Saraban by Greg and Lucy Malouf

A chef's journey through Persia

By Tricia Brown
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Saraban by Greg and Lucy Malouf [©Hardie Grant]


Following on from the success of their award-winning books, Saha and Turquoise, Greg and Lucy Malouf now explore one of the world's earliest and greatest empires: Saraban is an unforgettable journey through the culinary landscapes of ancient Persia and modern-day Iran.

Persian cooking is one of the oldest and most sophisticated cuisines in the world and its influence has spread across India and the Middle East to North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula and even through Medieval Europe. It's a cuisine that is subtle, elegant and alluring, which rejoices in rice, uses fresh herbs in abundance and combines meat, fish, fruit and vegetables with exotic spices, such as saffron, cardamom and dried limes.

In Saraban, Greg and Lucy discover a land where the rich diversity of climate, countryside, architecture and poetry provide a fitting background for an equal variety and richness of cuisine. It is a fascinating read as you join them visiting bustling bazaars and tiny soup kitchens, picking saffron before dawn and fishing, in time-honoured tradition, from wooden dhows in the Persian Gulf.

The Maloufs follow ancient spice trails to meet pistachio farmers, toffee-makers and saffron growers. They eat in exotic markets, tucked-away dizi restaurants and are invited into the homes of people they meet along the way. They discover a land of generous hospitality, of tea houses, mosques and caravanserais and where the colourful history of Persia is always present.

Each section begins with fascinating tales of their travels and discoveries followed by a recipes chapter. The recipes in Saraban are much like Iran itself: a coming together of old and new. Sections are based on the staples, small dishes, soups and ash, stews and sauces, grills and roasts, sweets and lastly preserves. 

Not intended as a definitive work about Persian food, Greg has created the mouth-watering recipes for the home kitchen, as he mixes centuries of tradition with modern techniques and flavours for both the home cook and experienced chef. Flip through the book and simply decide which dishes appeal as there are no formal starters, maincourses and desserts – this is not how the Iranians eat.

Putting together a meal or banquet of dishes that appeal is easy. Dishes I have recently tried and loved include: Sabzi and soft white cheese in fresh lavash bread, little lamb and cinnamon turnovers, spicy potato pirashkis, white zucchini omelette with mint and melting cheese, spinach soup with little beef koofteh, baked yoghurt rice with chicken and lastly, skewered tamarind kingfish with dried-lime butter and chives. All delicious!

Written in Lucy's evocative style and enhanced by stunning photography, Saraban is a rich, vivid portrait of modern-day Iran where the diversity of climate and terrain, a complex history and exquisite art and architecture provide a rich background for one of the world's oldest and most diverse cuisines. Prepare yourself for a beautiful journey through Persia discovering fabulous food.


Saraban by Greg and Lucy Malouf is published by Hardie Grant Books (2010; RRP A$79.95). Subscribers of and Winepros Archive can purchase Saraban at 12.5% discount via our book partners Seekbooks (postage extra).




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February 18th, 2011
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