Suzanne Zeidy might not be a name all Cairenes are familiar with, but the entrepreneurial foodie is one of the brains behind both kitsch-cool restaurant, Cairo Kitchen, and mainstay of bars and clubs in Cairo, La Bodega.
With two such big notches on her belt, Suzanne Zeidy’s already impressive résumé now also includes The Cairo Kitchen Cookbook, which is set to launch with a swanky private event at La Bodega on Wednesday 20th of November.
Cairo Gossip sat down with Zeidy to find out more about her obsession with food and her newest culinary project.
When and how did your love for food begin?
I have been around food for my whole life. My father is in the food service business, and he himself was very passionate about food. Growing up, we would always have friends over and my father would come up with inventive mezza for us to try. As I grew older, I completed university and went on to get my M.A. in New York.
Living in New York, I was exposed to some of the world’s best restaurants and gained most of my inspiration there. I then enrolled in culinary school and worked in various restaurants around the city. Upon my return to Egypt in 1998, I knew that my one driving force was to open my first restaurant with friends. That was La Bodega.
Tell us a little bit about the book and what cooking enthusiasts in Egypt can expect.
The Cairo Kitchen Cookbook embraces the food heritage of Egypt; from street food to home-style cooking. It aims at highlighting unique Egyptian ingredients, even those not so commonly found, like Purslane. Our recipes are all about fresh and wholesome ingredients, are easy to follow and very informative. We‘ve included many old fashioned ingredients that have been used in Egypt for centuries, such as Freekeh and pearl barley, but in modern ways. Many of these ingredients now are even considered super-foods in Europe and the US, and are sold in farmers’ markets and gourmet stores. In every chapter, we have chosen a unique ingredient or food and have elaborated on its importance in our culture. We have tried to present the food we love in a very visual way and to tell our story in the context of a wider food scene in Egypt and the Middle East.
What’s your favourite recipe in the book?
I love the contrast of old and new, traditional and creative. In our mezza chapter, we have tried to introduce a few inventive small plates made to share. The perfect example is Quail on Quinoa Taboula.
Here we have served sautéed quail on a bed of quinoa taboula. Taboula, borrowed from the Lebanese, is made with bulgur wheat but we’ve used quinoa, ‘the super-food of 2013’, instead. Similarly, for a vegetarian meal, the Freekeh Stuffed Bell Peppers provide a wholesome and contemporary meal while still staying true to Egyptian cuisine.
Who is this book aimed at? Can cooking novices use the recipes?
The Cairo Kitchen Cook Book is a very visual snapshot of Cairo and Egyptian food. The recipes are easy to follow but also contain many twists and variations from the traditional dishes and so are therefore perfectly suited to novice and experienced cooks alike. The book provides a lot of interesting and useful information about recipes, the ingredients and the food culture of Egypt, and so would also appeal to non- Egyptians who have a love of food and cooking. It’s a perfect gift or souvenir from Egypt.
What are your favourite classical Egyptian ingredients to cook with?
Some ingredients that we love and appear many times throughout the book are fresh coriander, parsley, cumin, allspice, whole grains such as freekeh and pearl barley, as well as pine nuts.
As you know, CG loves inside scoops! What can we expect at the Cairo Kitchen Cookbook launch party? Any surprises?
We have big plans for the Cairo Kitchen Cook Book launch. The party is created by a team of food lovers, so expect some exciting and inventive tasters, creative Egyptian-influenced cocktails, live music and even food inspired décor, all with a twist – seen through the eyes of a foodie!
You can find more information on Suzanne Zeidy's culinary prowess on the Cairo Kitchen blog.