Author of ‘Ramadan Express’ and ‘The Land of White’
When did you first discover that you loved to cook?
I graduated from a specialist school go hotel and catering management and achieved an honorary Ba in June 2000. My father and I established Alicia Resturant in London where we had to cook everything by ourselves and from scratch by our own recipes. As a Lebanese I had to mix and match my presented cuisine with contemporary trends and flavours.
Who/ What influences your cooking?
I love authentic Lebanese recipes. Moreover, any other cuisines that are rich with history and national culinary heritage are of great matter to my senses and of course my exquisite palette.
If you have a dinner party or friends over, what would you cook for them?
What a great question. In fact two families are coming to spend this Sunday with us and food is always a top priority. We’ll be baking Manaeesh a traditional Lebanese flat bread topped with either cheese or Zaatar (thyme,summac and sesame mix). Chargrilled rib eye steaks with chips and salad and some chicken kebabs too with garlic and chili sauce. Dinner course will be steak and cheese wreath, faroush and sujuk with tomatoes ( Armenian sausages) and fresh kibbe.
Are there any family favourites that your family ask you to cook?
My family enjoy food especially my signature dishes. Ali my husband loves cheese and steak wreath. My son adores my banana and walnut cake, he also loves my grilled chicken. Lameece who is my princess loves all cooking and she keeps judging me as if am one of reality cooking competitions. Her favorites are my chocolate cake.
What inspired you to write cookery books and share your cooking experiences?
although I am happily married to my husband; my confession is that I have an affair.. Yes a romantic affair with ingredients, flavours, culinary heritage. Food represents culture, traditions and it is a ref election of one’s identity. Good home made food is towards extinction and if we don’t try and keep our food legacy there will be so much lost throughout the disastrous things happening in the world. War is a terrible thing and if we imagine what would happen to a country’s culture, traditions, heritage, folklore if any of its monuments and locals are destroyed, wiped out or even forced to flea it due to violence. I want to celebrate Lebanese food every where I go so the new generations can hold it closer to their hearts and not distance it as its ancestors’ history.
Have you enjoyed the overall experience of writing you recipes into a cookery book?
there is nothing more magical than sitting in your kitchen and opening your very own recipes cookery book to carry on with your daily baking and other meals.
What did your family say when you wanted to share your recipes? Have they been supportive in your decision?
My parents have been always aware of my dream. In fact whenever I go to the Antique shops with my dad I used to chose the nicest arm chairs, I used to tell him one day I will sit on these chairs and be interviewed for being an achiever and famous. My dad always nodded his head but he reminded me of the words when The Land of White received the worlds Gourmand Award of Best in the Uk and nominated for Best in the World. My husband Ali is the most forever patient husband to let me through this wonderful experience, his patience throughout filming Ramadan Express for both Associate a Press andDiscovery Channel is impeccable.
On my way to Yantai to the Gourmand Awards Ceremony my son told me: Mum go and pursue your dream, celebrate your success we are proud of you. That was the first time in my life to leave them and travel..
Has the success from your previous books motivated you to write more books?
Hail YES.. I have a vision of cooking and sharing my good moments of cookery with people from all over the world. I want people to experience food and use all their senses. Food brings us all together and there is so much evil going on in the world that is driving people and good moments from each other. We have to unite and be together at one table, imagine all those politician and world leaders sitting in the parliaments and offices trying to sort out complicated world issues. On the contrary, imagine those same leaders coming together with food from their origins I bet the facial expressions and the whole ambience will change.
Writing and celebrating food unifies people from many backgrounds together and it indeed a message of love, blessing and of continued giving.