Everything You Need to Know about Egypt’s First Vegan Cookbook!
For every vegan or vegetarian the struggle of molding foreign recipes to fit local supermarkets is real, and the abundance of plant based cookbooks is of little use to the residence of Egypt; the moment a recipe calls for “vegan margarine” the entire book might as well be in Amharic.
Yasmine Nazmy, Founder of The Vegan Kitchen, the first vegan restaurant in Egypt (now closed) and Founder of Earthly Delights vegan catering service as well as KAJU the only vegan packaged ice cream brand in Egypt. In short, she adopted the Egyptian vegan movement early on. Needless to say she took one step further into meeting the market needs and published Egypt’s first plant based cookbook, in both English and Arabic. To get a better idea about Nazmy and her just released book, we sat for an interview to answer all your questions.
What made you think of writing a plant-based cookbook?
I started developing recipes back in 2013 when I first turned vegan, and over the years my food really improved; I had a restaurant at one point then I started catering and launched a line of products. So it was only natural to want to share this knowledge so that people can re-create all this lovely food for themselves at home, and not have to depend on buying it.
I was mostly inspired by a woman who came to one of my cooking workshop because her daughter had a condition that required a dairy free/gluten free diet. The woman came from Tanta just attend my workshop and I was so touched, I felt that I could really make peoples lives easier by putting my recipes on paper and distributing this knowledge more cheaply and more efficiently.
I find that too many businesses nowadays are profiting from the fact that people are suffering from more food allergies and intolerances than ever before; and gluten free or dairy free options are often more expensive –in comparison to regular products– than they should be. The main purpose here for me is to teach people (on a wider scale) how to make these allergen-friendly foods for themselves and their families, as a way of empowering them.
How would you explain Happy Belly in a few words?
It is a combination of simple, easy, nutritious, and delicious recipes without meat, dairy, gluten, yeast, sugar or tofu.
Why did you omit tofu entirely?
I needed to break the myth! I wanted to prove that plant based does not mean tofu in every meal. I have actually picked up a few vegan cookbooks that seemed really nice only to find out that there is soy in nearly every single recipe! Vegans and vegetarians can eat a wide variety of foods, over thousands of crops.
Are there recipes with processed foods? If not then why did you focus on an all natural approach?
The most processed ingredient would be rice flour, mustard and tahini. Simply because these tiny seeds need strong machines to turn them into pastes, but if someone can make them at home –which I highly recommend– then all the better. I don’t like buying packaged foods as nutrients get lost in the process, and sometimes harmful toxins come along (like BPA in packaging, or added preservatives). Moreover, fresh food is full of life energy (in Indian tradition they call it Prana) that allows nutrients to be assimilated better and improves your digestion and general wellbeing. And this energy is greatly diminished over time after the food gets picked from the ground or tree, so there is already very little Prana left in foods that have been sitting on shelves for weeks.
If you are asking if there is really almost no Prana left in packaged food? Then check the Nobel-prize winning research made on bio-photons, If you prefer the science of it, as itis the same concept. However, if you are more of a visual person, look into Kirlian photography.
In the current economic situation, does your book fit an average household budget?
This question honestly kind of scares me! I mean, when I wrote the book, most ingredients were 20-50% cheaper! And then this crazy thing happened. But there are two points I need to make. Firstly, it will ALWAYS be cheaper to make your own food. So no matter how many businesses are now selling sugar/gluten/dairy-free products, it would cost you at least 3 times less to make it at home – I sell food so I know!
Secondly, you don’t need to eat fancy foods at every meal. While I love cashew-based vegan cheesecakes for example, I don’t want to spend too much on nuts either so I keep it is as a weekly treat. I think whole grains and root vegetables make excellent meals when combined with lots of greens, and since these are local crops, they will always remain affordable. Of course, I highly advocate buying organic but I understand that it is not attainable for everyone who will read my book. I have eaten monk food in Asia before and even though the ingredients are super simple and nothing ‘fancy’, it’s really made with love and that always tastes so good.
What is the one thing do you most want the reader to take from your book?
Cooking healthy is simple. Eat daily as much healthy local food as you can afford, cook it with love, have a hearty salad every day, and treat yourself to a delicious creative dessert every once in a while – but most importantly, share these delicious foods with your loved ones.
Why is the book bilingual?
I made the book bilingual, with the English and Arabic recipes face-to-face on the same spread, to make it easier for people to accommodate ingredients they are not familiar with. Sometimes an ingredient is more known in one language than the other, which is where using both languages come in.
To get your hands on your very own copy of Happy Belly, order it online via Greenolic, or visit Osana Wellness Center and Moksha in Maadi, Nun Center in Zamalek, and Flow Wellness Centers in Masr el Gedida. Additional locations will be announced soon. Book is priced at 300 EGP.
Yasmine published some of her other recipes here on Kouhl, check them out.