Chances are you’ve heard of Yvonne and My Halal Kitchen. She’s a go to source for many Muslims (especially new Muslims) who are embracing a halal eating and overall lifestyle. I have been a reader now for many years and enjoy so many of her recipes. I love them because they are halal versions of many of the foods I grew up with. I come from an Italian/Germanic/Scandinavian background and was raised in the land of beer and sausage…not halal – not in any way. Yvonne has made over many of these recipes! She also shares lifestyle, whole living information and spotlights great companies who fit into that lifestyle. If you’re not a reader yet you will be!
Tell me a little bit about your blog and what you write about.
My Halal Kitchen is a food and cooking blog where I publish content that conforms to the halal dietary guidelines of readers, as well as those interested in all-natural, organic and sustainable farm to form information. Halal is the Arabic word for ‘permissible’ and can relate to food, dress, moral values, financial decisions and more. It’s a guideline for Muslims, followers of Islam, and is most likened to what kosher is for those who follow Jewish food and lifestyle guidelines.
On My Halal Kitchen I also strive to share ways readers can find halal products or to simply tell readers about kitchen tools, food documentaries and the latest information that I discover about the halal food industry and/or the food industry in general.
Why did you start blogging?
I love to teach what I know (which is also an integral part of Islam) so when I came to a point in my life where the timing was right and I was more than eager to begin my career as a food writer, I just did it. A lot of persuasion by family and friends helped, but ultimately I knew that it was right for me and something I had a burning passion to pursue.
What is your earliest memory in the kitchen?
I remember weekend nights when I had friends for sleepovers. My parents had the wonderful idea of keeping us girls entertained by helping bake cakes or cookies and other foods. It was so much fun and they made everything accessible and colorful for us. Cooking and being in the kitchen wasn’t seen as scary, intimidating or a chore; it was approached as a happy place to be and a great place to make memories.
Who or what influences you in the kitchen today?
Today when I’m in the kitchen I think about what readers would be interested to know and what cooking questions or problems I can answer or solve for them. It gives me a lot of satisfaction knowing that by what I’m cooking and later presenting in my classes, books or on my blog will actually be helpful to them. It’s what motivates me to do more.
What is your favorite ingredient?
I have so many favorite ingredients, but the one ingredient (aside from sea salt) that seems to add something special to just about every savory dish is a fresh sprig of thyme. It enhances the flavor profile of things like poultry or roasted vegetables just enough to give off the delicate aroma that differentiates it from other herbs and spices.
Everyone has a favorite recipe that we just can’t re-create the same way as our mom, grandma etc. Which recipe is this for you?
I’ve had so much practice re-creating both of my grandmothers’ traditional Sicilian and Puerto Rican dishes to make them with halal ingredients that although they may not be exactly the same, they’ve turned out really well and passed the test of family members. One recipe I’d like to continue perfecting is my Abuela’s recipe for pasteles, which are a sort of Puerto Rican tamale in which food is wrapped in banana leaves. They’re quite involved to make, but worth every minute.
Who is your favorite “famous/celebrity” chef and why?
I have a lot of favorite celebrity chefs for different reasons, since they are the ones who have taught me valuable lessons in the kitchen (i.e. Julia Child, Martha Stewart) but currently it’s a tie between two male chefs, Andreas Viestad and Jamie Oliver, for different reasons:
Andreas Viestad is a favorite because he inspires both my serious side and my culturally curious side, as well. His show, New Scandinavian cooking is so interesting to me that I’m always looking for more. Plus, he often cooks fish and game meat and has a great way of teaching about the natural beauty of Scandinavia. I just love it.
Jamie Oliver’s passion for real food and passing on his cooking knowledge to kids, parents and schools is something that inspires me to do what I do with our Muslim schools, too. His honesty and perseverance and tireless effort are something I can feel when seeing him in action and also because I know what a challenge it is to make changes in school food, I appreciate his efforts even more.
Which of your recipes is your favorite?
I love diversity so it’s hard to choose just one dish, but if I had to choose it would be my Sicilian roasted pepper salad only because I simply can’t believe how good they turn out roasted on a stove when I first learned how to roast them outdoors in Sicily. I never thought I’d be able to re-create that, but every time I make it I’m transported back to that memory.
What was your least successful recipe attempt?
I honestly haven’t had too many disasters, simply because I am adamant about not wasting food and have learned to salvage food in surprising ways, but I do remember the first time I made duck breast. The smell was very gamey and distracted me as I watched it fry in the pan and worry about how it might turn out. I cooked it thoroughly—a little too much and it turned out to be rubbery, but my husband ate it, anyway….poor guy.
Which kitchen tools couldn’t you live without?
Scissors in the kitchen- they are so useful since they can be used to chop herbs, slice pizza and open bags. They’re also so easy to clean and a lot safer to have with kids around than sharp knives that can be so dangerous.
Last meal. What would yours be?
Any combination of bread and cheese (i.e. pasta with cheese) whether it’s in the form of a rustic pizza, a grilled cheese sandwich or a creamy mac n’ cheese dish. It’s my ultimate comfort food and one that gives me memories of my childhood- simple times and precious moments with the people I’ve been the closest to in my life.
Anything else you’d like to add/share!
Thank you so much for the interview and for selecting me as someone you decided to include in your lovely blog. Keep up the great work!