Hello Canada: Lucy Malouf

A Feast for the Senses: Lucy Malouf on Iran’s Culinary Jewels

Cookbook authors Lucy and Greg Malouf indulge their wanderlust – and their palates – with a food-fuelled journey through Iran

Food is one of those things that is deeply universal,” says award-winning culinary writer Lucy Malouf. A year ago, this truth hit home when she explored Iran, a country countless friends had discouraged her from visiting. “A lot of people think it’s dangerous,” she tells Hello! Canada. “That couldn’t be further from the truth. You go there and people are falling over themselves to help you.”

As evidence, Lucy’s latest book, Saraban: A Chef’s Journey Through Persia – co-authored with her ex-husband, chef and restaurateur Greg Malouf – is full of stories about warm, welcoming locals. The beautifully illustrated hardcover is part travelogue, part cookbook and part coffee- table collectible. But it’s all heart.

Saraban is clearly a passion project for Lucy and Greg, one of the food world’s most fruitful collaborative teams. The pair’s romantic union may be over, but their creative partnership is thriving. The former couple, who were married for five years, wrote their first cookbook, Arabesque, in 1999 while they were still together. Lucy was an investment analyst whose passion for the plate led her to try her hand at food writing. Greg was an Australian- born, Lebanese chef known as “the master of modern Middle Eastern food.” Classically trained, he honed his skills in kitchens across Europe and Asia. When he returned to his native Melbourne, he devoted himself to introducing exotic flavours to the local food scene. “At the time, the only Middle Eastern food that was around was the takeaway falafels and kebabs,” says Lucy. “People didn’t really know much about the cuisine and he changed that.”

Lucy and Greg’s first book became a classic for fans of Middle Eastern fare, winning the Best Australian Cookbook at the 2000 World Food Media Awards. “We have complementary talents,” Lucy says. “The food recipes are Greg’s interpretations, often tweaked a little bit to be more accessible. My role is to act as the conduit.”

Accolades and opportunities poured in. And so, when the couple decided to divorce, they continued creating cookbooks as amicable exes, publishing three more exploring the cuisines of Morocco, Turkey, Lebanon and Syria.

The pair – who have now both remarried – focused their fifth project on Iranian food and culture. They spent nine weeks travelling through the country, spending nights under the stars in desert villages and riding ancient trade routes that once made up the Silk Road, where the only signs of life were groups of dusty camels. Other days were passed on streets swarming with pilgrims on their way to gold-trimmed shrines, or at bazaars packed with walnuts, sour oranges, pomegranates, freshly picked saffron and fish from the Caspian Sea. “It was a bit like being thrown back to a time when travel was an adventure and people were really journeying in unknown lands,” Lucy says.

Since very few Westerners visit the region, it was almost impossible to dig up information before the trip, and so Lucy and Greg were forced to rely on the kindness of strangers when they arrived in the country. “We found that the Iranian people were incredibly welcoming and hospitable,” she says. “Everybody likes to talk about food. People are very happy to talk about their favourite dishes.”

Book Review
Saraban: A Chef’s Journey Through Persia chronicles food writer Lucy Malouf and chef Greg Malouf’s adventures in Iran. In this gorgeous volume, the globetrotting foodies explore the country’s culture and cuisine. Recipes are organized by typical courses: small dishes of fresh herbs, cheese and flatbread, followed by salads and pickles, stews, grilled meats and delicate sweets. These delicious dishes are interlaced with travel tales, stunning photos and accounts of Persian history. Saraban is more than a cookbook – it’s a fascinating glimpse into a world that’s often shrouded in mystery.

To download recipes, see the PDF below