In a kitchen in a quiet area in Sudan’s capital, Khartoum, he stuffed vegetables with minced meat, rice, dried cilantro and raisins.
Meet Sudan’s new chef, a pharmacist turned cook, Omer Eltigani. He quit his job to promote his country’s native cuisine, which according to him was hardly recognised.The 31-year-old has written a book titled: “The Sudanese Cuisine”. It has forty recipes and will be published in April.
“The food that we make has a context as well, so it’s about placing the food in its context and understanding why it’s made in a certain time and then trying to convey that to the reader so they have a bit more of a cultural understanding about the food that’s being made.”
Omer’s recipe was initially available to only his family until last October when he launched a website and was recognized. That was when he decided to devote himself entirely to writing a cookbook.
“What I’m making right now is a dish called mahshi, which translates as “stuffed”, or “stuffed vegetables”. I’m going to be selecting one of each vegetable, tomato, a green pepper, potato, an aubergine and a courgette and it will be stuffed with a special filling of rice and mince meat and then spices like garlic, cumin and coriander, all that.”
While studying pharmacy in Manchester, away from home, his motivation to write a cook book came from missing his mother’s cooking.
“I was living at the university and I really missed my mom’s food, so I’d go home and ask her for recipes, that were my favourite things, and then also take little parcels with me away. From there it just kind of snowballed and got more and more recipes, and more and more people were interested in finding out about the food as well.”
In January, Omer embarked on a ten-day journey to explore the varieties of food in the country. He said the conflict has affected the way people ate in his country.
Among the famous recipes is “the assida” from Darfur. Sorghum seeds are crushed to cook this traditional thick paste served with a stew.
The traditional “foul” – baked beans drizzled with olive oil and cumin – is also very popular.
Omer is hoping that ‘the cookbook’ will speak to both foreigners and Sudanese living abroad.