Hawa Hassan is a culinary triple threat: dynamic chef, TV personality and entrepreneur. As the founder of Basbaas Sauce, a line of condiments inspired by her home country of Somalia, she has racked up accolades and a devoted fanbase of foodies. “Spice of Life”, Hassan’s TV show on Food Network, highlights recipes with African flavor profiles and cooking styles broken down for viewers to try at home. Through her platforms, Hassan strives to bring visibility to African cuisine and encourage her audience to expand their palettes. 

Her first cookbook-meets-travelogue, In Bibi's Kitchen: The Recipes and Stories of Grandmothers from the Eight African Countries that Touch the Indian Ocean , recently nominated for a James Beard award, shares recipes and stories from grandmothers, or “bibis” from eight African countries. Using her travels and culture, she uses her experiences to cook her own modern take on traditional African food. On Instagram, Hassan shares “In Bibi’s Kitchen is centered on the world that women help sustain, the recipes and traditions that keep whole cultures intact. I'm grateful to every Bibi who entrusted us with their precious histories. My hope is that this book reveals to readers a more accurate and intimate Africa, and that they see themselves reflected in the stories of these courageous and inspiring women.”

Hawa Hassan. Image: courtesy of subject.

She walks us through two of the book’s savory recipes so you can recreate her signature, flavorful dishes at home.

Kachumbari (Tomato and Onion Salad)

Image: courtesy of Penguin Random House



1 tablespoon kosher salt, plus more as needed

1 cup boiling water

1 small red onion, thinly sliced into half-moons

2 large tomatoes, diced

1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced

3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice

1 ripe avocado, pitted, peeled, and diced


Dissolve the salt in the boiling water in a small bowl. Add the onion and mix well. Let the onion soak while you chop the rest of your vegetables. This soaking will reduce the intensity of the raw onion.

Once the onion has soaked for at least 10 minutes, drain and transfer it to a medium bowl. Add the tomatoes, cucumber, and lime juice and stir well to combine. Season the vegetables to taste with salt if needed (it will depend on how much salt the onions held on to). Gently stir in the avocado and serve immediately.

Somali Beef Stew

Image: courtesy of Penguin Random House



2 tablespoons canola oil

1 red onion, thinly sliced

3 garlic cloves, minced

2 tablespoons Xawaash Spice Mix 

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 teaspoons kosher salt, plus more as needed

2 cups water

2 pounds boneless beef chuck or other stew meat, cut into  bite-sized  pieces

2 baking potatoes, cut into  bite-sized  pieces

2 large carrots, cut into thin coins

1 red bell pepper, stemmed, seeded, and cut into thin strips

Xawaash Spice Mix


One 2-inch piece cinnamon stick

½ cup cumin seeds

½ cup coriander seeds

2 tablespoons black peppercorns

6 cardamom pods


Cooked rice, hot sauce (such as Somali Cilantro and Green Chile Pepper Sauce), cilantro leaves, lime wedges, and fresh bananas, for serving

Warm the oil in a large Dutch oven or other heavy pot set over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in the Xawaash, tomato paste, and salt and cook until aromatic, about 1 minute. Stir in the water and increase the heat to high. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, then stir in the beef and potatoes. Partially cover the pot (leave the lid slightly ajar so steam can escape) and simmer until the beef and potatoes are just cooked through, about 45 minutes.

Stir in the carrots and bell pepper and cook, covered, until the beef and vegetables are all very tender, an additional 30 minutes. Season the stew to taste with salt and serve over rice with hot sauce and cilantro for topping, lime wedges for squeezing over, and bananas for eating alongside. Leftovers can be stored in an airtight con-tainer in the refrigerator for up to a few days and rewarmed in a heavy pot set over low heat (stir while you heat).