Why this ranking?
The unexpected hero of this book is the sauce.
Even if you have an overcooked lamb chop or prawn, that intense, punchy sauce will still turn it into the best damn version you’ve ever had.
The bread directions were also impeccable. They were written with intention and were super easy to follow for a home cook with a basic grasp of shaping dough. As long as you can fold and flip in 90° angles, you’ll have no problem.
We always love a book that makes it possible for a home cook to make a dish look just like the photo representation. This book does an excellent job of showing you exactly how your dish should look at the end, and I don’t think there was one dish that turned out with more than a sprig of parsley out of place.
Where I deducted points for this book was in the use of flower waters, and to be fair, that may just be personal preference — but I don't entirely think it was. When a recipe asks for 2 tablespoons of orange blossom or rose water, you know you're in for a flavor that'll drown out everything in its vicinity. If you’re someone who is sensitive to overpowering flavors like those, I recommend skipping out on these altogether, especially if you plan to make the turmeric chicken. The orange blossom water in that recipe made it almost impossible to taste any other flavor.
All other deductions in my scoring went to measurements because after 3 days of multiple recipes asking for "2 tablespoons plus 2.5 teaspoons" of turmeric or whatever, I was seriously losing my patience. That kind of measurement clearly comes from translating from weights to volume measurements. Please, for the love of god, stop doing that. Kitchen scales are easy.
Why this book?
I developed a falafel recipe a few months ago alongside a flatbread recipe I’d had rolling around in my head. I cracked open every book we had that referenced falafels. Bavel happened to be one of them.
I have to admit that when I tried to make the Bavel falafel from the book I failed miserably, and while I ended up going down a different route for the final version, I couldn’t stop flipping through the Bavel cookbook.
I was intimidated by it because it meant making yogurt, pickles, breads, and all those sauces from scratch — but this series isn’t about playing it safe. It’s about trying to make something new from a different cook's perspective, and that's when I knew I had to give this book an honest try.
I was pleasantly surprised by the amount of flavor in the sides and starters, but a bit disappointed by the main dishes in this book — and at the restaurant. If they didn’t rely so heavily on the pickles and sauces, I’d be thrilled. But most of the mains are too bland on their own to give my whole-hearted recommendation.
That being said, those Turkish eggs have become a staple breakfast since this review, the baba ganoush — while high effort — was amazing, and I will definitely be attempting to make those harissa prawns again.
I won't deny that this book takes a lot of time, and asks you to make a lot of things from scratch. If you’re not a fan of blending and grinding spices, making yogurt from scratch, or baking bread, this may not be for you. If you are the type who finds making everything from scratch therapeutic however, I'd highly recommend this book.
With the warning that the orange blossom water and rose water measurements should be converted from tbsp to drops. As usual, taste along the way, and you'll do just fine.
If you find yourself in the LA area, I highly recommend trying to grab a table at the Bavel restaurant. When you get there, skip the mains but enjoy as many of the incredibly flavorful sides, starters, and cocktails as you can. If you like seafood, order at least two orders of the prawns for the table. You won’t regret it.