Cookbook Review

Local cookbook will be 'The Beginning' of your obsession with mod Indian food

Contemporary Indian cuisine that bridges cultures and celebrates family is at the heart of Naqiyah Mayat's debut recipe book, writes Steve Steinfeld

11 March 2020 - 17:24
By Steve Steinfeld
Naqiyah Mayat's debut recipe book 'The Beginning'
Image: Supplied Naqiyah Mayat's debut recipe book 'The Beginning'

I get my first glimpse of The Beginning — the debut cookbook by creative entrepreneur Naqiyah Mayat — at the author's Joburg home where I’m attending my first Jummah lunch.

Jummah is the traditional lunch held in Muslim households after Friday prayers or, as Mayat puts it, “it’s Sunday lunch on a Friday”.

The books have just arrived from the printers and the room is buzzing. Her children arrive home from school and run in and out of the dining room where friends and family surround the table. It’s this sense of community and conversation that I see mirrored in the pages of the book itself. 

Sure it’s a recipe book about modern Indian cuisine, but there’s something more to it: it's about unity and the power that food has to bring us together.

Throughout the book, Mayat pays homage to her family and also explains how her unique style of Indian cookery came about. She comes from a Hindu household, while her husband, Mohammed, is Muslim — finding ways to merge the cuisines of these two cultures was the catalyst for the beautifully photographed recipes in The Beginning. These include everything from biryani and dhal to raaita and goolgoolas (fried dumplings).

Naqiyah Mayat.
Image: Supplied Naqiyah Mayat.

With their myriad steps and ingredients, Indian dishes can seem intimidating for novices to cook at home, but Mayat's recipes are refreshingly easy to follow. She guides the reader step-by-step through the different tools, spices and techniques she uses, and more complex dishes (think homemade paneer or a red masala chicken) are accompanied by notes, tips and tricks.

On the technique front, there are six pages dedicated to folding samoosas and eight illustrated steps to rolling the traditional Indian flatbread parata.

This ease and accessibility is one of the things I love about this cookbook. Another is the anecdotes peppered throughout, whether they be about Mayat's grandmother’s vegetable garden or her Friday lunches.

In the introduction to her book, Mayat describes the memories that formed and inspired her culinary journey as “rich, vibrant and nostalgic”, and I can’t think of three better words to describe The Beginning.



Mayat will be celebrating the launch of her cookbook with three days of culinary experiences — including a high Chai tea and free cookery demos — at The Mall of Africa from March 13 to 15. For details visit

• 'The Beginning: Indian Recipes From My Home', R500, is published by That Food Guy Publishing