Seeing London in Color, Cuisine, and Culture

Writing: Nahla Samaha

Travel Experience & Photography: Hoda El-Sherif & Sherif Tamim

From a 1000 year-old market, to the birthplace of Punk, the sensory offerings of London are more than just visual. Now one of the top 5 food capitals of the world, London is a favorite destination for curious as well as discerning taste buds, history geeks, and photographers alike.

Borough market is where our London adventure begins, and a place we keep coming back to, each time discovering something new. This 1000 year-old market place is a foodie and photographer paradise. It is dynamic, exciting, constantly buzzing and always changing. London’s oldest food market is an extravaganza of smells, colors, tastes, accents, and more.

A true melting pot of cultures, and cuisines.

Perusing the food stalls while delighting our taste buds on some of the best food in the world is what we live for! Indulging in the powerful and seductive smells wafting from the food stalls, our olfactory capabilities are on constant high alert.

We love to accompany our food tasting with a bit of conversation: traders have immense culinary knowledge that they gladly share with market visitors.

Another favorite London spot for us is Camden Town. There is no place like Camden. Vibrant, fascinating, a cultural explosion of music and fashion; Camden is the birthplace of Punk, and haven of counter-culture.

Camden is home to the Camden market where cultures and colors clash, and cool is the name of the game. With its own architectural and cultural identity, Camden continues to fascinate us on every visit. The costume shops, the old buildings, the tattoo parlors, the entirely “Camden” fashion sense is something you won’t see anywhere in London. Anti-establishment is still the reigning theme here.

Notting Hill is home to the famous Portobello Market where you can hunt for cool antique finds and munch on something gorgeously delicious from one of its food stalls or trucks.

The charming colored doors of Notting Hill captivate us as we snap away at the explosion of edgy, modern color amid the neutral, classic buildings. Painted so to offer contrast against the normally gray weather in London, offering a visual awakening and sensory respite on cold rainy days.

Perhaps one of London’s many hidden gems, Neale’s Yard has a lot to offer in the way of food. Take Neal’s Yard Dairy, a magical place where all kinds of cheese live! The cheese is exposed (as opposed to refrigerated) and temperature is controlled in an old-school manner where water is sprayed at set intervals to calibrate the humidity in the shop.

One of the most striking things you’ll notice walking around anywhere in London are the shop signs. Incredibly original fonts used to create a shop identity with no images or logos serve as great conversation starters with any of the shop-owners.

A true cosmopolitan city where different cultures come to thrive, and not to blend in, bringing with them their food, music, and more; London is a photographer’s Panodra’s Box.

Rich in every sense of the word with plenty of culinary exploration already under our belt, we cannot wait for our next London visit, guaranteed to give us a whole new set of tastes, sights, and smells!

HOME-COOKING 102

Photography, Recipes and Food Styling: Flavor Republic

(Mahy Megahed, Hana Shash, and Dina Oraby)

Client: Seoudi Supermarkets

Need some breakfast, lunch or dinner inspiration? We've got it covered! Check out our latest recipe series launched exclusively for Seoudi Supermarkets.

GARLIC-STEAMED MUSSELS

● 2 tbsp olive oil

● 8 cloves garlic, chopped

● 2 small shallots, minced

● 1 ½ cup vegetable broth

● 3 tbsp unsalted butter

● 2 tbsp minced thyme

● Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

● 900g mussels, scrubbed

● 2 tbsp minced parsley

● Crusty bread, for serving (optional)

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook garlic and shallots until golden.
  2. Add broth, butter, thyme, salt, and pepper and boil. Add mussels and cook, covered, until shells open.
  3. Stir in parsley; serve with bread.

Get your dose of vitamins from all the fresh citrus fruits available during winter.

Get your dose of vitamins from all the fresh citrus fruits available during winter.


Put a twist on a classic recipe for a change!

Put a twist on a classic recipe for a change!

Stuffed Pigeons with Roasted Pomegranate - English.jpg

STUFFED PIGEONS WITH CORIANDER RUB & ROASTED POMEGRANATE 

For the stuffing:

  • 100 g rice

  • 50 g pistachio nuts, shelled chopped

  • ½ pomegranate, seeds removed

  • 1 tsp pomegranate molasses

  • ½ tsp freshly ground coriander seeds

  • 10 g fresh parsley, leaves removed and finely chopped

  • Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon

  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

For the pigeons:

  • 6 pigeons

  • 1 tsp freshly ground coriander seeds

  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra to serve

  • 1½ pomegranates, broken into rough sections

Directions:

  1. Make the stuffing by mixing all stuffing ingredients in a bowl.
  2. Preheat oven to 200°C. Snip out the pigeon necks with scissors and remove the very end part of the wings. Season the inside of the pigeons with salt and black pepper and stuff them.
  3. Mix the coriander and salt together with 1 tbsp of the oil and rub over the pigeons.
  4. Tie the legs loosely with twine. Place the pigeons in boiled water until rice is cooked. Then place them in a roasting tin and pour over 1 tbsp of oil. Roast for 25 minutes. Add the pomegranate pieces, drizzle again with 1 tbsp of oil and roast for another 10 minutes.
  5. Just before serving, squeeze the pomegranate pieces over the birds, and then drizzle them with a little extra olive oil and sprinkle with salt to taste.

What weekends are made of!

What weekends are made of!

RASPBERRY CREAM CHEESE FRENCH TOAST BAKE

• 1 white toast, cut into squares

• 1 container raspberries

• 1 block cream cheese

• 5 eggs

• 1 cup heavy cream

• 1 tbs honey

• ½ tsp cinnamon

• ⅓ cup sugar

• Powdered sugar

• Maple syrup, to serve

Directions:

  1. Spray a 22cm x 22cm baking dish with non-stick cooking spray, set aside.
  2. Add half of your bread to bottom of pan and sprinkle with raspberries (reserving a few for topping) and cream cheese.
  3. Top with remaining bread and press down.
  4. In bowl mix together eggs, cream, honey, cinnamon and sugar and pour over top of your bake until covered.
  5. Cover with tin foil, pressing down again to smoosh everything together.
  6. Refrigerate overnight.
  7. Remove from refrigerator about 30 minutes before baking.
  8. Preheat your oven to 170C and place covered bake in and bake for 30 minutes then remove tin foil and bake for another 30 minutes until tops turn golden and center is set.
  9. Remove from oven and let cool slightly and sprinkle with powdered sugar and serve with syrup.
Save our recipe cards for future use!

Save our recipe cards for future use!


Lemon Ricotta Pancakes

2 cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup sugar

1 ½ tsp baking soda

¾ tsp baking powder

¾ tsp salt

2 large eggs

1 and ½ cups whole milk

1 cup ricotta cheese

1 and ½ tsp pure vanilla extract

¼  cup fresh lemon juice

2 tsp lemon zest

For serving:

Maple syrup

Fresh whipped cream

Fresh berries

Directions:

  1. In a large bowl add the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt; whisk well to combine. In a separate bowl add the eggs and lightly beat them with a whisk. Add in the milk, ricotta, and vanilla and beat until well combined. Stir this wet mixture into the dry ingredients, stirring just until everything is combined. Quickly fold in the lemon juice and zest, stirring until evenly combined. Be careful not to over mix the batter.
  2. Pour batter by 1/3 cupfuls onto a buttered hot pan or griddle, adding only a few at a time so that they do not blend together. Cook for about 3 minutes before flipping them over, or until small bubbles form on top. Cook on the second side until golden brown, about 1-2 minutes.
  3. Repeat with all pancake batter. Serve pancakes warm, with syrup or whipped cream & fresh berries.
For the freshest strawberries, always buy them in season.

For the freshest strawberries, always buy them in season.

SEVEN THINGS TO DO IN LUXOR

Writing: Heba El-Sherif

Travel Experience & Photography: Hoda El-Sherif

Luxor. An archaeological treasure trove ballooning with tombs and temples. Time and time again, travellers who set foot in ancient Thebes have hailed it as one of the world’s most grandiose open-air museums. The way the modern city has mushroomed among the ruins of ancient Egypt lends it a particular charm, and maneuvering between its sights makes you wonder about the different types of people who, thousands of years ago, occupied the streets that now lay in between.

As you walk through the city’s streets and marvel at the spectacular ancient temples, it’s easy to feel a certain connection to the past, and a solemn connection to the gods and deities that once looked over this enchanting civilization.

The Nile river, in its purest, bluest form, cuts the city in half. The Karnak and Luxor temples stand tall on the east side, like beacons of culture from a past life that have persisted amid the city’s contemporary landscape. Key sights on the east side also include the Luxor and the mummification museums, the latter a modern day iteration of the ancient ritual. Meanwhile, the west bank is home to Valley of the Kings, Valley of the Queens, The Ramesseum and Tombs of the Nobles, among several other notable attractions.  

Last year, Luxor was named the capital of international tourism for 2016 by the United Nation’s World Tourism Organization, a much-needed recognition that we hope alleviates Egypt’s bruised tourism industry, and an ode to the city’s grandeur.


Here are our favorite activities to do while in Luxor: 

BANANA ISLAND

A banana plantation situated off the coast of Luxor. The island itself is home to a few hundred people and around 90 percent of its land bears bananas.

ALABASTER MAKING

Like their ancestors before them, contemporary craftsmen use hammerstones to morph the light-colored stone into small statues, obelisks, vases and ashtrays. Ancient Egyptians used the slightly translucent stones to create household items, objects used in religious rituals as well as the canopic jars that they buried with their dead. This stop makes for a great moment to buy souvenirs

FELLUCA RIDE

Catch the gentle waves of the Nile as they lap up against the thin, ubiquitous boats. It’s perfect for a sunset excursion, as hues of orange and purple mark the end of the day. In ancient Egypt, the Nile was the main artery that connected different cities together. Boat rides were used to mark the end of life and the beginning of a new, exciting journey -- the afterlife.  

VALLEY OF THE KINGS

Ancient Egypt’s royal figures are said to be buried in this stretch of land, known to contain a total of 63 tombs and chambers. It’s a world heritage sight and is home to Tutankhamun's tomb. 

RAMESSEUM

The memorial temple of Ramses II, with its wide gateways, vast courtyards and calm chambers. Despite restoration efforts, much of the temple is in ruins today. Still, it’s mesmerizing to stand among such spectacular ruins. 

MARSAM, A BOUTIQUE HOTEL

Situated on the west side of the Nile, this historical lodge is more famous as Sheikh Ali's Hotel. Artists, archeologists and researchers are said to have spent time here in the 1920s and 30s, and the hotel still prides itself as a meeting point for anyone passing through the city. The charming composite of rooms overlooks a small courtyard where you can come to have a quiet meal away from the hustle and bustle of Luxor’s center, even if you are not staying overnight. The hotel operates more than thirty rooms, some of which have air conditioners. 

LUXOR SPICE MARKET

The alleys that make up Luxor’s old market are loaded with different types of goodies. The spices section will woo you instantly with its colorful aromas, and although it’s not a place for solitude, it makes for an enjoyable evening stroll. 

Whether or not you are the organized-trip type traveler, spending a few hours at the market should make it on your list of things to do while in Luxor. You will likely be hassled by souvenir-sellers eager to weather their own economic woes, due to a steep decline in tourism. Be ready to bargain, because past their pleas you are guaranteed to find colorful scarves, miniature statues, papyrus illustrations and a vast collection of modern costume jewelry. 

The best time to visit Luxor is between October and April, when temperatures hover around the mid-twenties throughout the hours of day. So if you’re feeling adventurous or have a penchant for ancient civilizations, pack your bags and take a short trip to explore Egypt’s south. You can get there by either plane or train. Egypt’s railway authorities recently launched a revamped sleeper train, promising comfort and two meals throughout the journey, so be sure to check it out.  


DAHAB'S CULINARY SECRETS

Writing: Nahla Samaha

Travel Experience & Photography: Sherif Tamim

Exploring Egypt and all it’s layers upon layers of culture and tradition is a pastime for us here at Flavor Republic. Beyond the “touristy” surface of places and things, is a world of wonders…the more you dig, the more you are amazed. 

This fall, our wanderlust took us to South Sinai, where beyond the glistening azure waters of the Red Sea, past the rich biodiversity of marine life, and under the warm shimmering sand, is a town rich in culinary marvels: Dahab. 

The images conjured when one thinks of Dahab are those of a laid-back town of temporal visitors; all looking for a “bohemian” break from their fast-paced, tech-infused city lives. A place to “chill”, to reconnect with nature, and to work on their tans: undisturbed by all the frills that come with typical beach vacations. And while all of that may be true, there is more to Dahab than meets the eye. 

Resident Flavor Republic photographer Sherif Tamim takes us on a culinary tour of his favorite eateries in Dahab, starting with Eldorado Lodge & Restaurant, “Eldorado is a favorite spot,” says Tamim, “it’s one of the best Italian restaurants in Egypt.” Specializing in their own homemade pasta, and slow cooked sauces, Eldorado offers signature dishes like tortellini walnut sauce, and spaghetti Bolognese. Owned by Italian couple Alex and Rosanna, Eldorado is their ode to the deep-rooted and intricate heritage of the Bedouin culture of South Sinai. 

An “amazing culinary destination,” as Tamim puts it, there is lots to discover in Dahab in the way of food. Lakhbatita Ramez & Paola Restaurant serves authentic Italian cuisine right on the beach, Namaste Tandoori Oven specializes in bona fide sumptuous Indian food with all its complex layers of flavor, Red Cat Restaurant owned by Marianna Yakutova serves exotic Russian dishes, Churchill’s Bar grills “the best burger in Egypt,” according to Tamim, Ali Baba Hotel has perfected seafood cuisine, and Dai Pescatori Dahab is another authentic Italian food destination. “A traditional must in Dahab is breakfast at Ralph’s German Bakery,” says Tamim, the bakery is owned by German chef Ralph Stocker and has become a longstanding staple of the Dahab alimentary scene.  

Another must-do in Dahab is The Dahab Community Friday Market. It is a “street” food market held weekly at Sheikh Salem House and it features local products and produce from the surrounding Bedouin community, as well as food stalls selling culinary delicacies and mouthwatering eats. 

“I find real peace there,” says Tamim of Dahab, “I find people there who have left the city behind, made a downgrade to their life style, and an upgrade to their mental wellbeing.”


TURKEY TIME AT CASTLE ZAMAN

A tradition that started eight years ago among friends has today evolved into a full-blown competition with winners, losers, an audience, and a whole lot of succulent turkey to go around.

Hani Roshdi is the owner and architect behind Castle Zaman, a ruin-like castle sitting atop a cliff, overlooking the shores of Nuweiba. Anyone who’s been to Sinai knows or has heard of this architectural marvel, and its’ famous slow-cooked, large-portion, high-dinning meals. Eight years ago, Roshdi and his pal Hussein El Sheikh shared a friendly rivalry over who could cook the best Thanksgiving turkey. Eight years later, the duo along with El Sheikh’s wife Hedi are on the same team, competing against five other teams for the bragging rights over the best turkey.  

“We competed with two turkeys,” says Roshdi, “one we attempted to deep fry, and the other we smoked.” The deep-frying idea came from an American tradition of cooking turkey, “we couldn’t get the temperature high enough to create a consistent exterior,” explains Roshdi, “it ended up tasting great, but looking awful.” Their smoked entry however was a different case, “The smoked turkey is a recipe I’ve been doing for the past 3 years, mainly because the turkey is smoked far away from the kitchen, leaving room for the other competitors. And the smoked meat makes great leftovers!” claims Roshdi.

Quite content with a fourth place win, Roshdi is looking ahead to next year’s turkey meet, “Next year we want to have a bigger event, we will think of ways to make next year bigger.”

First place winner and self-professed amateur chef, media producer Abbas Fahmy entered the competition with a Castle Zaman first: turkey under a salt crust. With 15 kg of salt in hand, along with the standard 8 kg turkey, Abbas got to work. 

The competition rules stipulated that all turkeys are sourced from the same farm and must weigh more or less the same. Castle Zaman provided the turkey, which each team paid for, while each team brought along its’ own tools and ingredients. The multi-turkey feast at the end was free for all invited guests. For the third year running, Hisham Gabr, owner of Camel Dive in Sharm El Sheikh headed the judging panel, and voting was based on a set of criteria that included timeliness, presentation, carving, and taste.

“It was my first time cooking an entire turkey under a salt crust,” admits Fahmy, “I had done veal leg and fish before but never a turkey. The advantage of cooking under a salt crust is that it accelerates the cooking process because no heat or moisture escape,” he explains. Cooking something under a salt crust imparts a flavor, salt is hardened in the oven, and a hammer is literally needed to remove the crust after the turkey is cooked.

Each team is required to create a side dish to complement the turkey. “My side was fereek with very small diced vegetables so that in one spoonful you carried all the ingredients: zucchini, carrots, potatoes, and sweet potatoes,” says Fahmy. “My winning side was cooked with rendered fat and cooking cream in a crockpot in a baladi oven, everything was pan fried before being put in the crockpot, with the addition of finely diced sausage and spices. I also made crispy oven-baked sweet potato and potato cubes with finely chopped rosemary, mint, garlic and olive oil, tossed together and crisped in the oven.” Fahmy goes on to explain, “Instead of making a gravy, I made an Argentinian inspired chimichurri made with celery leaves, parsley, fresh thyme and fresh rosemary with garlic-infused olive oil.”

Among this year’s highlights were the vegetarian turkey made by Valentina Verbenko, “Her turkey looked perfectly cooked and succulent,” says Roshdi, “but the minute you cut through it, you realize it’s a cake! It was wonderful.”

First place winner and self-professed amateur chef, media producer Abbas Fahmy (Instagram: @abbaseyat)

First place winner and self-professed amateur chef, media producer Abbas Fahmy (Instagram: @abbaseyat)

Perhaps the highlight for everyone at the event, chefs and audience members alike, was the comradery and jovial atmosphere that sprung up among all attendees, a true meeting of spirits hungry for turkey and generous with their friendships. Abbas is eager to maintain his position as title-holder, but he is perhaps most looking forward to, “making more friends next year.”


Fayoum Team Retreat
 - On doors, fish and time off

Writing: Heba El-Sherif

Travel Experience & Photographs: Flavor Republic Team


It’s so easy to get caught up with our day-to-day duties, working long hours and feeling giddy about conquering our to-do lists at the end of a long week. Tasks mark the beginning of our journey and reaching the finish line becomes all too consuming that sometimes we forget to eat. We hit the ground running and boom, we’ve made it through the day. We’re proud, and the sheer thrill of accomplishment keeps us going for days, even months, without a moment to reflect.

But what is at stake is not just our sanity, our barometer for a happy, healthy soul. It’s our ability to continue to produce new content while outplaying what’s ordinary. A chance for us to chase our passion, rejuvenated and perpetually inspired.  

With that in mind, we drove south to the city of Fayoum for a weekend of fishing, shopping and much needed time together away from the office. For two days we walked the thin streets of Tunis, awestruck by the mud brick houses, ceramic selection and old, gorgeous doors. 

Mariam, Laila and Mahy share their thoughts on the weekend below: 

Mariam Shawki

This retreat unconsciously created a test of time management, of collaboration and of teamwork: trying to plan the day together and sticking to it and planning to do things separately but meeting in the end were both examples at play. 

I enjoyed how chilled people were in Fayoum, they don't care if you come and go, they don't care what you do or what you wear. Coming from the busy, loud and nosey Cairo, that was a nice change of pace. The air was cleaner, and the noise level was much lower. 

I noticed few things about Tunis that I found iconic: There seems to be a continuous stream that flows under their streets, no matter which street you walk in, you'll always hear this little waterfall of water below you. Everyone seems to have kept their old doors and never thought about repainting them, which is great, because it was in the most perfect used condition. I wished we could have taken all of them and used them as surface in our shoots. 

We also bought some really pretty pottery from Tunis. Looking at them in our prop closet, they look now much prettier than when they did at the shop. 

My most memorable moments were when we were sitting all together on the dining table, through breakfast and lunch. It felt like if this were the only thing we would do during the trip, it would still be a fun trip. I was happy to spend some personal time with the team, without being towed by work. Laila is such a low maintenance girl; we were all in a wheely carry on suitcases, and she was off on a trip in a duffle bag - so cute. White fish really didn't like Hoda, and I believe Mahy could have stayed in that pond forever, fishing quietly. 


Laila Heiba

Fayoum left rather an artistic mark on me. I initially thought we were going to do team building activities where we'd get a chance to get to know each other, although I think I already had an idea of who everyone was. Looking back now I realize I traveled with people who are very artistic - actually, extremely artistic. While walking through Tunis, I felt each and every one could create art from anything that we laid eyes on, whether it was a door in the middle of a crushed wall, an animal, a window or just kids running across the street. The amount of doors we saw...beautiful!

Everyone made me realize how little things can still be beautiful, how you can capture something that was left behind and change the way you look at it, turn it around to make it seem more valuable. I kept on asking: "So you would take this door and not paint over it?" And the answer was, "We wouldn't change a thing." Every time they'd say that, I was wowed. 

I see myself as someone who loves nature and greenery and the little things.. but this trip made me realize other little things that I felt only this bunch saw. I felt I was around very humble people. Everyone is really, really talented in their own way, and I'm really happy I'm part of this team. After this trip, I felt like I have a lot to learn.


Mahy Megahed

I really enjoyed this short trip. Fayoum is a really cozy place, I loved everything about it. The clean air, its humble yet productive people, their doors, and - last but not least - FISHING! I was also surprised by Lake Qaroun. It's beautifully huge, something I didn't expect.

I wish I could live like this forever, clean weather away from the city, fresh and healthy food -- we even got our herbs and lemons from Kom El Dikka’s own garden. 

I love our team. Everyone has his own personality. I loved spending time with them, I feel like they are my family now. We also missed some people who couldn't make it, like Hanya our head of communication & social media (my personal comfort person) -- oh how I miss her and Sara, our studio producer.

I think my big takeaway was the realization that we’re all on the same page with regards to sharing and affecting each other’s workload. Now, on the other side, I’m going to use the clarity I got from the retreat to do amazing stuff with this team.


**Endless gratitude to Kom El Dikka for hosting us, feeding us and lending us their garden.