More Than Baklava: Meet London’s Most Innovative Middle Eastern Baker!

BY AMANDA RODRIGUES

Safia Shakarchi is the type of girl you would expect to have the trendiest and most unique Instagram account on the planet. She is chic, intelligent, fashionable, and a baker extraordinaire. Read on to see why @dearsafia is the account you have to follow today. Check out her blog: Dearsafia.com.

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How would you define yourself? 

Probably the same way I’d describe what I bake – a confused but magical mix of traditional and modern, and somewhere in between eastern and western. My parents are Iraqi, but I was born and raised here in London, so I was brought up between Middle Eastern and British culture, and I often still struggle to pinpoint where exactly I am on that spectrum. I mean, we do a full Christmas dinner, turkey and everything, but there will undoubtedly be a curry on the table somewhere.

Where did your love for cooking and baking come from? 

My surname, ‘Shakarchi’, actually literally translates as ‘sugar-maker’. A few generations ago my father’s side of the family owned a successful baklava factory back in Iraq, so we always joke now that baking is in my blood! Really, though, my earliest memories of the kitchen will forever be tied to my grandmother. I still haven’t come across anybody whose food is as delicious as hers was. She and I would sit for hours making all kinds of dishes like timen bagila (rice with dill and broad beans), kleicha (date and cardamom cookies), and mahalabi (a beautifully fragrant rosewater milk pudding). She always said I’d grow up to be a baker.

How did you envision your blog and Instagram? 

I started my blog on my gap year, before I went to university. It initially came about because I was constantly taking photos of everything I baked, and I had a nerdy love for coding and website design, so I thought I’d marry the two. I’ve had it for over 5 years now, and it’s transformed quite a bit. I’ve recently re-designed it completely. I always want it to be personal and relatable, but still professional, and I try and maintain consistency in the look and feel of my photos on both the blog and my Instagram – natural daylight always and lots of soft, neutral colours. Styling and photographing my recipes is still what I enjoy most.

What is your absolute favorite dish? 

Funnily enough, a good old Sunday roast – with all the trimmings! How British of me. Maybe I should rethink my answer to your first question… Roast chicken, rosemary potatoes, honey roasted carrots, greens, a couple of yorkshire puds, cranberry sauce and a glug of gravy. Heaven.

How do you incorporate traditional dishes with new twists? 

I guess that’s where my Middle Eastern side comes in. I’ll often take a dish that I know and love, and try to come up with an alternative using unusual ingredients. I’ve made traditional Arabic puddings vegan with Western ingredients like almond milk and maple syrup, and I’ve made a good old British vicky sponge with cardamom and fig jam.

View this post on Instagram

Oven ready! #ihavethisthingwithfigs 🙄

A post shared by Safia Shakarchi 🍰✨ (@dearsafia) on

Where do you see yourself taking this? 

I’m currently working on building up my portfolio of recipes and photos, as well as my food and travel writing. Ultimately, my goal is to introduce a Western audience to Middle Eastern desserts and baking, and hopefully one day I’ll have a few cafés that serve up great coffee, great breakfasts, and great cake. A cookbook would be nice too.

Who’s your favorite food Instagrammer? Share with us in the comments.

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