet and sour note, which helped to cut through the richness from the pistachios. Make sure to cut the squash in small cubes- mine were about an inch and rather al dente.

  • Fruit chutney (Torshi-e miveh)

    • AgusiaH on October 21, 2011

      A little time-consuming but very nice and less sweet than I expected (which is actually very good).

  • Lamb kuku (Kuku-ye gusht)

    • L.Nightshade on October 29, 2018

      We bought a too-big leg of lamb, so ground up a pound of it for kuku. The recipe starts with a sauté of lamb, onions and peppers in ghee. I did the lamb separately, then added it back into the onion mixture, instead of sautéing everything together, just to ensure the timing was right. Also, I added a small amount of fresh chiles to the called-for chile flakes. Parsley, chives, and lime juice are added, along with cumin. The eggs are mixed with cinnamon and curry powder. The instructions here say to add baking powder, which is not listed in the ingredients, and I neglected to add it. Didn’t seem to matter, but will try it next time. The lamb mix and the egg mix are stirred with breadcrumbs (I used Udi’s gluten-free bread). It baked for 50 minutes. This was absolutely delicious! Perfect level of spice, perfect cooking time. Happy to have leftovers, and looking forward to making another one someday.

  • Almond cookies (Nan-e badami)

    • sherrib on October 11, 2014

      I used my Vitamix blender instead of my food processor to make the almond flour. I either over processed the almonds or did some other thing wrong because I ended up with a runny batter than yielded flat and very sticky cookies (they stuck together horribly when stacked.) The flavor, though, was very very good.

  • Rice with shrimp and fresh herbs Persian Gulf-style (Maygu polow)

    • Snopes on September 20, 2015

      This a delicious mix of flavors, but was very oily for my tastes. If doing it again, I would slash or maybe eliminate the amount of oil added in step 6 of the recipe.

  • Saffron-flavored steamed rice with golden crust (Chelow)

    • metacritic on January 17, 2020

      I've used olive oil each time. This recipe is fool proof if you follow the steps carefully.

  • Rice with sour cherries (Albalu polow)

    • metacritic on July 13, 2021

      I make this annually. The recipe is terrific and surprisingly easy given the number of steps and ingredients. I have been using chicken, not lamb meatballs, which are perfumed with lime leaves and turmeric. The cherries are spiked with cardamom, cinnamon, and rosewater, and the rice is doused in saffron rosewater. These are heady flavors that blend beautifully. Before discovering this book, I used to make Roden's version with lamb meatballs (which is pretty delicious in its own right) and will try Batmanglij's variation of the same In years to come.

  • Sweet and sour stuffed chicken (Morgh-e tu por-e torsh-o shirin)

    • metacritic on January 17, 2020

      The chicken cooks for 90 mins at a high heat yet is the most succulent and exceptional recipe for a whole chicken I know. This and its variations are beyond good.

  • Zucchini kuku

    • metacritic on July 19, 2022

      Interesting not least due to lime zest paired with zucchini, something I"ve never encountered prior to now, Fresh and light and herbacious, with abundant amounts of zucchini and only a small amount of egg. I prefer the other kukus I have tried in this book (cauliflower, herbs) by a fair amount but wouldn't hesitate to make this again.

  • Yogurt and spinach dip (Borani-e esfenaj)

    • metacritic on October 28, 2021

      This is a fantastic variation on what I Know as a raita. There is a bit of a discrepancy between the photo, which shows fresh mint, and the instructions, which has one cook the mint with the spinach and cilantro. I took the latter route, and will garnish with raw mint, which worked well. This was a treasured dish.

    • Ganga108 on March 01, 2022

      A lovely recipe, similar to but an extension of the recipe of the same name in The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden. Batmanglij uses coriander and mint with the greens and adds spices. Either way - simple or more layered in flavour - it is a great addition to the table.

  • Cucumber and pomegranate salad (Salad-e khiar-o anar)

    • metacritic on October 28, 2021

      This is very, very good, even without the pomegranate, as I couldn't find any this evening. A refreshing dish that brightens a good Persian meal.

  • Pistachio soup (Sup-e pesteh)

    • metacritic on January 17, 2020

      Needs abundant salt and might need extra orange juice and lime but when you get the proportions right, this dish sings.

  • Fresh herb kuku (Kuku-ye sabzi)

    • metacritic on March 23, 2021

      A brilliant way to use up herbs. I love this dish.

  • Shirazi-style pan-cooked lamb kabab (Kabab digy-e Shirazi)

    • metacritic on January 03, 2021

      A number of ingredients seem to be missing here, including ground cardamom, grape molasses, market lime leaves. The dish took a full three hours but was quite delicious, especially the juices over rice.

  • Ground lamb skillet kabab (Kabab-e kubideh-ye maitabehi)

    • metacritic on September 16, 2020

      This is a lovely little recipe, easy to overlook due to the lack of a photo. The taste is fantastic and it involves making a single large meatball that one then flattens in an 8-inch skillet and cooks. A one dish meal before the letter.

  • Meatloaf (Dast peech-e gusht)

    • metacritic on October 27, 2021

      This is a dish that possesses enormous flavor and moves from savory to sour to gently sweet in a single bite. There is no compelling reason to ever make another meatloaf recipe, once you have encountered this one, unless it is for nostalgic purposes. I made this for a weeknight dinner - and if you have two hours to spare, one for cooking and one for prep that's completely reasonable. It is also festive enough to grace a holiday table. The tarragon, cumin, cinnamon + an herbaceous stuffing and a surprise hardboiled egg (optional but fun) lifts the whole dish and results in something truly special. The glaze is dead easy and fantastic.

  • Raisin cookies (Nan-e keshmeshy)

    • mjes on June 04, 2018

      Using whole wheat pastry flour (note pastry not bread or all-purpose) and butter makes these cookies more authentic and absolutely lovely for an occasion where you want a delicate cookie. It's also worth sprinkling a small amount of crushed or ground rose petals over the top just before baking.

  • Baked saffron yogurt rice with spinach (Tah-chin-e esfenaj)

    • ashallen on October 17, 2019

      This was a nice dish - we made the version with chicken thighs. I'm always fond of rice baked with chicken since it gets really luscious from absorbing chicken juices while in the oven. This recipe also adds a luxurious amount of butter/ghee/oil. Recipe specifies use of a 4 quart pyrex dish (=10x15-inch). I only had a 3 quart (9x13-inch) dish, so I made a 3/4 version to fit in the smaller dish - worked fine. I further reduced the amount of orange blossom water and prunes used, using 2 tbsp and 2 cups, respectively. That amount of orange blossom water worked well - nicely aromatic without dominating over other flavors. It still felt like there were too many prunes in the final dish, though that could very well be due to my use of regular dark brown prunes from the supermarket which are very, very sweet, versus a tarter prune variety. Frozen spinach worked fine.

  • Barberry khoresh (Khoresh-e zereshk)

    • BonneH on June 07, 2020

      Changed grape to pomegranate molasses.

  • Date pie (Ranginak)

    • Ganga108 on December 28, 2021

      This delicious Date (and walnut) Pie is very easy to make, although it does involve stirring a roux for 20 mins until it is toasted. When making the roux begin with a little less flour that mentioned and then gradually add more, even more than stated if necessary - the consistency of the roux should be like thin, smooth and spreadable nut butter. I will use ghee instead of butter next time after reading that it is a great sub for butter. Also recommended to let the date pie set overnight - the butter will permeate the layers and help keep it together (note I didn't do that for the first piece, then refrigerated the remainder till the next day. It was much better the following day.) Needs a sharp knife to cut.

  • Iced coffee (Café glacé)

    • Ganga108 on January 23, 2022

      With 40C days in our Summer, sometimes up to 45C, iced coffee made exactly this way is a staple. Home made icecream turns it into a special treat.

  • Shirazi-style yogurt and cucumber dip (Mast-o khiar-e Shirazi)

    • Ganga108 on December 29, 2021

      This is a variation on the Yoghurt, Cucumber and Rose Petal Dip, and in a way, it is the "kitchen sink" of yoghurt dishes. I hope this saying translates - it means that the dish has everything. It is a delicious variation to the main recipe that adds a layer of spices. I had some left over ground pistachios, so added them as well for good measure.

  • Savory turnover (Sanbuseh)

    • jinna on March 07, 2021

      For those who have 2017 edition this recipe has been significantly changed, same page (50). Fillings have changed and now there is puff pastry instead of dough.

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  • ISBN 10 193382347X
  • ISBN 13 9781933823478
  • Linked ISBNs
  • Published Feb 15 2011
  • Format Hardcover
  • Page Count 640
  • Language English
  • Edition 4th
  • Countries United States
  • Publisher Mage Publishers
  • Imprint Mage Publishers

Publishers Text

Completely redesigned for today’s generation of cooks and food enthusiasts, the 25th Anniversary Edition of Food of Life: Ancient Persian and Modern Iranian Cooking and Ceremonies by Najmieh Batmanglij provides a treasure trove of recipes, along with an immersive cultural experience for those seeking to understand this ancient and timeless cuisine. This edition is a more user-friendly edition of the award-winning and critically acclaimed cookbook series which began in 1986. Food of Life provides 330 classical and regional Iranian recipes as well as an introduction to Persian art, history and culture. The book’s hundreds of full color photographs are intertwined with descriptions of ancient and modern Persian ceremonies, poetry, folktales, travelogue excerpts and anecdotes. The 2011 Edition of Food of Life is a labor of love. The book began in exile after the Iranian Revolution of 1979 as a love letter to Batmanglij’s children. Today, as accomplished adults in their own fields, her two sons, Zal and Rostam, encouraged her to redesign the book for their generation.

Food of Life propels Persian cooking into the 21st Century, even as it honors venerable traditions and centuries of artistic expression. It is the result of 30 years of collecting, testing and adapting authentic and traditional Persian recipes for the American kitchen. Most of its ingredients are readily available throughout the U.S. enabling anyone from a master chef to a novice to reproduce the refined tastes, textures, and beauty of Persian cuisine. Food-related pieces from such classics as the 10th century Book of Kings, and 1,001 Nights to the miniatures of Mir Mosavvar and Aq Mirak, from the poetry of Omar Khayyam and Sohrab Sepehri to the humor of Mulla Nasruddin are all included. Each recipe is presented with steps that are logical and easy to follow. Readers learn how to simply yet deliciously cook rice, the jewel of Persian cooking, which, when combined with a little meat, fowl, or fish, vegetables, fruits, and herbs, provides the perfect balanced diet.

Food of Life,
the title of the book, comes from the Persian words nush-e jan, literally "food of life"--a traditional wish in Iran that a dish will be enjoyed. For the updated 1993 edition the title was changed to New Food of Life. Now, for the 25th anniversary edition the title returns to its original name, Food of Life.

The full-color Food of Life 25th Anniversary Edition contains 50% more pages than its 2009 predecessor and special added features:

  • *New Recipes adapted from Sixteenth-Century Persian cookbooks
  • Added vegetarian section for most recipes
  • Comprehensive dictionary of all ingredients
  • A glance at a few thousand years of the history of Persian Cooking
  • Master recipes with photos illustrating the steps.
  • Color photos of most recipes with tips on presentation
  • Updated section on Persian stores and Internet suppliers
  • Fahrenheit and Centigrade temperatures for all recipes
  • Choices for cooking recipes such as “kuku” in oven or on stovetop.
  • Encourages use of seasonal and local ingredients from farmers markets, Community Supported Agriculture (CSAs) sources or one’s own backyard

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