Cookbook highlights Center Jap dishes for these on a nutritious diet

Baked yellow lentil falafel, warm freekeh and eggplant salad, Moroccan chicken with green olives and harissa salsa and fried quail with cinnamon and pomegranate molasses are all dishes that can decorate your sofra (dining table) if you should orient yourself to Bilhana: Whole Food Recipes from Egypt, Lebanon and Morocco, a cookbook published by the American University at Cairo Press in June.

Bilhana was written jointly by the Cairo-based sisters Yasmine and Shewekar Elgharably and is richly illustrated with photographs by the Egyptian-British photographer Yehia El Alaily.

As mentioned in the introduction to the legacy book, “Bon appetit” is the next translation of Bilhana. Those in the know would agree, however, that the cultural nuances of this Egyptian-Arabic word are not fully captured. A term that means generosity, warmth, and the act of coming together to share lovingly prepared food may not be translatable.

Healthy Middle Eastern Recipes

“We wanted to concentrate on our traditional recipes, [especially] the Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine, ”Yasmine tells The National. “Our goal was to emphasize that our traditional food can be cooked healthily and that it is clean and based on grains and vegetables.”

Whether keto, vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian or paleo, Bilhana fits all current nutrition trends. Those who don’t diet will still have a nice sofra

Shewekar Elgharably

The sisters grew up in a family of amateur chefs. Yasmine is the founder of, “a collaborative platform that disseminates cooking inspiration among passionate home cooks,” while Shewekar is a holistic health coach, nutritionist and recipe developer.

“I studied health coaching and designed a culinary nutrition program that helped me understand how to use ingredients in healing and which ingredients should be cooked together to ensure the best possible absorption of vitamins and minerals,” says Shewekar. “These [knowledge] is reflected in the recipes we developed for this book. “

It took the duo two years to complete Bilhana – from developing and testing some recipes to perfecting and editing, changing and replacing others. El Alaily worked closely with them, whose tidy, modern and seductive images give this book a calming atmosphere.

“The main idea was to show Middle Eastern food in a modern way. We didn’t want to show the copper trays or the khayamiyya tablecloth [usually used as props]. We wanted a very modern book, ”says El Alaily.

“The backgrounds are the same everywhere. Plastic was not used for health reasons. We have used handmade clay products, mainly from Fayoum. can be obtained [Egyptian city], as well as some porcelain and ceramic products. “

Focus on local ingredients

Aside from the innovation evident in most of the recipes, Bilhana celebrates local seasonal ingredients that are prepared to retain their flavor.

“Yasmine and I are always thrilled to see vegetables on carts in Egypt and the Arab world. We always want to stop and buy, ”says Shewekar. “I’m also registered with farms that deliver baskets of fresh produce. I love the element of surprise that comes with deciding what to cook with these ingredients. I think it’s this passion that inspired our recipes for the book. “

When it comes to the cooking process, the duo try to “get the most out of the ingredients instead of overcooking them or killing them.” [their flavour] with spices. That’s how we usually cook at home and that was reflected in the creation of our book, ”says Yasmine.

In addition, the sisters wanted to design the recipes in such a way that they are equally accessible to amateur cooks and kitchen experts, “without complicating it,” says Shewekar. Accordingly, Bilhana begins with an In Your Pantry area, a two-page guide that advises readers on the best products, from high-quality olive oil, tahini and pomegranate molasses to fresh parsley, rocket and mint as well as a large selection of spices, grains, Legumes and legumes.

“As part of my health coaching and culinary program, I had to give a few workshops [teaching] People how to cook. I’ve always had questions about where to get clean ingredients and how to store them to keep them from going bad, ”says Shewekar of the reason this section was written.

Also included are easy-to-understand instructions for storing cooked food and the most efficient kitchen appliances.

Diet-friendly recipes

The introduction is followed by the sections Breakfast & Mezze, Soups & Stews, Salads, Legumes & Grains and Vegetables & Vegetables, each offering clean, appetizing and easy-to-prepare dishes such as vegetable-filled egg shakshouka, Moroccan chickpea soup, beet and mint salad and vine leaf cake.

The Roasts & Grills and From the Sea sections offer a wide variety of popular Middle Eastern dishes, including chicken messakhan and almond-crusted sea bass.

As a dessert, there is a lot to discover in the sweetly titled “Sweet things” section, which includes “Power snacks for before or after exercise or in the middle of the day when you are in a hurry,” says Yasmine.

Examples include date and tahini cups and orange hibiscus ice pops.

Finally, the beverage section promises the same delicacy, with date jallab and Turkish iced coffee being some of the options featured.

The result is a recipe book that offers something for every meal planner who yearns for Middle Eastern enjoyment. As Shewekar says: “Whether keto, vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian or palaeo, bilhana fits all current diets. Those who don’t diet will still have a nice sofa. “

“Bilhana: Wholefood Recipes From Egypt, Lebanon and Morocco” is available on the AUC Press website or

Updated: July 6, 2021, 7:52 am

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