Lina Saad – award Winning Cookbook Author
How to become a successful cookbook author? We asked Lina Saad. She has to know, because she has already received prizes for her cookbook.
You are an award Winning Cookbook Author. How do you get to/ write your first cookbook?
Food is a circular basic need; however certain cuisines are constructed of mind -blowing deep flavours that compel the passionate foodie to write about. I graduated from Westminster College in 2000 holding a BA (Hons’) in Hotel and Catering Management. Through- out the period between 1997 and 2006 I established two restaurants, but the latter “Alicia” was the highlight of my passion about food and the authenticity of the Lebanese cuisine in particular.
Despite the reality where I surrendered the restaurants to my father and left with my husband to start a real career in the actual world. I started my first job at a major Retail Bank and then moved up the ladder through consultancies and executive searches. Success? Yes of course as I am determined and driven to succeed. However, there was always a missing piece; I knew nothing fulfils my desire like talking and sharing food.
All these made me move out of central London and leave the corporate world to start travelling to the Lebanon to meet with actual locals who appreciate food. I was gathering many observations and writing my own food memoirs.
Your cook book “The Land of White” (Simple Lebanese Cookery) is a unique cookery book where you express your memoirs through Lebanese food. An excellent and a well written book and nominated for Best in the World. How did you manage to make this book so successful?
When one writes a truthful content from the heart; many tend to succeed. The Land of White is not your ordinary recipe cookbook; it expresses all my food stories and memoirs with my Grandfather in the Lebanon. This style of rustic writing highlights the author’s character and reflects the food behaviour of the local Lebanese.
How much effort is behind a cookbook?
Writing cookbooks is never an easy process. The financial strain in the time taken to write and experiment precise measurements requires time, patience and above all determined passion. All I would say if one is passionate enough then they can do it.
Another cookbook of yours is “Ramadan Express” (Bringing people together) with over 85 recipes to inspire Muslims and all home Cooks to enjoy food throughout festive seasons. Can you tell us more about the book?
I wanted to write a cookbook where people can explore and enjoy delicious recipes I had access to through my childhood with my grandparents in Beirut (Lebanon) to my life as a teenager with parents in Freetown (Sierra Leone- W. Africa).
Ramadan Express is the first cookbook introducing Ramadan in the UK and US in a book. There are many cookbooks about Christmas, Easter, Thanksgiving and nothing mentions Ramadan; despite the fact there are about 5 million Muslims who live and work in the UK and need constant inspiration and cooking ideas.
Ramadan Express combined all the recipes; however it wrapped a decent and underlying problem of Islamophobia in its introduction. As a liberated Muslim Woman, when I decided to put the scarf on my head about 5 years ago; I started noticing the different perceptions of the people around me and what impressions they had unless I introduce myself firmly. I tried in Ramadan Express to show the readers that the real Islam has a message of peace and love thy brother; in addition that all what we see today on media is nothing but a propaganda against a peaceful and simple religion. I wanted to highlight this for our future generations so hopefully one day we can accept and embrace diversity and one another.
Will more books follow?
I am glad you asked. Yes absolutely! It is “BALADY” and we are currently working on its production and photography.
BALADY is about documenting Lebanese Heritage and food folklore that is heading towards extinction. I have been writing this cookbook for about 8 years; its involved extensive travelling to the Lebanon and meeting with many locals from the East of the country to its West.
You also work as Freelance Recipe Developer. Can you tell us something about this work?
I love cooking and creating recipes; the more one cooks the better they become at it. Some of my clients invite me to festivals to run the recipes and train staff to prepare it. I also write recipes for some blogs and in magazines. I am now working on a project about deconstructing Lebanese Recipes into a fine dinning setting which seems is quite the challenge.
How would you describe Lebanese cuisine?
Lebanon is in the Middle East and its geographic strategic position has made it a prey for all its invaders for the past 3000 years or so. The land has experienced many settlers; the Phoenicians were the main civilizations, Assyrians and Canaanites. On the other hand, the Romans, Greeks, Macedonians, Egyptians, Ottomans and the French all had their fair share of the Land too. The Lebanese cuisine is a “collective one”. It collected as many recipes and cooking methods yet evolved to have a distinctive and unique identity of its own.
What makes it so special?
The Lebanese cuisine is made of many different herbs and vegetables all presented and mixed together to make stew or salads and plenty of grilled meat and chicken. The Lebanese are distinct to eat raw meat. When one visits Lebanon they have to eat fresh raw beef mixed with cumin and burghul with many crispy and crunchy vegetables like spring onions, mint and radish.
Which ingredients are at the heart of Lebanese cuisine?
The cumin mix is the most renowned spice used with raw beef and lamb to make traditional “Kibbe” and “Frake”. The Lebanese are renowned for their “Zaatar” and the “Manoushe”. The former is wikd oregano that is made dry and then pounded manually by a hammer, the mild green pwder is then mixed with toasted sesame and sumac (tangy berries) and mixed with oil to make a paste rubbed on a flat pizza base dough and baked in large ovens. Its delicious.
What does modern Lebanese cuisine mean to you?
In Europe in general, the Lebanese cuisine presented is the classical one. The mezze (many small dishes similar to tapas for people to share) followed by a main course of mixed grills or stew. I must admit the Lebanese cuisine has more than that to offer; there are over 300 known recipes if not more that one can explore and share with their customers. I can see the new fusions of pesto humus and beetroot humus and I am one of these people too; who teach my clients and cater some of these recipes because there is demand for it.
To modernise the Lebanese cuisine may seem easy, but it is quite the challenge to present it in a different format but can be doable.
What are the new influences on Lebanese cuisine today?
The Lebanon has suffered the Civil War and Israel Invasions since 1973. The country has and still divided as we hear on the news daily; many of these directly contributing factors has lead to the migration of the Lebanese to Canada, Australia, UK and the US. Now and with globalisation and rapid social media access, there is more room for sharing creativity and other cooking ideas. The Lebanese are now smoking Shisha as a real tradition when it was only been consumed by the Beirutians due to their influence of the Ottomans but not in the whole of Lebanon. We now see beetroot humus, pesto introduced to our chicken and roast potatoes, beetroot or sweet potato falafels etc. These are major reasons why I am writing “BALADY” because amidst all these rapid changes; the LEBANESE CUISINE is loosing its finest and simply elegant uniqueness. It is renowned for its fresh ingredients, not heavy use of spices on the contrary they are subtle and balanced.
If you had the necessary resources, what would you like to write a culinary book about?
I would love to compare and differentiate the cuisines of Lebanon to Turkey and then Italy. There is a lot of common factors between the three countries and I would like to prove my point further that Lebanese cuisine collected these recipes but evolved them to make them its national treasure.
I would not only want to document that in writing but also filming would be an amazing opportunity.
Cooking is boundless, religions are often misused for conflicts. What contribution can culinary arts make to peace and a better community on earth?
I believe Food is the spoken language of peace, love and care. Gathering authors from all over the world to continuously meet together and share the love of food and culture exchange is brilliant. The president of the Gourmand Awards Mr. Edouard Cointreau has done that successfully for the past 20 years or more. Every year, we meet in China, Macau and last year we met in Paris and cooked at the Village de La Gastronomie at the Jardin de Trocadero. These gatherings and diverse food sharing have a nutritious value to the soul and mind of an author. You see authors spend all their time writing cookbooks and food experiences and they need some recognition. We put our hearts, risk family life for this dedicated time and unfortunately if one is not fully recognised it can be too depressing.
Thank you so much Lina and all the best for your next projects.
The Land of White is a combination of cookery bookand food memoir which takes the real cookingexperiences from the writer straight to your kitchen.The often eclectic recipes, interspersed withcharming evocations of the author’s belovedhomeland, reflect Lebanon’s cosmopolitan heritage.The dishes may be simple to make but the results arerich in aroma and flavour, with unique ingredients,and prepare you for a real Lebanese adventure.The fusion of aubergine puree with pomegranaterubies, stuffed Swiss chard cigars and kibbe ballsstuffed with minced lamb all create a rich and mindblowinggastronomic extravaganza!