A culinary journey with Viva Arabia

Boekcover Viva Arabia

Orange blossom water, pomegranate and candied lemons … these are just some sensorily seductive ingredients from the great mysterious Arab pantry of Nadia Zerouali and Merijn Tol. For years now Nadia and Merijn share their love for the Mediterranean cuisine by making the most delicious dishes. Together they travel the world to (re)discover known and unknown flavors. From Morocco to Lebanon, from Italy to Andalusia and from Syria to Palestine. For their new book Viva Arabia, which was released in early September, I went to talk with these culinary goddesses.


In Viva Arabia they take you along on their journey to mix tradition with their own creative inspirations. From Moroccan carrot salad and Italian pappardelle with roasted beetroot to spice cake with honey, orange and orange blossom water and heavenly hazelnut pudding. Absolutely delicious. Viva Arabia contains over 160 easy-to-make recipes. It’s easy, tasty and success is guaranteed.

The recipes flow out of their hands like the musical notes out of the hands of a composer. Nadia and Merijn are “born improvisers’, which happens to be their greatest talent too. They are inspired by the local women and then give their own creative twist to the versatile, enchanting Arabic cuisine. “We just go to these countries … the people are incredibly hospitable. We go to their homes and tell them that we want to learn to cook. When we enter these women’s kitchens, we do that completely blank, ” says Merijn. They do not believe in the contemporary so-called ‘internet-chefs’. You have to taste, smell and feel the food where it originated. The two chefs’ playful twists, be it citrus in kebba or pomegranate with dates and orange blossom water are not always understood that well by the local women. However, this often results in hilarious situations and conversations. “One of our recipes is mixing vegetables into the couscous. For my mother, this is a mortal sin. Couscous mixed with vegetables equals a left-over, something remaining from the day before … for them that does not count as a full dish”, says Nadia. But ultimately, also these local chefs learn to appreciate the culinary excesses of these ladies.

It is not only a great pleasure to make and taste Nadia and Merijn’s recipes. All of their cookbooks are in fact also a delight to the eye. The books feature beautiful photography by Sven Benjamins and alluring artistic illustrations by Rosa Vitalie. Nadia and Merijn have put “food” into an art form like no-one else. For al.arte we were able to a delicious recipe with our readers which are in our opinion a good illustration of who Nadia and Merijn are.

Nadia Zerouali and Merijn Tol are known for their Arabia cookbook series, http://www.deliciousmagazine.nl, the 24Kitchen TV channel and their columns in the Dutch Viva women’s magazine.  Previously published: Arabia, Bismilla Arabia and Arabia at home. The latter has also appeared in English under the title Under the Shade of Olive Trees.


Heavenly hazelnut pudding

with candied salted nut


Creamy soft pudding with sweet salty crunchy nuts. Do we need to say more?

Serves: 6-8 People

  • 4 leaves of white gelatine
  • 250 ml of whole milk
  • 250 ml cream
  • 125 g sugar
  • 50 g ground hazelnuts white
  • 1 egg white
  • 175 g mixed salted nuts

Soak the gelatin for 5 minutes in cold water. Bring the milk, cream and 75 g of sugar to a boil while stirring. Remove the pan from the heat. Squeeze the gelatine thoroughly and add to the warm cream mixture while stirring. Rinse a large pudding basin with cold water and pour in the cream mixture.

Leave the pudding to cool in the fridge for 4 to 6 hours. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 100 °C. Beat the egg whites with the remaining 50 g sugar until frothy but not stiff. Mix in the nuts as soon as possible and spread the mixture on a lined baking sheet.

Dry the nuts in about 20 minutes in the hot oven. Let cool on a plate. Just before serving put the pudding mold for a few seconds in a bowl with hot water and transfer the pudding on a large plate or bowl. Sprinkle with the crunchy nuts and serve immediately.



This post is also available in: Dutch

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