“I…want to show my readers that although it’s not a Muslim country, there are halal options out there and it shouldn’t deter you from visiting. Like when we went to Costa Rica, we found halal when we were least expecting it”Halal Girl About Town
Soumaya has lunch with HGAT
Soumaya: It’s been over 4 years since you began HGAT. How would you say your food preferences have changed over the years? Have you become more particular about the quality of your food?
Layla: Oh wow, that’s a difficult question. I would say that I definitely look more for quality, as opposed to getting excited that something is halal. At the beginning I would get excited about any restaurant that was halal, but now I am quite particular about what I eat; no more terrible Indian or low quality donner kebab. I think I have become a little more refined. Perhaps it is a combination of getting older, but more so because I have eaten at so many places, travelling, moving into central London and having access to a more diverse cuisines. I mean, here we are eating halal Korean chicken!
Soumaya: Some halal restaurants are great at savoury dishes but not so good at the desserts. If you could create your own menu of starter, mains and dessert from a combination of your favourite restaurants, what would it be?
Layla: God, you’ve killed me with that question! I would say that I would have the Beef Wellington with the bone marrow gravy from Cona Restaurant in Bradford. You have to try it if you are in Bradford. They were one of the first restaurants to combine halal and fine dining in the UK. For dessert, I would opt for the chocolate fondant at Novikov; it’s a classic and done exceptionally well. And finally, for starters, the famous stone bass tikka from Jamavar.
Soumaya: In the past you’ve said that you are a ‘fire hazard’ in the kitchen. Has this changed? (If yes – what is your go-to recipe for a weeknight dinner?)
Layla: I think it’s changed. I think I have become better. Slightly… well let’s just say that I can actually eat my food now! I can get a little excited with the chilli…thinking it adds flavouring but BW is basically on fire when he eats it! In terms of my go-to weeknight meal, I would say a Cajun spiced salmon, avocado salsa and brown rice. Chopped avocados, chopped mango, chilli, coriander, garlic. Like guacamole but with mango.
Soumaya: That sounds really good – maybe you should write a recipe book?
Layla: Let’s see how it goes!
Soumaya: Recently you have begun to share more about your travels abroad, sharing your gastronomic experiences in Asia. Can we expect more HGAT Abroad posts this year?
Layla: BW and I are both workaholics. For us, travelling is our little getaway together and we end up going to the most amazing places, which are still yet to be uploaded on the website. I do want to show my readers that although it’s not a Muslim country, there are halal options out there and it shouldn’t deter you from visiting. Like when we went to Costa Rica, we found halal when we were least expecting it. I wouldn’t say you can expect a travel section, but I do make a conscious effort to find halal food whilst abroad so I can share it with my followers.
Soumaya: When I was in Tokyo I ate octopus tentacles. What’s the weirdest thing you’ve eaten either abroad or at home?
Layla: Ah, well, where do I begin? I’ve had lamb brains in India and it was amazing. I’ve also had Kid goat brain at Gymkhana – it tasted pretty normal. Mum also makes cow brain and I’ve also had goats’ feet. They remind me of jelly – the texture is gelatinous.
Soumaya: When can we expect the HGAT version of Masterchef?
Layla: Maybe in a few years’ time. Let’s see. Put it in the pipeline!
Soumaya: You’ve done a really good job of protecting your privacy from the all-knowing Internet (believe me, I had trouble finding much information on you online!). With so many bloggers inviting the camera into their own homes, what advice can you give to someone trying to successfully start their own blog?
Layla: For someone thinking about starting a blog, I would say just go for it! It is something fun to do – I absolutely love what I do – but only start one if you’re really passionate about your topic. Don’t do it for a quick buck or a free meal, because believe me, that is a rare occurrence. Also keep in mind that your privacy will be sacrificed once you post a photo of yourself up, so be wary when posting a location online or your nearby surroundings.
To find out more about where we ate halal Korean chicken (which was delicious!), check out Layla’s review of the restaurant, Bo Drake.