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The secret ingredient is love as the Saudi grandmother shares her cooking skills with the world

JEDDAH: Saudi Grandmother Nijat Abdulmajeed of Jeddah is on a mission to pass on the culinary knowledge and skills she has accumulated over her lifetime of preparing authentic Arabic dishes, not only to her own children and grandchildren, but to all Saudis and other people around the world. .

Her granddaughter, Shahad Nejaim, said her grandmother’s cooking has always been an important way to show her love for her family and friends.

This was confirmed by Abdulmajeed’s daughter and Nejaim’s mother, Basmah Omair, who said, “His cooking means home and love to me…and meals are how we express love in this home.

After deciding it would be a good idea to pass on the wealth of culinary knowledge and experience she has acquired over the years, Abdulmajeed decided to share her recipes, tips and advice for preparing some of the most popular Arabic dishes. delicious and authentic, not only with her family but with the whole world on Instagram, where she calls herself @annati_1.

For Arab News, she prepared fatteh bazinjan, a dish that includes eggplant, minced meat, fried bread and yogurt, and is topped with pine nuts and pomegranate. (AN Photos by Huda Bashatah)

“Anna” is something you call a grandmother, the “Ti” at the end of the word shows possession, Nejaim said that when they were kids, Nejaim and his cousins ​​used to argue saying “it’ is my Anna, no, it’s my Anna”. When deciding on the name of her Instagram, they decided to make her everyone’s grandmother, hence the name “Annati”.

“We wanted to document his cooking for the grandkids only, but my mother thought we could pass the knowledge on to the whole younger generation,” Omair said.

HIGHLIGHT

‘Anna’ is something you call a grandmother, the ‘Ti’ at the end of the word shows possession, Nejaim said when they were kids, Nejaim and his cousins ​​used to argue saying ‘it’s my Anna, no, it’s my Anna.’ When deciding on the name of her Instagram, they decided to make her everyone’s grandmother, hence the name “Annati”.

“She was the driving force behind the idea of ​​putting videos on Instagram. She told me it might or might not work, but we have nothing to lose.

Abdulmajeed and her family have invited an Arab News crew to their home to watch her in action in the kitchen and see how food is an integral part of the bond of love she shares with her children and grandchildren.

Immediately, it was evident that she radiated an aura of warmth and love that enveloped not only her own family, but also her guests. It was also obviously important to her that her visitors were well fed and understood the value she places on family.

For Arab News, she prepared fatteh bazinjan, a dish that includes eggplant, minced meat, fried bread and yogurt, and is topped with pine nuts and pomegranate. One of the key ingredients is pomegranate molasses, which is an Abdulmajeed favourite. As she prepared the meal, she encouraged her guests to taste the individual ingredients to understand each element before they were all brought together in the finished dish.

Abdulmajeed said that over the years people have often told her that she should write a cookbook or do a cooking show.

“But at that time, I was busy with my life and my children,” she said. “It’s only now that I have some time in my life and started sharing my recipes on Instagram.”

She said she loves making savory Arabic dishes the most, but also dabbles in desserts and other cuisines from around the world.

Abdulmajeed revealed that when she moved to the United States for her children’s education, she was determined to ensure that her children remained connected to their roots and culture, including her cuisine.

“So I started doing everything at home, on my own, from scratch,” she added.

His daughter and granddaughter agreed that many of their fondest memories of Abdulmajeed revolved around food: the meals their “Anna” cooked for them, or being in the kitchen with her and learning to cook.

“One of my favorite memories was when we lived in the States and my dad would open our door for anyone who was a student or lived without their family to come for futoor (iftar), so that was a open- invitation home,” Omair said.

Nejaim said she loves Arabic cuisine.

“For others, comfort food might be mac and cheese or fries; to me it’s anything with dibs rumman (pomegranate molasses) in it,” she added. “(My grandmother’s) dishes are like when you want to kiss someone and you can’t give them a hug, so you go to the kitchen and try to recreate the feeling.”

She said the experience of learning to cook from her grandmother involved a process of unlearning what she thought she knew and learning to trust her instincts.

“I was very specific, as I love to cook, but she just refused to let me use the measurements and instead encouraged me to follow my instincts,” Nejaim said.

“So it was a learning curve for me. It was a very special experience. It was beyond a culinary experience; I feel like I got a piece of her that I will keep with me and that I will pass on to my own children.

Abdulmajeed said Arabic cuisine can take a long time to cook and many young people don’t like spending so much time preparing food.

“I try to tell them that there are ways to prepare ahead of time that help reduce the time, and when you come home tired you can do it yourself,” she said. declared.

For the future, the family plans to organize online courses especially for the youngest to teach them how to prepare the ingredients in advance and to facilitate the cooking process.

“I love sharing (my mother) with the world,” Omair said, her eyes filling with tears. “I think she deserves recognition for the mother that she is and the knowledge that she has. When you have the knowledge, you can’t just keep it.

Beyond his cooking tips, Abdulmajeed has other important advice to pass on to families.

“I’ve dedicated my whole life to keeping my family close to me and being the best mother and grandmother I can be,” she said. “I have become their friend and I don’t regret devoting my life to my children. I think family should always be a priority.

Omair said another important lesson she learned from her mother is that it’s never too late to start something new that you’re passionate about and that it’s important to stop being a perfectionist and don’t be afraid to take risks.

“Being with my mom has allowed me to enjoy what I want to do instead of waiting until I absolutely know the outcome will be perfect,” she said.

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