My Heritage & Background

A little background

My father's side is Kurdish and my mother's side in half Egyptian and German. 
After my parents met and were married, life and work lead them to a new land and that was Pakistan & Afghanistan.   My father worked in the humanitarian and relief field while my mother stayed at home with us girls, my sisters and I were born in Pakistan. 

When I was 7 years old my dad's work lead us to his own country, Northern Iraq where the Kurdish people settled and their culture flourished.

I've always been interested in food and often check out what other kids are bringing to school and that's what sparked my curiosity, I'd go home and describe things I've seen to my mother and she's ask one of my fathers relatives or friends to teach us these recipes. My grandma (father's mother) lived in the south, beyond the Kurdish boarder and it was not always easy for her to cross back and forth due to Saddam's regime but when I finally met her she taught me a lot of things.

My mother and I watched her cook, she loved to sit on a small stool on the floor and work close to the ground, even her chopping board was a stool type mini table that she worked on. Other times she'd move to the living room to watch the kids play or watch a bit of tv and there she had a large steel tray with grains or lentils or rice and she'd sort through it removing bits of stone and the like.
 From what I remember my grandmother loved to cook, it was how she showed her appreciation for her family members. The techniques she showed us over and over were vital in learning the Kurdish cuisine, there is a skill involved and my mother being an amazing cook herself picked it up very quickly. I was still very young at the time but I was able to rely on my mother learning the cuisine to be able to teach it to me later in life.
After many years we had to flee and that landed us in Turkey for a while before setting up our flight arrangements back to my mother's homeland (Canada) and there along the way we stayed with distant relatives (Turkish Kurds) and our learning experience with food continued. These Kurd's recipes were different and had more turkish influences to them, from the Aleppo peppers which I had no seen used anywhere in Kurdistan to the stews that mixed many vegetables and especially eggplant (A turkish favourite vegetable) We also taught them quite a few things about cooking and baking!

Back in Toronto my journey with food did not stop just yet because in my grandmothers house we managed to taste all those delicious German recipes my mother spoke so fondly of, we did make german food at home wherever we lived but there were some things "best left to Grandma" and mum was right about that. Also another rich food culture was brought to the table, my Grandfather's Egyptian cuisine... many of those Egyptian ingredients were not easily found in parts of the middle east that we lived in so we had an advantage with the large Arabic community and many imported products in the General Toronto area.

Egyptian folk cuisine is rustic and earthy, it was very easy to open our hearts and 
appetites to it and it continues to be one of my favourites! 
Through being exposed to people of different multicultural backgrounds in Canada I eagerly wanted to learn more, I enjoyed the food by the large South African Indian community as well as the Bosnian and Albanian who produce such delicate and beautiful meat or spinach and cheese filled savoury pastries, I can't get enough of the local Chinese and Asian supermarkets that are opening up all over the city ...

Just a few months after my 19th birthday I took a trip with my sisters to Dubai, United Arab Emirates, what a fantastic hub for all kinds of food from all over the world! There I experienced Moroccan food and fell in love with it instantly, I was vegetarian at the time and that fava bean soup I ordered was perfect, it had so much flavour and richness that I felt I was not missing out on anything compared to the rest of the diners at my table, even the vegetable tagine was absolutely beautiful, fresh stewed vegetables delicately spiced and decorated with olives... that little pot of chili paste on the table was incredibly addictive, and let's not forget the fresh handmade couscous, it was superb! Small delicate fluffy grains that soak up all the flavourful juices from the tagine.

Later I took a trip to Yemen for a few months and there I discovered Yemeni cuisine, it varies from region to region, there is a lot of Indian influences in the northern region of Hadramout, and in the South in places like Aden the fish is abundant! The fish markets all over there were amazing, full of so many beautiful tropical fish from that same day's catch, from the tuna to the parrot fish, so many meaty delicious varieties, as a vegetarian who only ate fish at the time it was heaven for me! I discovered that Yemenis love heat, chili sauce is a staple on every table and even children love to add heat to their meals. Yemeni cuisine is rustic, it's different from the rest of the Middle East, it's unique and they don't let any of it go to waste by using innovative ways to turn leftovers into new meals. Fenugreek both fresh and dry seeds is a flavour that I distinctly and consistently tasted in most Yemeni dishes.

Another pleasant surprise was my discovery and learning of many Somalis living there, their stories, and their food of course which I enjoyed very much! One lovely somali friend of mine was showing me the bread she makes every morning and how the starter was something inherited from her mother in somalia. She just had to take it with her so she smuggled it over on a boat with her to Yemen. If you tasted the chewy bread with that developed flavour like a good sour-dough bread you'll know it was well worth the trouble to smuggle it!

I've always been interested mainly in the foods of the Middle East, the food varies from region to region, it isn't all the same, it's not just what you get at your local shawarma place like falafel and kebobs, those foods are yummy but they're street foods. Most Arabs go out to eat these foods (like taking your kids out for a burger!) I want to bring you what people eat at home, what mothers and grandmothers are cooking in their kitchens, the recipes that are passed down, the variation of flavours from region to region, the spices, the herbs the marinades so that you can experience these flavours and decide how you want to introduce them into your cooking.

When it comes to food there is so much to offer that I've only begun my adventure.