On a scorching hot summer’s day during my recent trip to Egypt, a little less than an hour away from the chaos and madness that is downtown Cairo, a wonderful event took place. I had been planning it with my fellow collaborators for several weeks, and it felt almost surreal to see it all finally taking shape after what seemed like thousands of emails, texts and skype meetings. This was really happening.
On the beautiful property of Makar Farms by the Mariouteya river in the sleepy rural outskirts of Cairo, I gathered, along with 35 lovely like-minded guests, among the ancient date palms and endless surrounding farm land for a day of slowing down and disconnecting from the hustle of fast-paced city life.
I arrived at the farm early in the morning with my two indispensable assistants; my gorgeous sister Hala and my ever-helpful cousin Osman, where we met with the lovely Makar sisters, Farida & Malak, and immediately began setting up. We had a rather massive list of tasks to get through before the guests arrived, and the weather was INSANELY hot, but thankfully, we managed to pull it off in an amazing show of team effort and good planning.
As the guests arrived, they were greeted by the rather breath-taking scene of the finished table and surrounds, and then immediately treated to a variety of ice-cold, delicious homemade drinks we prepared with the relentless summer heat in mind; a ruby-red rose & hibiscus tisane with lemon slices, zesty fresh mint lemonade, iced tea with ginger, mint and lemongrass and a refreshing raspberry-infused soda water that proved to be the favourite of all four among the crowd.
The day started off with a welcome talk and farm tour with Mr. Mounir Makar, the wonderfully passionate owner and the brains behind the entire vision and incredibly inspiring and innovative methods used on the farm.
Afterwards, the attendees gathered around my cooking station, where I gave a detailed demonstration of how to make three delicious dishes which were to be part of the farm lunch, using the simplest methods and techniques possible. We talked about and made shortcrust pastry (in crazy 40 degree heat!!) by hand for sweet and savoury summer tarts, marvelled at the simplicity of preparing an impressive whole side of salmon with minimal effort, and ended it all with how to make a classic Aussie pavlova, which is also a deceptively simple and show-stopping dish, perfect for summer entertaining. (P.S: I plan on doing a few blog posts with all these recipes here very soon, so keep your eyes peeled during the next couple of weeks! EDIT: here is the Quiche recipe, the Salmon recipe , the Sweet Labneh Tart recipe and the Pavlova recipe)
Just as the weather finally started to cool down and a very welcome afternoon summer breeze began to blow, the guests then made their way to the impeccably styled long table to enjoy a light, summery lunch, heavy with seasonal produce right off the farm we were sitting on, under the dappled shade of the grape vines. The atmosphere was wonderfully relaxed and the glorious golden Egyptian afternoon sun worked its magic as everyone dug in and chatted away around the communal table laden with delicious share-plates of baked salmon, savoury vegetable tarts, and HEAPS of gorgeous fresh salads brimming with vibrant local produce we picked just a few hours earlier!
The day ended with an insane sugar high, courtesy of this pretty drool-worthy dessert table we put together.There were sweet labneh and summer stone-fruit tarts, pavlovas piled high with mango and berries, and almond cakes studded with the juiciest Egyptian figs and topped with a tangy balsamic fig reduction…yum!
I could not be happier with how this whole wonderful day turned out! I am truly proud and thrilled to have accomplished such a fantastic event in my hometown, and I look forward to this only being the beginning, with hopefully many, many more special events to come. My heart is brimming, and I am so grateful for our beautiful guests for making all this possible; thank you for your enthusiasm and trust in me!
We also collectively managed to shoot a video on the day, with some scenes from prep as well as the event itself, and I must say, I REALLY like the result. I hope you do too!
A big special thanks to our partners:
Makar Farms, daughters and father, who offered their venue, their produce and their endless enthusiasm and support from day one! Hands-down, the best and most accommodating team I have ever had the pleasure of working with, and here’s to this only being the start!
The team from Flower Power, who were generously sponsoring the florals and table settings for the event, and who exceeded all my expectations; they not only got the brief, but managed to completely blow me away with their styling and coordination, as well as their incredible work ethic. When they were done with the place, it looked like something straight out of a fairytale or a snapshot from a beautiful dream. It was quite breathtaking, and I honestly could not have wished for a better outcome!
Gourmet Egypt, who provided many of the main ingredients we used for the farm lunch, such as the incredible Norwegian Salmon fillets, the cheeses for the quiches and salads and some of the fruit for the desserts, as well as a lovely selection of delicious goodies for our guests to take home.
Turath Stores in Zamalek, for helping us with the craziness of the ticket sales, as well as gifting our guests with an adorable heritage keepsake to take home.
And to my incredible sister Hala Serageldin and cousin Osman Farrag, without whom none of this would have been a success…your help in the kitchen, with the photography, the props and everything else…Thank you!!
And finally, a shoutout to my insanely talented friend and cousin Ahmed Hayman, who happens to be one of my favourite photographers of all time, for making a surprise appearance and taking some pretty amazing shots and videos (including this one below!), as well as shooting the event on facebook live on the day! You are the best!
RECIPES FROM THE DAY: