Even though I am surrounded by books in my work life (as a freelance book designer) I still get an intense thrill when looking through a new cookbook especially when said book is as stunning as the Cairo Kitchen from Hardie Grant Books.
The author, Suzanne Zeidy, is one of the owners Cairo Kitchen restaurant and she has transferred her knowledge and passion for traditional Egyptian home cooking to the recipes and stories in the eponymous book.
Cairo Kitchen is divided into several sections: Breakfast, Mezza, Soups, Greens, beans and grains, Street foot, Family-style meals, Pickles, preserves, dressings & pastes and finally Desserts and Drinks. Interspaced among the recipes are beautifully illustrated articles which focus on certain culinary traditions and ingredients – such as feteer (a flaky pastry), fuul (fava beans), koshary (the dish that became the basis of the restaurant) and more.
Of all the sections the Mezza one is probably the easiest to dip in and out of – full of inventive small dishes meant for sharing. Despite the frequently unfamiliar names most recipes are easy to achieve at home. I whipped up the carrot tahina dip and some simit to mop it up with – both were delicious. I have bookmarked several more recipes to try – among them the Alexandrian koshary, lamb fattah and halawa (halva) truffles.
The book is so beautiful to look at that it’s worth having even if you never actually cook from it (especially if you are a food blogger!). The photography, by Jonathan Gregson, is truly exceptional – both the recipe images which are unobtrusively styled and mouthwatering, but also the street scenes, close ups and abstract shots of Egyptian food culture.
My only complaint would be that some ingredients (molokheya and freekeh for instance) are not readily available in the UK and the book provides no stockists or alternative suggestions.
Cairo Kitchen Cookbook: Recipes from the Middle East Inspired by the Street Foods of Cairo
by Suzanne Zeidy, published by Hardie Grant, is out now.
- Put the yeast and sugar in a measuring jug. Add the water, mix together and leave to stand for 5 minutes.
- Put the flour and salt in the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with a dough hook.
- Start adding the yeast mixture with the mixer running on low speed.
- Continue to mix for 7-10 minutes or until dough is elastic and passes the windowpane test.
- Put in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let rise for an hour or until doubled.
- Preheat the oven to 180C | 350F. Line a large tray with baking paper.
- Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work top and knock it back. Divide into 5 equal portions.
- Cut each dough portion in half and form into ropes. Twist the two ropes together and form into rings, pressing the ends together to seal. Transfer onto the prepared tray.
- Brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle liberally with sesame seeds.
- Let them rise for 30 minutes then bake for about 20 minutes or until golden.
- Serve with olive oil or the carrot tahina dip.
Carrot tahina dip
- Purée all the ingredients in a food processor adding a little cold water to thin to desired consistency.
- Season and add a swirl of olive oil on top.
- Sprinkle with Dukkah spice and pomegranate seeds to serve.