The Momo Cookbook
What it says about the book on the back cover
What is undeniable is the beauty with which nature has endowed the countries of North Africa, the wealth of their cuisine and the boundless hospitality of its people. In these countries the cuisine resembles the landscapes: it is warm, colourful, aromatic, subtle and mysterious.
What made me pick up the book?
I have lived in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for two years and have an understanding of the cultures of those people who are born in and around the Middle East. One of my closest friends is Algerian and he knows that whenever I travel abroad I like to pick up a cookbook from that country or wherever he may be, he may do the same for me. Algeria is his homeland, a place which I have yet to go to. Most of the cookbooks in Algerian are written in French or in Arabic, both of which I do not write in but I am at least conversant in Arabic and understand it enough to get me by. My dear friend then suggested that I went to the Amazon book page and find a book that I would enjoy that may take me to Algeria. I then suggested this book to him, a book which covers not only Algeria but also Tunisia and Morocco written by an Algerian. Although I had never seen the book until then, I read that it was a book that had authentic recipes, tagines, and had stunning photography. Having spent a month in Egypt, I decided to risk it and tell my dear friend that this book looked good and fingers crossed that I had made the right decision.
About the book
The book is stunning, it steps back from the kitchen a little and takes us on a journey through these three countries (Algeria, Tunisia, and Morocco) visiting mosques and sitting with the people as they eat a couscous in the desert, spending time down at the local suq (bazaar) and meeting every day people on the street doing what they do every day. It is vibrant and it is rich with information with a glossary of the ingredients that are used in North African cuisine, a small but nice section on Henna, the natural hair dye and stain used for decorative body art which incidentally I continually used in my hair from my days in Saudi, and the waters of orange blossom, rose and lavender to the delicious olive oils and honeys that lace the rich and decadent sweet baklava my father and his father before him love to eat.
Is this book worth buying?
This book is a gastronomic journey like it suggests on its front cover. Each country is divided into three different sections and the quotes that accompany the photography sometimes makes me forget I am actually reading a cookbook. I indeed made the right decision, in Arabic I would say the photography, jameela (beautiful) جميل. the text, mumtaz (excellent) ممتاز. It was a very thoughtful and delightful gift from my friend. It is nicely set out and it has taken me back to some of the sights and smells that are very familiar to me when I was either in the Middle East or North Africa. The link below is for Mazouz’s restaurant in the United Kingdom.
“…the aubergine, which is, just like a broad bean, one of the most popular vegetables throughout North Africa. Aubergine is cooked in all the different manners: steamed, fried, baked, cooked and used as a vegetable with lamb or beef or chicken, or as one of the ingredients in the couscous stock, or served cold in salads, with herbs and spices, cumin, garlic, parsley, peppers, pickled lemon…” (Mazouz, 2004).