Simply the best for food with flavour
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British-Iranian cook and author Sabrina Ghayour says cooking has helped her stay positive during the coronavirus pandemic.
Describing the pandemic as “one hell of a hurdle”, Sabrina Ghayour says this year has been a real challenge – but the only time she’s come close to tears would be when she suffered a three-tiered baking mishap.
She had whipped up a trio of gooey chocolate sponges, layered and iced the cakes and popped them in the fridge to chill.
“Fifteen minutes later, mum comes home and I went, ‘Oh my god, you’ve got to see this cake, it’s amazing’,” recalls Ghayour. “I opened the door, and I was just like” – she gasps at the memory of the collapsed creation, half of which had fallen into the fridge door.
That cake-tastrophe aside, the 44-year-old says she’s been trying to stay positive during lockdown, though there have been times of stress.
“I got a massive chunk of anxiety,” she says, when she was forced to cancel all of her scheduled supper clubs and cooking classes. “The whole crux of my dinners is not social distancing, it’s intimacy.
“But I really tried not to focus on that which I couldn’t control, and I just thought, you know, every time I’ve been thrown a curveball in life, I’ve always bounced back.
“I’ve cooked every meal since the end of February – with the exception of a few sneaky visits to McDonald’s and now a local pub.
“It keeps me busy, mentally stimulated, it keeps me going in the absence of being busy elsewhere...And thankfully I’ve got a book coming out, so that will distract me.”
Simply: Easy Everyday Dishes, is Ghayour’s fifth book, promising recipes that are “big on flavour, low on labour” and packed with the Iranian-born cook’s trademark Persian flavours.
“The point about Simply is not that it’s like my ‘easy’ book – my recipes have always been easy,” she says. “I’m known for cooking Middle Eastern food, but if you ask Middle Eastern people, ‘Is she making Middle Eastern food?’, they’ll probably go, ‘No, she isn’t’. I don’t know if it’s East, I don’t know if it’s West, it’s simply Sabrina.”
That means lots of marinated meats and hearty stews alongside slow-cooked veggies, crunchy salads, fragrant soups and Persian classics like tahchin crispy rice cake and tahdig e makaroni, a borrowed-from-the-Italians baked spaghetti cake.
Recently, Ghayour has been particularly enjoying the simplicity of 10-minute tandoori salmon and tepsi tray kebabs and believes that when it comes to recipes, you’ve got to put the reader first.
“I’ve quickly realised if you’re not cooking it at home, don’t expect the other people to cook it,” she says.
Simply: Easy Everyday Dishes by Sabrina Ghayour, photography by Kris Kirkham, is published by Mitchell Beazley, priced £26.