Ghaya Oliveira on Her Amazing Grandmother
Chef Ghaya Oliveira shares a recipe honoring her grandmother—the woman who inspired her to cook—and changed her life.
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Who: Ghaya Oliveira
What: Pastry Chef
Where: Daniel in New York City
I was born and raised in Tunisia and spent every summer on the Mediterranean. When I was little, my grandmother Tej el Beha (“crown of happiness” in Arabic) cooked for the family. She would shop, then come in with her raffia bag filled with vegetables, butter and eggs. She would crack a fresh egg in her hand so I could drink the yolk from her palm. The kitchen shelf was lined with spices and jars filled with things she and my mother had made: preserved lemons, pickled peppers, rose and quince jams. But my favorite thing that my grandmother prepared was custard. She didn’t teach me to make it, but I stood by her, watching and waiting. “It will be ready in five minutes,” she would tell me, and it always was. She’d use the custard to make ourta for Ramadan. Every family prepares their own pastry for the holidays; we made ourta. For me, it’s still the ultimate treat: layers of flaky pastry filled with crushed nuts and the sweet custard I love so much. —As told to Kate Krader
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