“Can any other place on earth provide such a feast for the senses?” Caroline Eden wonders in the introduction to her new book Samarkand: Recipes and Stories from Central Asia and the Caucasus. She describes her first visit to the fabled city of the Silk Road as time travel to a place that has been at the crossroads of culture for centuries. Along with her co-author Eleanor Ford, Eden captures the sensual experience of Samarkand through sumptuous recipes, gorgeous color photographs and personal reminiscences and historical anecdotes that fill out the textures and flavors of the place.
Situated in the valley of the Zerafshan River in Uzbekistan, Samarkand served as a Silk Road stopover that drew travelers, tradesmen, merchants and great conquerors like Alexander the Great and Tamerlane from far-off cities like Shiraz and Xi’an. Arriving after an arduous journey across great stretches of steppe and ranges of mountains, the weary traveler would see the turquoise oasis of mosques and minarets, domes and mausoleums shimmering like a mirage.
Between the sixth and thirteenth centuries Samarkand starred as one of the world’s finest marketplaces. Eden and Ford bring that ancient marketplace to life through its diverse flavors. Profiling the myriad peoples who passed through Samarkand over the centuries – Uzbeks, Tajiks, Russians, Turks, Koryo-Sarams, Jews and Afghans, the authors introduce recipes little-known to the Western palate, like Lamb Kebabs with Cinnamon, Cloves and Hot Hummus, Pumpkin Stuffed with Spiced Chickpeas, Pomegranate and Vodka Sorbet as well as the region's all-important breads. Gorgeously produced, the expansive cookbook belongs in any traveler’s kitchen, which, if it is employed correctly, will soon be full of the delicious aromas of the Central Asian steppe.