I had never come across any paleo food bloggers living in Egypt … So naturally, I was both intrigued and excited to learn about Rehaam, who writes the paleo blog Steak and Sass. For those of you who haven’t heard of paleo, it’s short for “paleolithic” and it is a way of eating that mimics our hunter-gatherer ancestors, who as far as we know, had less chronic illnesses than modern-day humans. Individuals who follow the paleo approach embrace the simple, nutrient-dense diet of seasonal plants (raw, cooked, and fermented) and naturally-raised meats, but they eschew foods like grains, legumes, and in most cases diary. Oh, and obviously processed food is also out: this includes refined sugars and heavily processed vegetable seed oils. I (Heba) follow a modified paleo diet — meaning, I include grass-fed dairy, soaked rice, and properly prepared legumes on occasion, but I avoid processed foods like the plague and haven’t been messing around with breads and sugary store-bought cakes for a couple of years. For this reason, many of Rehaam’s recipes resonated with me, so I reached out to her on Instagram to feature her on MidEats.
Rehaam’s posts on Steak and Sass are mouthwatering just to look at! And since I know we share a similar food philosophy, I feel inspired to try EVERY single one of her recipes. I actually tried her paleo pancakes the other day and they were easy and yummy. Some other MidEats-friendly recipes from her blog that are on my to-try-soon list include the honey-almond biscotti, paleo zucchini falafel, and the shish tawook. And of course the recipe we are featuring here in this post: the dukkah drumsticks (try saying that ten times fast)! She and I apparently also like to experiment with the same foods: both of us made a zucchini tahini dip, which I blogged about on MidEats and Rehaam separately on Steak and Sass. What can I say, great minds think alike!
– Heba of MidEats
Interview with Food Blogger Rehaam Romero of
Steak and Sass
Tell us about your food and health journey, and what inspired you to start sharing recipes on Steak and Sass.
I was never what many would consider a bad eater. Of course I ate bread and rice and potatoes but I loved vegetables and fruit too. The problem was portion knowledge. You’re taught to believe that grains are good, that carbs are the foundation of every meal. And in an Egyptian family, you haven’t eaten if you haven’t had some bread. When my Egyptian grandmother had to start cooking us kids pasta, she took to eating spaghetti sandwiches. One day not too long after I got married, I took a look at what we were eating and found it devoid of vegetation because we’d both gotten so busy. I took to primal then paleo and I’ve never looked back. It wasn’t until I was several years into paleo that I started sharing recipes on Steak and Sass at the urge of friends and family.
What would you like our readers to know about you, your background, or what makes you tick?
I come from a mixed Hispanic/American and Egyptian background in a family of incredible cooks. I was taught to cook by my mother and encouraged to take it to the next level by my father. So when I went paleo, I was already knee-deep in trying new cooking methods like sous viding, brining, and the like. So going paleo had to mean eating well, not just eating healthily. Incidentally I was also a good bread baker, I say with a heavy sigh.
Can you share some of your favorite “food memories” growing up?
I have, funnily enough, very different food memories depending on whether I was around my Egyptian mother or my American father. I remember the first thing I tried to cook was macaroni and cheese with my father, roux and all. It was a complete lumpy disaster, but it only encouraged me to keep going. I also have very distinctive memories of fighting over the breast cartilage of every chicken my grandmother made. Bone broth be damned, we were taught to eat everything off a chicken!
How strict are you with the paleo diet, or what version of paleo do you follow? Is there any “forbidden” food(s) that you miss eating?
I’m pretty strict about 90% of the time. I definitely have a gluten and dairy intolerance, I have discovered. But I’ve also found that nuts aggravate my stomach, so I there isn’t one version of paleo for everyone. I also feel the more restrictive you are with your food, the less you can tolerate things. If I feel like having some cheese on my salad, that’s certainly better than eating a grilled cheese sandwich, in my book. Also, if I’m craving a cookie, I’ll have one. One cookie won’t destroy my gut, but it certainly might do my soul some good so I one day don’t go off the deep end and eat the entire batch. What I’m rabid about is processed food. We almost exclusively eat home-cooked meals.
On finding food sources in Egypt: Where do you find quality protein sources, such as grass-fed meat or wild-caught fish, etc? What about the alternative baking flours and other non-Egyptian ingredients like coconut butter?
It is extremely difficult to source grass-fed beef in Egypt because more than not being widely available, there’s no way to guarantee that it’s actually grass-fed. I try my best to source beef, poultry, and vegetables at least from local farmers, but it can be a challenge. As for other ingredients, I don’t go out of my way to find them. If I can make it myself, I do. I’ve made my own coconut flour, almond flour, coconut butter, almond butter, and the like. But I’m not going to cry if I can’t get my hands on arrowroot flour. There are plenty of whole foods to eat already.
Is paleo and the concept of “real food” catching on in Egypt, based on your experience?
Definitely. There’s certainly a lot more awareness now and restaurants are trying to catch up to the trend of eating local rather than venerating everything imported. It’s slow, but it’s getting there.
What are your favorite paleo foods that are also Middle Eastern?
No doubt Egyptian Molokhiyya (Jew’s Mallow Soup). Fresh greens cooked in bone broth with clarified butter and garlic? You can’t get more paleo than that.
Who is your biggest inspiration in the kitchen?
I have never really thought about one person inspiring my cooking. I’m a voracious food reader/learner and believe very much in eating the real, recognizable food hailed by Alice Waters, but how could I not be amazed by molecular gastronomy of Heston Blumenthal, or humbled by the scientific ways of Harold McGee? At the end of the day, food has to be balanced and delicious.
What are some of your favorite restaurants in Egypt, which serve real food with good ingredients?
I can’t honestly say there are many great restaurants in Egypt serving up real food with wholesome ingredients in the way of paleo or slow food. The only restaurant off the top of my head would be The Vegan Kitchen, offering up a completely gluten-free, dairy-free menu.
What are your goals for growing Steak and Sass in 2014 and beyond?
I’m definitely looking into adding more Middle Eastern recipes and showing people that eating paleo doesn’t mean having to give up all those delicious Arab grandma foods we’ve come to know and love. As for growing, I’m happy if people like and use my recipes for now.
Featured Recipe from Steak and Sass: Dukkah Drumsticks
When I asked Rehaam which of her recipes she’d like to share with MidEats readers, she immediately told me about her popular recipe for dukkah chicken drumsticks. For those of you who haven’t heard of dukkah, well, we have a post of our own coming soon. Dukkah is basically a mixture of nuts, sesame seeds, and spices, and it’s often served as an appetizer or with some bread as a dip. I love it with roasted veggies. But until now I hadn’t considered adding it to a chicken dish. It looks scrumptious!
Sticky Dukkah Chicken Thighs
Keywords: bake entree chicken gluten-free low-carb soy-free sugar-free dukkah hazelnut chicken Egyptian
Ingredients (Serves 2)
For the chicken:
- 4 skin-on chicken legs, separated into thighs and drumsticks
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons white vinegar
- 2-3 tablespoons dukkah (recipe follows)
For the dukkah:
- 1/2 cup roasted hazlenuts
- 1 tablespoon cumin
- 1/2 tablespoon coriander
- 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 1/2 teaspoon savory
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
For the recipe instructions, click here to go to the original post on Steak and Sass.
About the Cook
I write, edit, eat, cook, lift, sweat and paleo. All in Egypt. While my husband snaps the photos and generally tries to stay out of the way of the carnage that is my cooking and sassing. Follow Steak and Sass on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.