Moustafa El-Refaey

“As chefs we get paid to play with food… so  I make sure to enjoy that.”

Chef Moustafa discovered his passion for food at an early age, with his grandmother being a big influence in his cooking style. Moustafa went on to study the culinary arts in the USA, and became a Professor, teaching Professional Cooking and introduction to hospitality. Moustafa is now the Executive Chef, Cofounder and Partner of Zooba Home Grown, in Egypt with 6 Restaurants. His culinary philosophy and passion reflects the growing trend towards a healthier and more natural lifestyle. Working with neighboring farmers to seek out the finest in regional and local organic produce is the essence of his approach. Chef Moustafa creates cuisine that pleases the senses so that the natural flavuors of the food express themselves.

Favourite Iftar  & Sohour destinations…

Hard question. When you’re hungry you crave different kinds of food everyday. If I want grilled meats I prefer Alexandria Style (in Alex it’s more tender and juicy than Cairo). I like Balbaa. If I crave good Arabian Cuisine with amazing views then it’s Sequoia in Zamalek. If I crave a good Tagine and Homemade Egyptian Food, Mastabaa in  Point Ninty Tagamoaa and Al Mashy in Zamalik.  For Sohour, I love Zooba, Hamada Sheraton and Mohamed Ahmed in Alex in that order.

Favourite Iftar & Sohour dishes…For Iftar: Orzo Tagine with ox tail, stuffed vine leaves with lamb shank, Dawood Pacha with white rice and stuffed pigeon (farmer style). For Sohour: Foul medamis with hummus and lime juice, Shakshoka, white cheese and tomatoes.

Favourite Ramadanic drink…

Tamarind (No food coloring added)

Your most unforgettable memory during the Holy month…

I spent over 10 years in the USA and would work through Iftar every day and eat only after 3 more hours. A funny one was once I was invited in Tanta at my dad’s house, as I was driving at sunset, a guy next to me kept insisting on giving me a bag of dates. When I refused and carried on driving, he threw the bag at me, it hit me in the face and I drove into a wall. And then he came running over to me with two more bags of dates and the biggest smile on his face.

Biggest kitchen failure…

Luckily never happened to me.

Favourite Ramadanic dessert…

Konafa with Keshta. Peanut butter


Do you cook in Ramadan?

Of course, I cook at work and I

cook at home

Tip for surviving fasting…

Yoghurt, cucumber and a cup of tea

Secret ingredient…

Tiger nuts

Favorite recipes…

Dried dates and cumin encrusted beef filet with wheat berries, mixed with sun-dried tomatoes  & mushroom with roasted garlic, tomato sauce

Serves 20

For the Beef:


2kg Beef filet

100g Dried dates

30g Ground cumin

15g salt

8g Garlic powder

8g Onion powder

2g Coarse black pepper

5g Dried basil

5g Brown sugar

5g Paprika

80ml Olive oil

The Method:

Grind the dates in a spice grinder, then mix all the ingredients to form a paste. Cut the tenderloin into equal sections, rub it really well with the paste and wrap it tight in plastic wrap for 2 hours inside a fridge then using a skillet on medium high heat sear the filet to your desired temperature.

For the Wheat Berries, Mushroom and Sun-dried Tomatoes:


500g Wheat Berries (wheat)

3l Chicken stock

50ml Olive oil

100g Chopped onion

250g Sliced mushrooms

2g Coarse black pepper

5g Salt

5g Chopped rosemary

25g Sliced garlic

150ml Thinly slice sund-ried tomatoes

15g Chopped parsley

30g Chopped basil

150g Roomy cheese

The Method:

Place the wheat in a bowl and cover in enough hot water (around 2.5 cm). Let soak and drain. Add fresh water and cook the wheat berries until it’s al dente.

Meanwhile prepare the remaining ingredients. Bring the stock to a simmer and season with salt to taste.

Heat the oil over medium heat in a large, heavy nonstick skillet. Add the fresh mushrooms and cook while stirring until they begin to soften and sweat. Add the onion and cook while stirring until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic, half the basil, rosemary and sun-dried tomatoes and continue to cook, stirring often, until the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Add the wheat and cook while stirring until the grains start to separate and begin to crackle, about 2 minutes. Keep adding the stock ladle by ladle until the grain is fully cooked, remove from heat and add the Roomy cheese, the remaining herbs and adjust the seasoning.

To make the Sauce: 


15 Garlic cloves

150ml Olive oil

150g Tomatoes, chopped, seeded, peeled

15g Salt

100g Chopped onion

2g Coarse black pepper

30g Chopped basil

20g Thyme leaves

300ml Chicken stock

80g Tomato Paste

The Method:

In a small roasting pan, roast the garlic after mixing it with the oil, in the oven at 150 C for 15 mins until it’s soft. Remove the garlic and keep the oil.

In a saucepan, heat up the oil; add the onion and sauté for 3 minutes (don’t let the onion change colour). Add the roasted garlic after you chop it, add the tomato paste, and keep moving the onions, add the tomato chunks and bring heat down to low medium heat, add the herbs and spices and let it simmer for 5 minutes, add the stock and cook for 4 more mins. At this stage is totally up to you serve it chunky or puree it.

Poached apple in hibiscus orange syrup over vanilla yoghurt


1 1/2 cups Hibiscus

3/4 Cup sugar

1/3 Cup fresh orange juice

2 Strips orange peel (white pith trimmed)

1 Large strip of lemon peel (white pith trimmed)

1 Cinnamon stick

1 Whole star anise

4 Medium apples, peeled & cored (Pink Lady, Golden Delicious or Braeburn)

1 Cup greek-style yogurt

1 1/2 tbsp Honey

1 Vanilla bean, split lengthwise

1 tsp Pistachio

The Method:

Combine Hibiscus, sugar, orange juice, orange peel, lemon peel, cinnamon stick, star anise, and 2 cups water in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar is dissolved. Add apples; reduce heat to low and simmer, occasionally rotating apples, until tender when pierced with a sharp knife, 25-30 minutes.

Using a slotted spoon, transfer apples to a plate and set aside. Strain poaching liquid in pan into a small saucepan, discarding solids in strainer. Set saucepan over medium-high heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, until poaching liquid is syrupy and reduced to about 3/4 cup, 10-15 minutes (syrup will thicken as it cools).

Combine yogurt and honey in a small bowl. Scrape in seeds from vanilla bean; whisk until the yogurt sauce is smooth and well blended.

Divide yogurt sauce among plates. Place warm apples on top. Drizzle syrup over.