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  • Writer's pictureNZ Booklovers

The Laden Table by Ashia Ismail-Singer

In The Laden Table, Ashia Ismail-Singer takes us on an exciting flavourful journey inspired by the spices she grew up with.

'This book includes some treasured recipes my Mum taught me. And it is full of recipes I have created, trying to recapture the flavours of my childhood. There are Indian, British, and Kiwi dishes , and also some Middle Eastern and French dishes inspired by my two sisters who married French Algerians. Our family celebrations are always a mix of recipes from these cultures.’

There are recipes for every celebratory occasion including special family meals, picnics, elaborate dinners, and festive feasts. And at the end of the book  is ‘the icing on the cake,’ gorgeous, sweet treats and desserts.

The beautiful photographs of the delectable food displayed on exquisite table settings by Lottie Hedley made my mouth water! How I wished I was there!

There are many delectable recipes to choose from. Here are some  of our favourites so far:

Harissa spice-crusted paneer & mango salad

Paneer has a rather bland milky taste but Ashia has transformed it in this recipe by brushing it with harissa before frying it until golden brown. Pairing its peppery smoky flavour with the sweet, slightly tangy flavour of sliced mango was, I thought, an inspired combination!

Kesra bread with whipped feta & sumac-raosted chickpeas

Kesra is an Algerian semolina flatbread. It is very easy to make and has an appealing chewy, earthy, flavour. I’ll make it again often! The recipe came from her brother-in-law Sofiane. We paired it, as Ashia has suggested, with a scrumptuous whipped feta dip garnished with sumac-roasted chickpeas which made it a special small sharing plate.

Spicy Kidney Beans with Rice

Ashia calls this recipe her ‘easy rescue curry’ as it uses pantry staples when there is nothing left in the fridge. It’s a healthy, filling dish. We especially liked the hint of cardamom in the spice mix and the garnish of sliced red onions and crisply fried curry leaves.

Slow-cooked leg of lamb on pomegranate & rose rice  

This is Ashia’s spicy Indian twist on that traditional Sunday roast. She marinates a leg of lamb in garlic, ginger, lemon juice, oil and spices overnight. Then, wrapped in tinfoil, roasts it slowly for 3.5-4 hours by which time the meat falls off the bone and melts in your mouth. When placed on top of pomegranate and rose rice, and scattered with coriander and rose petals, it is a spectacular dish! It epitimizes Ashia’s wonderful talent for creating a splendid feast for a gathering of family and friends.


For her desserts she has created some mouthwatering showstoppers! The Pavlova Crown with caramel and rose shards is a kiwi classic which has been given a magical twist by Ashia and is a favourite in her family. Once the pavlova has cooled she decorates it with rose-infused cream ,berries, pistachios, pomegranate seeds and caramel and rose shards.

Others on my list to bake for a special occasion are her Baklava cheesecake with orange blossom syrup, the Halva with scarlet poached pears, and the Mango & cardamom semifreddo with baked Alaska.

I baked her orange and almond cake to take to a morning tea. It took only about 5 minutes to put together and is gluten free. It is a lovely moist cake and the addition of a teaspoon of rosewater makes it special. A pinch of saffron was optional and I have yet to try that exotic touch.

Menu planning

To help us plan to cook up a feast she has added some menus for special occasions: an Alfresco Indulgence, an Inspired Indian Soiree, a Festive Feast, and a lavish Indian Banquet. At the end there is an ‘Extras’ chapter with easy recipes for a variety  of Indian Breads, raitas and chutneys.

This cookbook is bound to spice up your life in a very delicious way. I would encourage you to be adventurous and to try some of her recipes. The ones we have already tried were a great success and I can’t wait to try many more.

Reviewer: Lyn Potter

Bateman Books


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