In Bibi’s Kitchen

In Bibi's Kitchen: The Recipes and Stories of Grandmothers from the Eight African Countries that Touch the Indian Ocean [A Cookbook]

by Hawa Hassan, Julia Turshen
Published on October 6, 2020

Grandmothers from eight eastern African countries welcome you into their kitchens to share flavorful recipes and stories of family, love, and tradition in this transporting cookbook-meets-travelogue.

In this incredible volume, renowned food writer Julia Turshen and Somali chef Hawa Hassan present 75 recipes and stories gathered from bibis (or grandmothers) from eight African nations: South Africa, Mozambique, Madagascar, Comoros, Tanzania, Kenya, Somalia, and Eritrea. Most notably, these eight countries are at the backbone of the spice trade, many of them exporters of things like pepper and vanilla. We meet women such as Ma Shara, who helps tourists "see the real Zanzibar" by teaching them how to make her famous Ajemi Bread with Carrots and Green Pepper; Ma Vicky, a real-life princess from Tanzania, who now lives in suburban New York and makes a mean Matoke (Stewed Plantains with Beans and Beef); and Somalia's Ashura Babu-Bi Ashura, widow to Abdulrahman Babu, the late Zanzibari Marxist and revolutionary leader, known for her Samaki Wa Kupaka (Coconut Fish Curry).
Through Julia and Hawa's writing--and their own personal stories--the women, and the stories behind the recipes, come to life. With evocative photography shot on location by Khadija Farah, and food photography by Jennifer May, In Bibi's Kitchen uses food to teach us all about families, war, loss, migration, refuge, and sanctuary.

This book isn’t just a collection of recipes. Each woman featured is interviewed about her life and how food relates to her life and her culture.

Some of these women are living in their homelands and some are living elsewhere. Each of them feels a strong connection to the country of their birth through the food that they serve to their families.

I liked the idea of featuring countries in East Africa that border the Indian Ocean and whose histories involve the spice trade. Several of the countries have similar recipes, such as for flatbreads or potato and bean mashes, but it is interesting to see each cook’s take on these staples.

So far I’ve made two different drinks featured in the book. I made the Rum with Homemade Berry Soda from Mozambique and the Iced Rooibos Tea with Orange, Cloves, and Cinnamon from South Africa. Both of those were very tasty. However, they are just time consuming enough that I don’t see myself making them often.

I also have my eye on the Zanzibar Pilau which is a rice pilaf style dish from Tanzania. That is a very simple rice dish made with spices and coconut milk. It could be topped all types of vegetable main courses.