MCGC Nutrition

Review: Eat, Habibi, Eat!

Marie-Claire Gahel-Calouche

Recipe book review:

Eat, Habibi, Eat! – Fresh Recipes for Modern Egyptian Cooking by Shahir Massoud 

Words I love that I have heard and said quite often.

To cook is a genuine act of kindness and to bring someone to your table or to share a warm dish is to cherish and welcome those you care for and consider special. Think of the neighbor, friend or family member that will show up at your door with a piping hot casserole; that’s genuine kindness. The title of the book says it all and for anyone familiar with this expression, these are welcoming words you would hear at family gatherings and celebrations. Frankly, it is an expression that is close to my heart. To the author of this book: Thank you for writing it, it is wonderful, and I adored it. Tons of recipes that make me want to Eat, Habibi, Eat! 

Recently, I have been shopping for recipe books, particularly those that fuse new and old recipes and that demonstrate different techniques and flavours. I found this book after my father started corresponding with my uncle about how to make some of his favourite foods growing up (like Sayadiah; a Middle Eastern spiced fish and rice dish) in an attempt to find my grandmother’s recipes or at least to reproduce them.

Not having ever eaten this, I grew curious and was interested in introducing these foods to my kids. Lebanese of origin, my parents and grandparents were born and raised in Egypt. Our food is, therefore, a marvelous hybrid of both. Of course, as I have mentioned in many of my posts, what could be better than a bowl of Mulukhiyah soup or waking up to Ful Madames (cooked fava beans prepared with lemon and olive oil vinaigrette) and hard-boiled eggs? Even better if there is some day-old tabouleh in the fridge to top your Ful and egg breakfast. Either these words make you cringe or they bring a nostalgic joy. Most importantly, I wish that these foods bring nostalgic joy to my children, and so my quest begins to find the perfect cookbooks to add to my library.  

Browsing in a bookstore, I paused immediately at the big, bright yellow title ‘Eat, Habibi, Eat!’. At those words, my eyes lit up and I just had to get it! Even better the words “modern Egyptian cooking” sold me outright at the curiosity of how traditional recipes could be transformed. My favorite part is its beautiful combination of mixing local ingredients with the traditional recipes I grew up with and having the pleasure of rediscovering those flavors in a new and innovative way. I also appreciated that Shahir Massoud left family memories all throughout the book, and without giving anything away, I took particular pleasure in reading the introduction. One word comes to mind when reading this cookbook: authentic. I feel for those of us who were raised in Canada (or anywhere other than the homeland of our families) but have grown up with the traditional food and recipes accompanied by the countless memories and the stories of our parents. This book represents well the modern reality of living with and among both cultures and combining them together into something innovative and delicious.  

  

Ok, so the questions you might ask… how healthy is it?  

 If I chop it down into food quality: beans, TONS of greens, plant proteins (did that rhyme?!?), whole grains, healthy fats… what not to love! We also know health is a combination of quality x quantity and, in my opinion, a little bit of EVERYTHING makes for a healthier & happier plate. There is so much good stuff going on in this cookbook, that this dietitian gives it a thumbs up. A lot of great and healthy recipes that can be made in advance like the Chickpea and Tomato Halabissa soup and Falafel burgers made with edamame (or Ta’ameya for those familiar with Egyptian food). 

I actually made the Edamame burgers in my air fryer, and it turned out great! I have also made the burgers into smaller Ta’ameya /Falafel balls and made the mix the night before and left it in the fridge to cook when I arrive home in the air fryer. Turned out great and I was able to keep the cooked balls easily 3 to 4 days for an easy lunchtime Ta’ameya sandwich with loads of veggies, whole wheat tortilla bread or pita and my homemade traditional recipe for Tahini.  

I also adored the Spinach and Kale version of Mulukhiyah… obviously, this was the 1st recipe I tried and what could be better than seeing your kids wolf down a bowl of kale and spinach soup! On a side note, I have made this soup over 6 times since I purchased a book a few months ago! I have even made it with quinoa instead of rice as a base and my kids loved it. For those who ADORE eating Mulukhiyah but fear the long preparation, I have frozen it and it does hold up great for easy week meals.  

 

Kids raised up in Canada loved it, the mom & dietitian loves it too, but does it pass with the older generations that lived and grew up in Egypt?  

This year I had the privilege of having my parents over for Easter, after having missed a few years of celebrations due to the pandemic. I wanted to give them a little nostalgia and make recipes that they hold close to their hearts! Of course, I love to experiment. So, I thought to myself, what would happen if they tasted their food but a little different? And honestly, they loved everything and yes, my mother was brought back to her memories of growing up in Egypt… exactly what I was going for! 😊  

So far, all the recipes that I have tried have been delicious and successful with my children! My favourites are the Kale and Spinach Mulukhiyah soup, the Falafel Burgers (or Ta’ameya, if you prefer the Egyptian term), the Kofta made with bison and lamb, and the Halabissa soup. This is just a handful and many interesting and refined recipes that I will be making and which I look forward to sharing with my family and guests. If you choose to try this recipe book, I encourage you to try each recipe one by one and savour every moment of this culinary adventure.  

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