Yvonne Maffei is the founder of the hugely popular cooking blog and Islamic lifestyle website My Halal Kitchen. Her book, My Halal Kitchen: Global Recipes, Cooking Tips, and Lifestyle Inspiration, celebrates halal cooking and shows readers just how easy it can be. Her cookbook collects more than 100 recipes from a variety of culinary traditions, proving that halal meals can be full of diverse flavors.
Learn more about cooking halal from Yvonne Maffei herself!
You have a massively popular blog and have written a few cookbooks already. What inspired you to write this one?
I wrote this book because it’s the book I need as a home cook, and I think it will bring so much value to other home cooks like me. My Halal Kitchen has recipes and information on making things like breads, salad dressings, and cheeses, which are such great building blocks to other dishes. In my book, the recipes are provided without the reader having to go through the hassle of sifting through the ingredients to figure out what is or isn’t halal and healthy. I’ve done all the work to sort that out already.
What do you think is the biggest misconception people have about halal diets and preparing halal foods?
People think eating and cooking halal is just too difficult, which simply isn’t true. There is so much out there that is halal, and it’s just a matter of sourcing the right ingredients and finding the companies or artisans that make them.
You provide readers with dozens of halal recipes for traditionally non-halal ingredients. What was the most challenging ingredient to find a halal-friendly substitute for?
The most challenging ingredient was probably the extracts, which is why I just decided to make my own flavored extracts and share the recipes in this book. They’re easy to find alcohol-free, but I’m not so keen on synthetic alternatives. I experimented and discovered that making your own isn’t too hard and they last a long time, so the time investment in making them is really worth it.
In the book, you talk about how the halal lifestyle aligns with trends toward farm-to-table eating and holistic living. Can you talk a bit more about that?
Living a halal lifestyle relates to a moral code that goes beyond just what we eat. It involves caring more about a wider range of the human experience and the environment in which we live—for example, ensuring that the rights of all creatures are being met. Within the farm-to-table movement, this means supporting concepts such as fair trade, the humane treatment of workers, animal welfare, and the preservation of the environment. If and when all of those elements are taken care of in order to bring food to the table, then what we eat is truly halal.
What advice do you have for people who are just starting to keep a halal kitchen?
Keep things simple. You don’t need a lot of things to cook halal, you just need the right things. Go as natural as possible when choosing the products you buy—things with the fewest ingredients and the ones you can actually pronounce will be the best marker for figuring out if something is halal or not. After that, keep your pantry organized with basic ingredients labeled so you always know when you’ve run out of something important. It makes keeping any kitchen less stressful but particularly makes a halal kitchen easier to use.
What’s next for you?
I’ve already started my next cookbook; my team and I are curating some exciting content for MyHalalKitchen.com, and we’re taping episodes for the first halal cooking and lifestyle show on both national and international networks. I think it’ll be an exciting year!