Everyone knows Abou El Sid. It’s the first restaurant that comes to mind when searching for a place to entertain friends and introduce them to Egyptian cooking. Keeping that in mind, the natural next step was to eternalise its traditional Egyptian food concepts into a book.
The book, titled “Authentic Egyptian Cooking”, was officially launched in Abou El Sid’s branch in Zamalek on 16 December. We met with the book’s author, Nehal Leheta, who told us more about the much-anticipated hardbound book.
“This book has all of Abou El Sid’s recipes. I came every day for about three hours to sit with the restaurant’s cook, who would explain how he cooked the food. I also watched him as he cooked all the recipes to take down notes of the ingredients and methods. When I returned home, I would write down everything I learned that day,” Leheta explained.
The book also contains other pieces of information, which, while convincingly authentic, are fabricated. “I created a background story for Abou El Sid; we created a fictional story for the character, which is included in the book,” Leheta said. “The background information in the book includes some brief history of food in Egyptian culture and the traditions that come with it. You know how big Egyptian dinners are: usually there is a lot of food and everyone is invited. It’s a very Egyptian concept.”
Through her company, Design Point, Leheta cooperated with many restaurants on their designs, including Crave and Mawardy by the Nile in addition to 11 restaurants in various hotels in Sharm El-Sheikh. Although this is her first book, Leheta has always been interested in cooking.
“I love cooking. I am an interior designer and I have been involved in designing many restaurants. I take part in food tasting, selecting the menu and such. With each restaurant we start from scratch; we go over the interior design, recreating a menu and all of that. Abou El Sid’s owner is a client of my company. So when I was approached about the Abou El Sid project, I was excited to start. I found it a great opportunity to learn more about something I love,” she said.
The biggest challenge Leheta said she faced, in fact, was refraining from eating all the delicious recipes they cooked for the book. “I love all the recipes. Every time we did styling for the book, I wanted to eat everything. The one I like the most is the Kishk recipe,” she said.
The book is published by AUC Press; it is available on their website for EGP 200 and will soon be available at bookstores around Cairo.