The journey of a new book into Middle Eastern cuisine

Ghada Abdel-Kader , Thursday 15 Jul 2021

A newly illustrated cookbook, 'Bilhana: Whole food recipes from Egypt, Lebanon and Morocco' sums up the Egyptian love of food and gathering to share meals with family and friends

Bilhana cookbook
The cover of Bilhana cookbook

‘Bilhana’(‘Bon Appétit’) brings a contemporary twist to traditional Middle Eastern dishes with the use of healthy cooking methods and the freshest ingredients the region has to offer. It spans the vast area of the southern Mediterranean from the east (Lebanon and Egypt) to the west (Morocco).

The book starts with a pantry section, a two-page guideline for the reader on how to keep cooking organic and chemical-free and at same time maintain the nutritional value and the taste.

The book explains how to buy the best quality and freshest ingredients such as olive oil, sea salt, herbs, spices, sesame seed, and natural sweeteners as better substitutes for sugar like honey, molasses, dates syrup. It focuses on coconut oil as a healthy choice for frying, as it does not denature at high temperature to produce free radicals.

The book is divided into 8 sections: Breakfast and Mezze; Soups and Stews; Salads, Pulses, and Grains; Veggies and Grains; Roasts and Grills; From the Sea; Sweet Things; and Drinks.

It displays the vibrant colours and immense variety of Middle Eastern cooking and is easy to follow.

It features nutritious, healthy, and easy comfort food recipes. The ingredients are already available and not hard to find in food stores or the household kitchen such as lentils with parsley, spiced beans with tahini, carrot and ginger soup, vegan moussaka, khobeiza, Moroccan lamb shoulder, warm lentil eggplant, and homogenate salad.

The book satisfies all tastes and appetites. It is suitable for vegetarians, non-vegetarians, and people following different types of diets. It is exquisitely illustrated with more than 130 vivid full-colour photographs.

The cookbook index is arranged in alphabetical order with main headings and subheadings to enable the users to easily reach the recipes. The book is available at AUC bookstores. 

About the authors:

Yasmine El-Gharably and her sister Shewekar El-Gharably come from a family of home cooks and rich culinary heritage. Yasmine is a self-taught home cook with a business background and a passion for Middle Eastern cuisine. She is the co-founder of a recipe-sharing platform for Middle Eastern food.

Her sister Shewekar is an interior decorator. In 2016, she became a certified holistic health coach and recipe developer for healing and nutritious dish combinations.

The perfect cookbook and high-quality photos are by the Egyptian-British photographer Yehia El-Alaily. He is a Cairo-based food and travel photographer with over fifteen years' experience.

This book is filled with mouth-watering recipes, two of which are the following:

Warm Lentil Eggplant and pomegranate salad (recipe on the book cover)

Bilhana cookbook
Bilhana cookbook
Warm Lentil Eggplant and pomegranate salad dish

Ingredients:

400g brown lentils

1tsp ground cumin, salt, and pepper

3 eggplants cubed

4tbsp olive oil

3 garlic cloves minced

4 tbsp pomegranate molasses

Handful of pomegranate seeds

Handful of parsley, stalks removed and roughly chopped

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Put the lentils, cumin, and 5 cups of water to cover in a medium pan. Bring to a boil. Then, lower the heat, let simmer for about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Arrange the eggplant cubes in one layer on an oven tray and brush with 2 tbsp of the olive oil. Place in the middle of the oven for 20-25 minutes, turning halfway through.

Turn heat to low and heat the remaining olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add the minced garlic and cook for a couple of minutes until golden.

Add the hot fried garlic, roast eggplant, and pomegranate molasses to the pan of the lentils and stir. Cook for another 5 minutes then add the lime juice and remove from the heat.

Tip into a deep serving dish and garnish with pomegranate seeds a drizzle of olive oil and the chopped parsley. Serve warm.

Date and Tahini Cups:

Bilhana cookbook
Bilhana cookbook
Date and Tahini Cupcakes

Ingredients:

For the base:

12 large dates pitted

60g oats

60g walnuts

For the centre:

225g tahini paste

4-5 tbsp raw molasses

2 large dates, pitted

Pinch of salt

For the topping:

3tbsp coconut oil

2 tbsp raw cocoa powder

1tbsp raw molasses

Method:

To prepare the base, place the 12 dates in a food processor with a tablespoon of water. Pulse until you have a creamy mixture. Add the oats and walnuts and pulse again until combined.

Place 9 paper cupcake liners in muffin pan or just brush it with coconut oil. Press down about 1½tablespoons of the date-oat dough in each to form the bases of the cups and place in the freezer for 15 minutes.

In the meantime, use the food processor to mix the ingredients for the centre together (the tahini, raw molasses, 2 dates, and salt).

When you remove the bases from the freezer, spread a tablespoon or two of this mix over each and pop back in the freezer for another 15 minutes.

In a medium bowl, mix the ingredients for the toppings together. Remove the tray of cups from the freezer, spread the topping mix over each and put back in the freezer for another hour to set.

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