Review: The Iraqi Cook Book by Lamees Ibrahim

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When I think about it, my love for Middle East cooking and Mediterranean recipes is what fuels my success as a political writer, reporter, comedian, radio talk show host and author. I love to cook and cooking Middle Eastern, Arab or Mediterranean recipes can be both a challenge but fun.

The differences between recipe style in the Fertile Crescent of the hardcore Arab World (Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Jordan and Palestine) are subtle and sometimes lost. When making tabouli, for example, the Lebanese put more parsley, the Palestinians less. Jordanians and Palestinians add diced cucumbers, others do not and just add diced tomatoes. (Depending how much parsley one finds on an Arabs teeth after dinner could help determine their specific Arab nationality, or at least at what Arab restaurant they may have dined.

So it was with real interest that I jumped into Lamees Ibrahim’s “The Iraqi Cookbook.”

The similarities are amazing and yet the styles of the recipes reflect her own childhood and I think that individual experience in cooking is what really makes cooking and recipes so much more enjoyable.

This is a great book that takes you down the road of Middle East food on the Iraqi track.

— Ray Hanania

Here’s some more background information from the publishers, Interlink Books

Iraqi Cookbook, The
Lamees Ibrahim; photography by Terry McCormick

published 2009 • 7” x 10” • 312 pages • full-color photos
ISBN 9781566567480 • hardback • $35.00 •

“Iraqi food is often simple, homey and thanks to this rather sensibly presented cookbook, easy to prepare. Author Ibrahim—who was born in Baghdad and now lives in London—presents more than 200 recipes in what was initially an attempt to capture in written form the cooking traditions handed down orally through the generations for her children, but which has evolved into a formal compendium, illustrated by color photographs. There are earthy bean soups accented with cumin, turmeric and vermicelli; dense breads stuffed with ground meat, cheese or dates; and a host of light vegetable salads accented with lemon juice, parsley and olive oil. Ibrahim devotes an entire chapter to kubba, cracked wheat or rice flour domes that are filled with all manner of stuffings and then deep-fried, boiled or baked in sauce. Fried fresh-water fish, ground meat kebabs and cinnamon-spiked rice biryanis are other staples, followed by date and almond sweets and rosewater-doused pastries. With the easygoing style of a casual home cook, Ibrahim describes her dishes and ingredients in an appealingly narrative manner, encouraging a relaxed approach to preparation while explaining the customs and rites of Iraqi eating. Fresh and simple, Ibrahim’s cookbook is a welcome addition for those interested in exploring an intriguing cuisine through its most authentic flavors.”
—Publishers Weekly

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A cook’s tour that brings the richness of Mesopotamia’s culinary culture to the forefront

The true richness of Iraqi culture has been hidden for many years, overshadowed by political conflict and war. Yet amid the destruction, Iraq’s culture—and not least its cuisine—has remained intact.

The Iraqi Cookbook, the first of its kind to be published in North America, is full of authentic recipes that have been handed down through the generations, developed and enriched over time, and infused with cultures of different eras. The result is a rich mixture of history, health, culture, and storytelling.

Throughout the book, Lamees Ibrahim emphasizes only those ingredients available to a Western reader, gives useful tips, and suggests appropriate alternatives where necessary. The detailed, easy-to-follow recipes are adorned with specially commissioned photography throughout, making The Iraqi Cookbook a feast for both the eyes and the diwan.

In short, in this book of masterly recipes, and beautiful photographs, Lamees Ibrahim serves up a vision of Iraq and its cuisine that stays with you long after you’ve left the kitchen.

Dr. Lamees Ibrahim was born in Baghdad and now lives in London. This is her first cookbook.

Click Here to view an excerpt and sample recipe

Media Reviews
“Ibrahim, who was born in Baghdad but has lived in London for many years, wrote this book for the young generation of Iraqis who, like her daughters, were born in the West and have never lived in or visited their homeland. She includes more than 200 recipes, many of them shown in color photographs. One of the few titles in English on the topic, this is sure to appeal to adventurous cooks interested in Middle Eastern cuisines, culinary institutions offering courses in ethnic cooking, and libraries serving ethnic communities.”
—Library Journal

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Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania

Ray Hanania is an award winning political and humor columnist who analyzes American and Middle East politics, and life in general. He is an author of several books.

"I write about three topics, the Middle East, politics and life in general. I often take my life experiences and offer them in an entertaining way to readers, and I take on the toughest topics like the Israel-Palestine conflict and don't pull any punches about what I feel is fair. But, my priority is always about writing the good story."

Hanania covered Chicago Politics and Chicago City Hall from 1976 through 1992. Hanania began writing in 1975 when he published The Middle Eastern Voice newspaper in Chicago (1975-1977). He later published “The National Arab American Times” newspaper which was distributed through 12,500 Middle East food stores in 48 American States (2004-2007).

Hanania writes weekly columns on Middle East and American Arab issues for the Arab News in Saudi Arabia at, and at, and at He has also published weekly columns in the Jerusalem Post newspaper,, Newsday Newspaper in New York, the Orlando Sentinel Newspapers, and the Arlington Heights Daily Herald.

Palestinian, American Arab and Christian, Hanania’s parents originate from Jerusalem and Bethlehem.

Hanania is the recipient of four (4) Chicago Headline Club “Peter Lisagor Awards” for Column writing. In November 2006, he was named “Best Ethnic American Columnist” by the New American Media. In 2009, Hanania received the prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award for Writing from the Society of Professional Journalists. He is the recipient of the MT Mehdi Courage in Journalism Award. He was honored for his writing skills with two (2) Chicago Stick-o-Type awards from the Chicago Newspaper Guild. In 1990, Hanania was nominated by the Chicago Sun-Times editors for a Pulitzer Prize for his four-part series on the Palestinian Intifada.

His writings have also been honored by two national Awards from ADC for his writing, and from the National Arab American Journalists Association.

The managing editor of Suburban Chicagoland Online News website, Hanania's columns also appear in the Southwest News Newspaper Group of 8 newspapers.

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Ray Hanania