A Culinary Legacy by Viviane Bowell
Recipes from a Sephardi Egyptian kitchen
The author was born and brought up in Cairo, Egypt. She was expelled with her family in 1956 as a result of the Suez crisis and came to England as a refugee. Her maternal grandparents were born and lived in Aleppo, which they subsequently left for economic reasons, settling in Egypt in 1910. Her paternal ancestors originated from Toledo and were expelled from Spain in 1492 during the time of the Inquisition. They eventually settled in Constantinople, but the gradual collapse of the Ottoman Empire left them struggling financially and her grandparents chose to leave and seek their fortune in Egypt.
The main purpose of writing this book was to transmit to her family a legacy she is proud of and also to share this with a wider audience. Her heritage is a unique blend of three different cultures and styles of cooking, which she has tried to amalgamate in her book. The food of Aleppo is known for its delicacy of seasoning and elaborateness and many dishes have a sweet-and-sour flavour, provided by the balance of citrus fruits, pomegranates, tamarind and dried fruits. Judeo Spanish cooking is relatively simple, with the use mainly of olive oil, lemon juice and very few spices. In addition, the author grew up in Egypt, where cooking and eating were an integral part of everyday life and she still remembers the scents which filled the kitchen, such as the smell of freshly roasted spices, the aroma of orange blossom water and rose petal jam cooking slowly on the stove.
There are 260 recipes in the book, covering a wide range, from fish, meat and poultry, vegetarian dishes, soups and salads to cakes, sweet and savoury pastries, Passover baking and authentic Egyptian dishes. Included are many Sephardi favourites, such as borekas, borekitas, pastelles, boyos, bulemas, apio con avas, almodrote de berendjena, albondigas de pishkado, avgolemono soup, prasifutchi, mina de prasa, travados and sansaticos. There are also many Judeo Syrian dishes, such as sweet and tart chicken with apricots, meatballs in apricot sauce, aubergines stuffed with quince, stuffed caramelised onions, kibbeh bil sanieh and okra with prunes and apricots. The Egyptian dishes are what the author remembers her family cooking back in Cairo, from megadarah, molokhehia, lahmah b’ageen, mahshi, koshari, samak b’fereek, filo triangles, roz we hamud, ta’ameyeh, sambusek and dukka, to the classics baklava, konafa, basbousa, Om Ali, Aish ell saraya, menenas and ghorayebah.
Year first published: 2022