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‘Food an expression of love:’ Iranian Sudanese cookbook author Zahra Abdalla

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Fri, 2022-02-11 12:04

DUBAI: An Iranian Sudanese cookbook author is taking center stage among guest speakers at an international literature festival being held in the UAE.

Zahra Abdalla will on Saturday take part in the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature’s “Cooking the Classics – Creative Liberties” talk at Dubai’s Al Habtoor City.

She said: “Food is nostalgic. It is memorable. It is the simplest and easiest way to bring people to a table and create amazing memories.”

She will be joined by Dr. Rupy Aujla, the Sunday Times bestselling author of “The Doctor’s Kitchen,” “Eat to Beat Illness,” and most recently “Doctor’s Kitchen 3-2-1.”

“I am very excited to share the stage with Dr. Rupy Aujla and have a chat about altering traditional recipes for the modern and health-conscious table,” she told Arab News.

“Cooking has always been a nostalgic process of connecting with my roots and a creative outlet to develop new and modern recipes that makes cooking accessible,” added the entrepreneur and social media influencer.

The “Cooking with Zahra” author’s culinary journey started with her online blog in 2010 and soon after she presented her own cooking shows on MBC3 and hosted the fourth season of food and travel documentary “Maggi Diaries” on MBC1.

As a third culture kid, Abdalla said she always struggled to find her identity.

“I was born in London, raised in Vancouver, and lived in Riyadh, Khartoum, Athens, and London. I was neither Eastern nor Western, and I was neither very traditional nor too modern. I always liked living on the fence, in the middle, of all the different polarities.

“The recipes that I share are a celebration of this value system. It truly is a celebration of and respect for tradition and modernity, as well as Eastern and Western culture and food,” she added.

Abdalla’s cookbook is a collection of some of her favorite recipes. But her most-liked dish is her one pot saffron chicken and freekeh.

She said: “I love this recipe because I truly feel like it most represents me. I am half Iranian, my husband is Jordanian, and the flavors and ingredients of this recipe is a marriage of both cultures. In essence it is a traditional recipe prepared in a modern and simple way.”

Abdalla pointed out that food was a wonderful medium “to reminisce on heart-warming memories.”

The culinary world has always been an important aspect of her life. Certain scents, flavors, recipes, and traditions give her comforting and nostalgic memories. “Food is also an expression of love,” she added.

“I would love to see more regional cookbook authors celebrated both regionally and internationally. There are many inspiring and talented chefs and cooks that don’t have the necessary platform to publish their work. It is very rare to meet a regional cookbook author that is not self-published. The investment to write a book can be quite expensive and therefore limiting.”

She said upcoming chefs had to believe in themselves. “Consistency is key in everything you do, because through the process of trial and error and multiple rounds of edits your masterpiece gradually forms.”

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