Any Cape Town local will tell you that Bree Street is the place to be for food and drinks. One of the most well-known spots is undoubtedly Olami, a small restaurant bringing Capetonians the best flavours from the Middle East. Now, restaurant chef and owner, Nirit Saban has released a new cookbook so that you can have the best of Cape Town’s cuisine in the comfort of your own kitchen. We caught up with Nirit to talk food inspiration, cooking healthily and the enormous task of putting together a cookbook.
You’ve had a really interesting food journey and you have quite a special relationship with food – would you tell us a little more about this?
Cooking has always been something I’ve felt a connection with, whether it be the flavour of a particular ingredient, the reaction when it cooks, the smells it emits, the natural aesthetic of natural ingredients or simply the movement that comes into play when creating a dish – it all feeds my soul as much as my body, cooking a natural art, it’s like learning about life in general, there are endless journeys and continuous surprises and mysteries to discover.
You lived in Israel for a while – how did that influence your relationship with food, ingredients and flavours?
Israel is a very cosmopolitan city, I was injected with diverse interpretations of super simple ultra delicious dishes, the agriculture in Israel is also so advanced and the quality of the ingredients sing very loud in every dish and that purity is something that has been instilled me forever, I love the simple nature of vegetables and fruits and what can be done with them with the right application and passion.
What inspired you to put the book Olami together? And what was the experience like?
So often our dear customers order dishes that I know they could make themselves because we making wholesome home-style simple food and therefore realised if we where to give the recipes and share them they would appreciate that, also I felt once I let go of some our house-hold classics and let others play with the details, it would edge me to recreate and innovate new dishes for our daily harvest table.
Tell us a little more about the word ‘Olami’ and how its meaning filters into your restaurant and book?
Olami means worldly, global and universal, our aim is to be continually inspired by the vast fascinating world out there and therefore create a global menu that highlights the wonders of the world in a home-style way of cooking. I have a travel bug that I don’t think is ever going to go away and therefore I make use of my travels and let them spill onto the table and into my consciousness.
What would you say is one of your favourite recipes in the book, and why?
The Spinach and White Bean Stew. I would say that is one of my favourites, as it’s totally heartwarming and full of nourishment.
Tell us a little bit about the role food plays in your home?
At home I keep my stock super simple, that means mainly natural and fresh with very few dry ingredients except for a large collection of dried chili powders and other powerful elemental spices, after a full day of cooking, and if I don’t have friends or family over for dinner I lean towards the fruit and nuts vibe or a simple chopped salad with loads of lemon, herbs and olive oil.
Olami (Jacana Books) is available at most good bookstores; grab a copy and turn your daily cooking around!