Book Reviews · Food

Tekebash and Saba: Recipes and Stories from an East African Kitchen by Saba Alemayoh

What Da Cover Says: Mother–daughter duo Tekebash and Saba tell their story, and the story of their homeland, Ethiopia, through the lens of food, demonstrating how sharing food from another culture can offer us all a path forward, towards empathy and understanding, and a world that is more cohesive and connected.

Born in Tigray, Tekebash escaped the civil war at the age of 17 to join other refugees in Sudan. She has been on a migration journey ever since. Despite having spent more time abroad than she has at home, she is unequivocally Tigre and has worked with food all her life. Her restaurant, Saba’s Ethiopia, brings Ethiopian food and culture to Melbourne.

Tekebash not only worked with food but loved her daughter Saba through food. The recipes in this book are its backbone and the structure around which personal and cultural stories are woven.

What I Says: This is a very cool idea for a cook book, not just a collection of recipes and tips but a story chronicling the journey these recipes took to get onto these pages. This adds a whole new dimension to the concept of a recipe book, you don’t just quickly flick through and pick the prettiest meals to try, you go deeper, you gain an understanding of what these meals mean to those that grew up creating/consuming this food. And best of all it is keeping a tradition alive that could be lost due to so many of the people of Tigray who have been lost to war, famine or relocation as refugees.

I have read quite a number of travel books about Africa and Ethiopia and the food that is mentioned plays a large part of each experience and it always sends my imagination crazy thinking of these almost banquet-like meals. Reading this book it is explained why the food is like this, it’s a gathering, big plates of food and you just take what you fancy, I really like the idea behind this as meal times can sometimes be rather isolated in our house. One downside is the lack of puddings, I can’t get my head around any culture not having something sweet after a meal haha.

So what are the recipes like in this book? Well there is a recipe with beetroot, so off to a bad start hehe. There is a fantastic range of items, dips, breads, main meals, takes on western food, homemade wine and teas. The only proper negative I can find was the sizes, the recipe gives info on making a big batch of the base spice, but for those new to this food there is not the measurements for making a one-off meal, I didn’t really want to use 500g of chilli powder and find out I didn’t like it, I attempted to convert but don’t think I got it correct, one of the meals I cooked was supposed to be a deep red but my colouring was way off. The meals are simple to make, the instructions are explained well and options for sides and how to eat are included, I really liked the idea that some of the meals are served on top of a flat bread, so you’re making the plate as well as the meal. There are many, many colourful images accompanying the recipes, some of the best I found in a cook book, how much care taken in these photos show just how important the food is to the author. Locating the ingredients has proven quite tough, we have a couple of world food stores near us and I’ve managed to get most of the items I needed but a few may require using the Internet.

DILIK: A chilli Paste. These are the ingredients for one of the meals, this includes my attempt at the homemade chilli paste known as DILIK

Kintishara Sebhi: Sauteed Mushrooms. This should look red but due to me getting the measurements wrong it is brown instead. Regardless of my error it was still tasty and very fragrant. Favourite part of the method for this was cooking the tomatoes over and open flame.

This was a far more interesting book than I expected, it has opened my eyes to looking closer at my other cook books, because maybe there is more than just pretty pictures of food. After using this book multiple times my culinary skills and food cupboards feel enriched, next up will be to check out the homemade teas.

This was my stop on the Tekebash & Saba blog tour, many thanks to Random Things Tours and Murdoch Books UK for including me, make sure you check out the other reviews.


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