Cooking with love

Lisa Kaaki

Published — Wednesday 14 November 2012

Last update 14 November 2012 4:56 pm

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Cooking with love could very well be the title of this delightful cookery book. The idea behind the book was Rasha Al-Hejailan’s desire to rekindle old friendships and re-connect with estranged relatives, hence the title “The Women In My Life”. Their flagship recipes can be seen in the second half of the book while the author treats us in the first part to a mouthwatering selection of appetizers, main courses and desserts.
“The whole process of thinking up a dish and working on it from A to Z is completely therapeutic and stress relieving for me. Maybe it’s the repetitive motions of cutting and stirring and kneading, or the nostalgic smells that are like an aromatherapy session that takes you to a familiar place and time,” explains Rasha.
I could hardly resist making the “Coffee Pancakes” and apparently I am not the only one! According to Rasha, this recipe has garnered an unprecedented attention. This convivial breakfast food is as easy to make as it appears in the recipe. For plain pancakes, just remove the coffee. They are wickedly delicious.

One and a half cup flour
One teaspoon baking powder
One teaspoon baking soda
A pinch of salt
Two tablespoons sugar
Two tablespoons instant coffee
One cup milk
Half a cup of yogurt
One egg
Two tablespoons oil
A quarter teaspoon of butter

Mix all dry ingredients except coffee. In a separate bowl, beat in milk, yogurt, oil, egg and coffee.
Combine all the ingredients and mix well.
Heat a frying pan and brush with some butter.
Add a quarter cup of batter into the frying pan and cook until tiny bubbles start to appear. Then flip the pancake on the other side. Allow to cook for a few seconds then remove. Repeat with the remaining batter.

“My cookbook or what I like to think of as a ‘recipe journal’ is unlike a conventional cookbook. It has a personal touch whereby you feel like you know the owner of the recipe. This is why I decided to take care of the editing and photography myself and keep it true to the initial intention, an amateur recipe journal with delicious and simple every day recipes cooked by the average woman,” explains Rasha.
Incidentally, part of the books’ sale proceeds are going to two different charities, one is “Helping Hands KSA” a local charity in Saudi Arabia that directly supports underprivileged children. The other is a newly established pediatric care department at “Fawzia Sultan Rehabilitation Institute” in Kuwait where the 28 year old Saudi born Rasha is currently living.
I loved the “Rocca and Feta Salad” with a blueberry dressing.
Rocca or rocket, the English name has a slightly hot, peppery taste, which blends perfectly with the blueberry, rightly declared in America, ‘the aristocrat of soft fruit’.
I also found an excellent hash browns recipe with herbs and cheese. Other recipes with potatoes include “Potato au Gratin” and “Battered Potato Rounds”.
French, Indian, Italian and Chinese cuisine have some excellent spinach dishes but Rasha has chosen a Greek spinach and feta savory pie, “Spanacopita” for this nutritive leafy vegetable.
Would you believe that there exists a sweet spinach tart, a specialty made in the south of France! After all, there are a number of vegetables that end up in cakes and other desserts. The courgette is one of them. I was treated once to a delicious cake made with finely grated courgettes. However, we are much more familiar with the carrot cake. An easy recipe, that takes only ten minutes to prepare, is available in the book.
“Fruit Sushi” is probably the most original recipe in the book. The seaweed has been replaced by a chocolate wrapping and the rice is combined with a trio of colorful fruit. The result is a scrumptious sweet ‘maki’, which I would love to order in Japanese restaurants where menus often do not have a list of tempting desserts.
“The whole point was to include recipes that all women can try making. Part of the book‘s appeal is that it isn’t intimidating and is written for the average woman, even those who are not enthusiastic about cooking. The ingredients are readily available and the measurements are in a user-friendly form (cups and spoon) rather than grams and liters, which put off a number of people from cooking. The book has really gotten people in an adventurous and experimental mood, especially the first timers. Some start with the more simple dishes like the “Labnah and Spinach Open Sandwich”, and some are digging straight into more complicated ones like the “Butter Chicken”!” says Rasha.
This delightful cookery book is available at Areej Café in Centria Shopping Mall in Riyadh and sold by order through e-mail.
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