Watching a social media video of Fatima Sydow cooking feels like being in the kitchen with a much-loved family member. From her infectious laughter to easy-going manner, Sydow makes cooking seem like such a fun activity. And now with the release of her latest cookbook, Fatima Sydow Cooks, she is ready to share easy, accessible recipes, and her fondest food memories with everyone.
The Daily Vox chatted to Sydow about her book and some of her favourite recipes.
What was the inspiration for the cookbook?
We put together the book with some of the recipes that have been shared on my YouTube channel, Fatima Sydow Cooks. My followers across all social media platforms asked for the written recipes in book form and that’s where it started. I then added other dishes that I cook for my family that I have not shared before which I knew my readers would enjoy. For me, it’s where I could connect with my followers on a different level. It was for them to feel a little bit closer to me when my book was in their kitchens ready to be used – like a “Aunty Fatima” right there with you.
How did your love of food and cooking begin?
My love for cooking began at a very young age helping my late mother Wasiela Sydow in the kitchen. Learning to cook from my mother was amazing. But what followed amazed me even more. And that was when everyone would gather around the table or when family and friends came over and joined us. [I loved] how food brings people together, and brings so much joy to everyone.
Can you tell me what does food mean to you personally but also for your community and culture? And what role does it play in your community?
My first language was food. It’s how I communicate and how I tell someone I love them. For me feeding someone a plate of food is one of the purest expressions of love. I grew up in Manenberg, Mitchell’s Plain and Strandfontein and the sharing of food to one’s neighbors played an integral part in our survival.. That’s the beauty of our communities – sharing of food. This is what I want to always promote and uphold.
This is Sydnow’s second book. Her first, The Journey of Cape Malay Cooking with Fatima Sydow, was released in 2015.
What is your absolute favourite food to cook for yourself and then for others?
I love making flaky roti with a delicious lamb curry for myself. It’s my favorite to cook for myself and for others.
Here’s a video of Sydow making some of that delicious roti.
What is the one thing you love eating that someone else makes for you?
I love eating my twin sister Gadija’s Chicken breyani with Slaai. She makes it so good. I always tell her to put that last bits of rice at the bottom of the pot aside for me.
Fatima hosts a cooking show, Kaap, kerrie and koesisters, with her sister Gadija. They also released a cookbook together called Cape, Curry & Koesisters.
Can you tell us what you hope people take from this book?
What I hope people take away from this book is a sense of confidence, where they are relaxed and comfortable to try each recipe without any fear of failure. In doing so it will automatically increase one’s sense of accomplishment. The cherry on top is empty plates, full bellies and a happy smile of satisfaction on their faces.
What advice would you give people looking to start their food and cooking journey?
Stay true to your story and stay connected to your roots. When making food, remember a good cook always considers its guests or clients food needs and wishes first. Last but not least, quality ingredients always trumps, and keep it simple.
A final quick question: what is the importance of Boeber for the Cape Malay Ramadan tradition and what is your favourite way to make it?
The importance of Boeber in Cape Malay Ramadan is to celebrate the 15th day of fasting, meaning we are halfway done. It’s so fitting to enjoy the delicious sweet milky drink to go with this moment. I love making my Boeber very plain and simple. I don’t add any nuts, sultanas or rose water. And I like mine more on the thicker consistency – so leka.
Fatima Sydow’s book is published by Human & Rousseau and is available where all good books about good food are found.
The interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.