• Hawa Hassan's pantry •

All photos by  Heidi’s Bridge

All photos by Heidi’s Bridge

In Hawa Hassan’s Indian Ocean-driven kitchen, every dish is infused with the flavors of her native Somalia: punchy cloves, heady cinnamon, and lots of pasta (courtesy of Italian colonialism). Now based in NYC, Hawa’s saucy, aromatic kitchen is a product of the diaspora — she splits her shopping between Greene Grape Provisions (for sustainably-raised poultry and specialty staples) and the local East African grocery store (for bulk-bin turmeric and teas). She also keeps a few jars of Basbaas sauces, her line of small-batch Somali condiments, on hand for extra drizzling and zhuzhing where necessary. Read on for more of Hawa’s kitchen must-haves — like Afrobeat playlists and her personalized xawaash spice blend — and how trial-and-error baking taught her that it’s okay to start over.

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Her style

  • “My kitchen is simple, without fuss, and organized. I only stock up on the essentials, and that means lots of spices, veggies, and Anita’s yogurt. My cooking is very Indian ocean-focused, with lots of warm spices like cumin, turmeric, cardamom, cinnamon, and whole cloves. Somalia was colonized by the Italians until 1960, and with the longest coastline in Africa, and this explains why its cuisine is heavily inspired by the Indian ocean and Italian cuisine. So I’d say my cooking style is equal parts saucy, aromatic, and heavy on warm spices. 

  • Oftentimes, I find inspiration in the kitchen by mixing and matching different ingredients, and playing around with heat levels. It's fragrant aromas from the spices, and the flavors of Somalia — and Africa at large — that speak most to me when I’m in the kitchen. I’ve also recently gotten into baking my own breads. It’s been humbling, to say the least. I’m learning through baking that it’s ok to start over and over again. 

Markets & shopping 

  • I like to shop for my food between Trader Joe’s and Greene Grape market. Both are really close to my home, and I’m able to find specialty items and fresh poultry at Greene Grape.

  • I also buy my spices in bulk from the East African grocery in Seattle. I can count on them to have everything I need such as Berbere, Shiro, and teas from back home. If you live in Fort Greene, you might find me stalking the aisles of the area grocery stores DAILY, as that’s how I like to shop.

Fridge must-haves 

  • Bulks of spinach

  • Fresh green juice, made daily ( Spinach, Ginger, Lemons, Pea Protein, Almond milk and ground Flax seeds

  • Lots of lemons

  • Fresh ginger

Pantry staples 

  • Cumin

  • Cinnamon sticks

  • Whole cloves

  • Berbere

  • Teff flour

  • Xawaash — Somali food is typically seasoned with a spice blend called Xawaash (pronounced Hawash), and it helps give every recipe a unique level of flavoring. I grew up with it, adore it and personalize it in every way I can. Xawaash is used to season everything from sauces like our red Tamarind date, pasta sauces, rice and most meat dishes. It’s similar to Garam Masala, made up of cumin seeds, cardamom seeds, cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon bark, turmeric powder, and black pepper. 

Cookbooks

To Sum it Up: 

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