Looking to lead a healthier – and more exciting – life? Australian chef Ross Dobson says a multicultural menu is the key.
"I look to diverse ranges of cultures for inspiration when I cook for myself, cook for others in my cafe or write recipes for others," Dobson said via e-mail. "If I cook something that has its origins in a faraway place I feel like I can be there. It reminds us how diverse the world really is."
Dobson's new book, "Wholesome Kitchen," culls recipes from around the world, and all feature beans, lentils, peas or grains as their main ingredient. And we're not just talking about hummus (though, of course, hummus is in there).
A garlic-spiked dip of cannellini beans and tuna conjures the Italian countryside, while chickpea pakoras – Indian fritters – could easily be found on the streets of Mumbai. A minty lamb salad with fava beans and pomegranate; cumin-scented Moroccan harira; and tangy-sweet grape leaves stuffed with lentils, currants and herbs provide a well-rounded tour of the Middle East.
There's an ancient wisdom to these dishes, Dobson says, and he reminds us that ful medames (an Egyptian breakfast of fava beans and lentils found today on Cairo street corners) once was eaten by pharaohs. Dobson has been thorough in his survey, bringing us dishes such as Syrian mujadarrah, a comforting mash of rice and lentils, and crusty butter-browned Iranian rice, that are rarely found outside "ethnic" cookbooks.
But authentic doesn't mean untouched. Dobson pumps up the nutritional value of many traditional dishes. For instance, he substitutes protein-rich quinoa for the bulgur wheat in tabbouleh, and adds chickpeas to a Spanish bread salad.
"Wholesome Kitchen" is a two-bird-one-stone book, a round-the-world tour that doubles as a guide to easy weeknight cooking. Smoky chorizo and navy bean soup can be whipped up in minutes from any well-stocked pantry. Roast chicken and chickpea salad dresses up a store-bought rotisserie bird with olives and capers. And even though lamb shanks with lentils, wine and garlic takes 2 1/2 hours to cook, the oven does all the work. And just think of the aroma.
Ross Dobson's "Wholesome Kitchen," Ryland, Petters and Small, 2010