I’m really lucky because I get sent quite a few cookbooks. I’ll be honest though – a lot of them are a bit, well, samey. Every now and again one takes me by surprise because it’s just SO exciting and SO different.
I actually received this book ages ago. It was a sunny day and I sat in the garden and read the whole thing, cover to cover, bending over the edges of pages with recipes I really want to cook (I know, terrible habit). It’s been in my kitchen all this time and it was only when cooking the scrummy breakfast couscous recipe (more of that in a minute) that I’ve fallen in love with, that I realised I’ve never written about it.
Suzanne Zeidy does the thing I really like in a cookery writer – she gives her recipes context: little snippets of memories from her childhood, background to traditional recipes, the history of certain ingredients… and THIS is the bit I’m interested in. Not just the recipe, but the how, what, why and who behind it. Suzanne grew up in Egypt, and many of the recipes are ones remembered and adapted from family favourites and, later, from the restaurant she opened in Cairo in 2000 after returning from studying and working in America.
My own personal favourites include Sharkaseya chicken – shredded chicken in an incredible, creamy walnut sauce that uses soaked bread (I’ve made it so much I barely have to look at the recipe any more), a classic Moussaka recipe, and the aforementioned breakfast couscous: fluffy couscous with toasted almonds, pine nuts, soaked raisins and pistachios, all drowned in cinnamon infused milk. It’s SO delicious and so comforting, containing some of my favourite flavours. Basically a big hug in a bowl.
And I think that, really, is the very essence of why this book works so well. It could be scary in its unfamiliarity, but there’s so much love and warmth bound in its pages, it just draws you in.
Cairo Kitchen by Suzanne Zeidy, published by Hardy Grant UK, is out now.