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“The Silk Road Gourmet” with Laura Kelley, Iranian Orange Chicken Koresh

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Iranian Orange Chicken Koresh

Iranian Orange Chicken Koresh

If you love to prepare and experience unique cultural cuisines from around the world and are intrigued about spices, food ingredients and the patterns they reveal in the history of diplomacy and business trade then you will enjoy The Silk Road Gourmet.

Taking you on such a journey is cookbook author Laura Kelley: The Silk Road Gourmet, Volume One: Western and Southern Asia, A Journey through the Cuisines of Georgia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, and Sri Lanka.

Sharing among her favorite recipes in Volume One from each of the Western and Southern Asian countries Kelley has personally experienced her hope is to introduce or reintroduce these colorful and flavorful cuisines to the West.

The book is set up with the same recipe categories for each individual country: Meat Dishes, Vegetable Dishes and Salads, Rice and Grain Dishes, Breads, Desserts and Beverages, Appetizers and Condiments, Sauces and Spice Mixture.

Each category contains a sampling of four to seven recipes making it easy for those ambitious to accomplish all of the recipes from each given country. Thus far, every recipe I have made from the cookbook, including the Iranian recipe I share below:  Iranian Orange Chicken Koresh has been so well received that neighbors have remarked on them as some of the best meals they ever tasted!

Each countries Chapter begins with a list of the Main Spices and Flavors, followed by the Souring agents predominant to the land. From there, in one to two pages, Kelley weaves a fabric of historical background, political climate, cultural and religious influence, growth of agricultural products and ways that these spices and ingredients evolved and affected cuisines through business trade routes and the intermingling of peoples between destinations along the Silk Road over two thousand years ago.

Laura Kelley’s professional career as a scientist over the years has taken her to rarely visited travel destinations and some of the more remote places on earth but this has also provided her the opportunity to sample many true local foods of cultures at nearby guesthouses and get a sense of the culinary style of people and their markets.

“I have a very talented sense of taste and sense memory, it is ingrained in me,” she said “I am able to discern flavors when I try foods then I order it again and again. Many times in between meetings, I will try to assemble the food in my mind and jot down notes.” Often by personal contact or through the local translator/native minder, Laura is able to obtain a particular recipe, or list of ingredients from local cooks. She has also had the opportunity to observe the preparation of dishes later transcribed for sharing at the homes of many Western tables.

Kelley has had a lifelong love and interest of food and how things are connected. She describes herself as a person who has always been self -aware combined with an upbringing that provided an atmosphere of thinking and creating new experiments in daily life along with exposure to family friends that would celebrate together sharing cultural cuisines.

“When I was young I used to watch a Connections show that would connect bizarre things in history, I just loved that sort of thinking which probably also helped congeal my food consciousness much sooner.” Kelley said.

Laura Kelley began cooking ethnic food at thirteen. By sixteen, through an American Field Service Program, a high achieving Kelley spent the summer in Thailand with a family where there was no running water, telephone, or generator. “Every day I would carefully watch the way the cooks made the food, with particular observation to the way they presented rice to the monks as they arrived for a meal.” She said. “A gourd bowl was used to serve them and you cannot touch the bowl of the monks so I learned to guide my hand carefully and not touch the bowl.”

Kelley says that she has always loved to entertain with her cooking “Even in college” said Kelley who studied Anthropology “I was always ‘puttin’ on the dog and would host big dinner events. In graduate school, I got into vegetarian cooking.” At the time, Kelley found inspiration from the popular cookbook: Madhur Jaffrey’s World-of-the-East Vegetarian Cooking. “I ended up with some good friends from India drawing them in with the familiar, comforting scents of the spices.”

Meanwhile one of Kelley’s hobbies continues to be observing food patterns both historically and in modern times. “Sophisticated idea people were always moving and trading globally.” Says Kelley “Currently, it is really like the Harold James theory: today is just one of many series of globalization, people move to different countries, ingredients and restaurant faces change, people inter-marry and inter-mingle.”

“There are settlements all over the world created by business, political conditions, and natural occurrences. Cuisines are changing all the time, recipes change among immigrants even when they come to the United States as people prepare their cultural foods with the ingredients that are available and to the new tastes that they become acquainted, there are generational changes, health changes, the whole world is a fusion cuisine.”

You can find Laura Kelley and the Silk Road Gourmet here.

If you live in an area where some of the ingredients are hard to find,  you can order a wide range of ingredients right on Kelley’s site in the section headed: Silk Road Gourmet Store.

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