For most culinary experts, the
mark of a great cook is a science; this includes presentation, balancing
textures, innovating tastes and much more. I might not be a culinary expert,
yet I personally believe that the food I enjoy the most is cooked with passion,
and from the heart. The culinary talent and vision of Mrs. Salwa Najia shows
the marks of a great cook, as she chooses to cook with passion, and challenges
her skills to excel through her journey in publishing two established
cookbooks. Her first book, Al Mathaq (The
Taste) is a gastronomic reference and a studied ode to
regional and international dishes, and her second book, released this month, Atbaq
Wa Athwaq (Plates and Palates) is an eclectic progression
of innovative recipes. bazaar meets Mrs. Najia to find out more:
What are the types of dishes you enjoy cooking
taking known dishes from different countries, and modifying them. I mix in
different flavors, with the additional final touches of an elegant
presentation. I'm also very fond of making Arabic pastries, Mo'ajanat, with
very non-traditional ingredients and interesting applications, like mixes of
eggplant, sesame oil and sun-dried tomatoes. Not only do they look good, they
taste absolutely delicious.
What inspired you to write the recipes for
your first cookbook?
always interested in cooking from a very young age; based on this hobby and
passion, I started a collection of recipes. I never had an idea back then of
creating a book, the recipes were just filed for my reference.
I've collected over the years from my mother, some I came across on my travels
all over the world. I'm so fascinated by cooking that I would meet the chefs at
restaurants where I loved the food, and ask for recipes and tips to create my own
version of the dishes I had.
What do you wish to communicate with your
love to show people that cooking with passion is the most important thing. I
worked really hard to communicate how I created these recipes. I want to
present my readers with dishes they want to learn to cook, and might have a
hard time finding an easy recipe with an elegant presentation.
Can you give us some examples of these
instance, there are many Palestinian dishes that are very traditional and very
hard to come by in modern restaurants. In these cases, I will locate the recipe
from different sources, usually from its original source, before crafting my
own—a recipe that is easy for everyone to prepare.
How is the second book different from the
second book is very global with regards to the types of recipes compiled. I
came by a variety of different recipes for unique appetizers and desserts. My
experience improved in terms of producing the book; better photography, and
printing quality. Nonetheless, people love the first book because it is very
comprehensive reference of regional and international recipes, with a total of
700. Any and every recipe that comes to mind is in that book. The second book
is also loved for its variety of eclectic recipes.
Was it harder to create recipes for your
all! I actually acquired the experience I needed from my first book. Now,
creating new and interesting flavors comes naturally to me. Before I started my
second book, I used to wonder how other authors did it. Slowly but surely, I
accumulated more recipes and started my project once again.
How has the feedback been for your second
feedback is greatly positive; I am overwhelmed with the kind responses I've
received from my friends and fans. My knowledge has reached those who can make
use of it, that's what makes me happiest, especially when people from older or
younger generations approach me with their success stories with the recipes.
What's the next step for Mrs. Najia?
love to translate my books into the English language to make them accessible to those people who prefer
to communicate in English.
What tips do you have for home cooks?
cooking one step at a time, be determined and challenge yourself. I never
thought I could perfect very technical dishes, yet I did because I love how
small details can make all the difference. I love working hard, from the heart,
in every aspect of life and that always shows in cooking.