A frozen food line that Zahra Abdalla would stock in her own freezer, the dishes draw on her heritage and life experiences.
Zahra Abdalla first had the idea for a frozen food line over a decade ago, long before she established herself as a blogger, cookbook author and restaurateur (she’s opening a Persian eatery called Picniq), as well as a regular contributor to Spinneys magazine.
“Back then I didn’t have the insight or the resources to bring that idea to the next level,” she says. “And the dynamic of Dubai was very different, it was harder then to start a business without heavy investment. So I put it on the back burner.”
Today that concept has been defrosted, if you like, in the Spinneys Local Business Incubator, with Zahra identified and supported as a major new market contender for her line of super-tasty freezer-snacks.
“It’s very humbling,” she says. “Yes I’ve built up a reputation in the last 10 years but it’s not enough. I know my strengths and weaknesses and I really needed the right guidance on how to grow, how to do it right. What better mentors than Spinneys? You’ve been doing this for 60 years.”
The products themselves appeal in part as an extension of Zahra’s existing personal brand, whereby her followers on social media trust her to share recipes that work. “The idea of Zahra’s Kitchen was always to share what I would stock in my freezer and what I use to make my life easier.”
She draws plenty on her Iranian-Sudanese background in her cooking, but also on the influence of various other cultures and cuisines: Zahra has also lived in Greece, Saudi Arabia, London, the US and Canada.
Greek feta helps make her cheese and beef sambousek such a flavourful variation on the staple pastries she grew up with, while her musakhan rolls are a nod to her Palestinian-Jordanian husband and her mother-in-law in particular. “They’re slow-cooked for a really nice balance between the meat and onions.” Rounding out the line, her za’atar cheese rolls are just “fun” to make and eat. Her ambitions go beyond mere convenience though and she sees these frozen snacks as working toward a couple of essential goals.
“One would be the empowerment of women. There aren’t a lot of spaces in this market where female entrepreneurship has thrived.” The other is simply to “keep it clean”, environmentally speaking. “No additives, no preservatives, no GMOs. And it will be a challenge to keep prices low while maintaining the eco-packaging but I believe it’s worth it.”