Review of Ally’s Kitchen – A Passport for Adventurous Palates

Writing a review for anything is usually supposed to be an exercise in objectivity and balanced judgement. But for me writing an objective review for Ally Phyllips’ debut cookbook is a virtual impossibility. So I will have to declare at the very outset that I’ve been a fan of Ally’s for years. I met Ally through my blog about three years ago (well, it was a virtual meeting but someday soon I hope to meet Ally in person!) when my blog was just a baby-blog. She wrote to me about an online support group for food bloggers that she had started and she asked me if I was interested in joining her Boho Tribe. Prior to joining this group, blogging had been a very solitary enterprise for me but on joining this group, I met a wide variety of kindred foodie spirits and I can’t thank Ally enough for widening my group of friends!

Unlike other cookbooks that focus on recipes from a certain part of the world, Ally’s cookbook has a very eclectic range of recipes. In the beginning of the book, she introduces her readers to spice mixes and sauces from different parts of the world, such as the Ethiopian berbere, Harissa (a North African spice blend used in Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia), Tzatziki Sauce (Greek), Labneh (a middle eastern milk based soft-cheese that is seems like a blend of yogurt and cream-cheese), Jamaican Jerk seasoning, Thai spice blend etc… Most Americans, who have not traveled to these parts of the world, are unfamiliar with these ingredients but if you are one for trying out new flavors and bold spice combinations this is a great introduction to world cuisine.
The next section of the book helps the reader traverse through the continent of Europe with recipes from France, Germany and Belgium but as always Ally has added her little twists through some of the most traditional continental dishes and given them a fresh new face. The Mediterranean section has wide variety of Italian, Spanish, Croatian, Catalan, Greek and even Lebanese recipes. I found the African section, which comes next most interesting because these are flavors that I myself have never explored before. I’ve traveled through Egypt but I’ve never tried cooking any Egyptian dishes. I love going to Ethiopian restaurants but I’ve never tried making Ethiopian pork chops or even Berbere Grilled Okra.

The best part of Ally’s cooking style is that she follows no rules. She has a deft hand with spices but her blends are often very unusual. For instance when I made her recipe for Curried Channa Salad (page 219 – on which she has mentioned that it is a “creation in Shabnam’s honor” – yes, I take a little bow here and I must say that I feel EXTREMELY honored and privileged to get a mention in the book) and was quite taken aback at the blending of allspice, ground ginger, dried dill with fresh herbs like basil, parsley. This is certainly an unorthodox blend of very strong flavors but surprisingly they work really well together and give the chickpeas a big bump in flavor. I also tried the recipe for Blackened Shrimp and Crispy Chilled Cucumber (page 183) and even before I could finish making the dish, there was absolute mayhem at my place. It was hard to keep my family away from the shrimp as it was getting seared over the cast iron skillet! I think this should give you an idea about how good the dish turned out. This one is surely going to be a weekly staple at my place!

I am usually not one for following cookbooks. I am more of an ad-hoc cook who likes to travel to various parts of the world and taste the local dishes and when I get back home, I try to replicate them. I find cookbooks hard to follow because I can’t multitask or balance between reading and cooking at the same time but Ally’s recipes were easy to follow. I loved the format of the book – it is a big change from the usual cookbook format. I love the little blurbs before every recipe that gives the readers a window into the process or inspiration that went into devising that particular recipe. The pictures of the dishes are bright, evocative and tempting and do each dish justice. The book clearly takes you on a world tour without the hassle of buying airline tickets, jet lag, dealing with awful hotels, and the risk of unknown infections or wrestling with unknown languages or weird strangers! Go check out the book at a book store near you, or buy it through Amazon or download the Kindle version – it’s a great guide to culinary adventures!

And if you want to enter in a lottery to win a few copy of this book, here’s a link – a Rafflecopter giveaway

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  1. Permalink Submitted by Adam J. Holland on Tue, 12/05/2015 - 16:19

    So, many of us loved Ally before her cookbook ever graced our shelves. You know what? I fell in love with her all over again as I thumbed through those pages. The cookbook is outstanding because the author is real and talented like nobody’s business. You’ve captured that essence in this review. I’m impressed. 🙂

    • Permalink Submitted by Shabnam on Tue, 12/05/2015 - 17:23

      Thanks Adam!!! Welcome to my page 🙂 I’m glad you liked the review. I’m completely loving the book and am already developing a long list of things I’ll be making soon!

    • Permalink Submitted by ally on Tue, 12/05/2015 - 18:35

      My TX cowboy…wait til we actually meet in person…you gonna get one beeeg ol’ Alllweee hug…be ready, luv! Thank you, my dear talented friend, and w/o saying anything else, you know how I admire your many talents! xo ~ally

  2. Permalink Submitted by ally on Tue, 12/05/2015 - 18:34

    WOW!!! Shabnam, you write so eloquently and beautifully…it’s as if I’m hearing your voice, which, of course, I am, but it’s as if I hear the tone, quality and melody of your voice. I’m truly humbled by what you’ve written, and so so lucky for me when I found you and we entered the tribe becoming a band of food lovers who are in good company and don’t feel weird always talking about food, pulling out our cell phones, always having to take glamour shots before the family eats, and more! You are one precious and dear person in my life! Thank you for taking your priceless time to choose two recipes and make them, and, yes, p219 recipe was inspired by you! Sending lots of love xoxo ~peace & food~ ally

    • Permalink Submitted by Shabnam on Wed, 13/05/2015 - 14:15

      Oh thank you Ally! Well, you are the belle of the ball – I’m so happy to see that so many perfectly positive reviews are coming out for your book! You rock-star-you!!!!

  3. Permalink Submitted by Kim | a little lunch on Tue, 12/05/2015 - 19:40

    Shabnam, I thoroughly enjoyed reading your review! Thanks for your in-depth assessment of Ally’s cookbook. I truly need to make those blackened shrimp and Curried Channa Salad asap!

    • Permalink Submitted by Shabnam on Wed, 13/05/2015 - 14:14

      Thanks Kim – as you can tell, I’m loving the book and can’t wait to try more recipes 🙂

  4. Permalink Submitted by Kris ~ Big Rigs 'n Lil' Cookies on Wed, 13/05/2015 - 03:17

    I thought I knew what recipe I wanted to try next, but now…. maybe I need to reorder my list. So many delicious recipes to try! I absolutely am in love with the recipe I tried tonight and am excited to share about it!

    • Permalink Submitted by Shabnam on Wed, 13/05/2015 - 14:13

      Hi Chris – good to see you here 🙂 yes, I agree with you – so many tempting recipes to try. I have a list of my choices and then my family keeps adding more of their choices…so the list is getting longer and longer…I guess I know what i’ll be doing over the summer 🙂

  5. Permalink Submitted by Doreen Simpson on Wed, 13/05/2015 - 17:07

    Lovely comments Shabnam…I am also going to review Ally’s wonderful book very soon…there’s a whole world of flavours ahead ♥

    • Permalink Submitted by Shabnam on Wed, 13/05/2015 - 17:10

      Heyyyyy!!! Good to see you here Doreen 🙂 Yes, Ally’s cookbook is absolutely amazing. Did you get your copy already? I just love flipping through the pages and the list of things I have to try is growing longer at a fast pace – xoxox

      • Permalink Submitted by Doreen Simpson on Thu, 14/05/2015 - 14:14

        No copy for me unfortunately Shabnam . It’s a book that I would have so loved to devour in bed as that’s where I do nearly all my foodie research. I’ve got it downloaded though so it’s sitting in front of my pc screen …I’m just about to compose my review and yours has given me plenty of inspiration… Thanks sweetheart and much love ♥

        • Permalink Submitted by Shabnam on Fri, 15/05/2015 - 13:44

          Can’t wait to see what recipes you choose to try out of Ally’s book…I bet you’ll work your usual magic on them, Dor! Will wait for the review 🙂 xoxox

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