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Interview: Yasemen Kaner-White


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12th March 2018

Some say that when life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Well, after talking with Yasemen Kaner-White, we’d say - lemon makes everything better. Following her recent talk at the Devonshire Club, we caught up with her, to talk books, travel and all things lemony.

Vibrant, red-lipped and glowing… I’m starting to think there might actually be something to this lemony lifestyle. Yasemen’s English-Cypriot heritage and passion for travel have driven her love of experimenting with cuisines from all around the world. A woman after my own heart, Yasemen relishes expanding her understanding of various cultures, paradigms – and especially her tastebuds! There is evidence of this insatiable hunger for unique stories behind each health tip, lifestyle hack and delicious recipe in her new book Lemon Compendium.

So, we know you’re a lover of travel and all that comes with it, but Who or what inspires you to cook?

“From a young age I have been enthused by trying new foods, always appreciating the connection to the country it comes from, the way it would traditionally be eaten and exploring possible flavour combinations. As for who inspires me, my mother always cooked healthy fresh meals at home, using a range of herbs and spices discovered on her travels. She always encouraged me to cook with her, using a huge variety ingredients, so some credit definitely goes to her!”.

Does your culture and family heritage play a big part in your day-to-day cooking?

“I have a mixed heritage of English and Turkish Cypriot, so from 9-years old, I have visited Cyprus regularly, even living there for two-years. So yes, both cultures, in different ways, have taught me a thing or two about food and culture. I love how in Cyprus breakfast can be such an effortless joy with fresh ingredients; homemade bread, village cheese, homegrown tomatoes, cucumbers, olives and olive oil with a squeeze of lemon from the tree outside. England is fabulous for a roast lunch in a family gathering with a log fire”.

Name your favourite recipe from the book?

“Easy - Molehiya, under Cyprus in the Global Lemony Grub section. This is my favourite chapter which features my lemon inspired recipes from virtually every country in the world (either from my travels or personal research from my network). When I smell it cooking on the hob, immediately I am ‘transported’ to Cyprus. Whenever I travel there, it is not uncommon for me to eat it daily. This dish is essentially similar to spinach but much more unique, cooked with onion, tomatoes and chicken or lamb. This a bowl of iron-rich deliciousness, served with rice, strained yogurt, village bread, a few pickles, and yes, you guessed it, wedges of lemon - the dish would be lost without lemon!”  

Name a destination on your bucket list, which you would love to eat and drink your way through?

“I haven’t been to India yet, but I love Indian cuisine, so that has been on my list for a while”.

Making a dream happen can be a difficult and daunting task, where did you start?

“With a list in my kitchen, helped by circumstances and life’s twists and turns. I decided to leave Cyprus the year I started my book, maybe it was my way of keeping it close. Writing about lemons, a huge feature of Cypriot life made the transition to England again, much easier”. 

For all the aspiring authors out there, what are your words of wisdom?

“Don’t beat yourself up if you haven’t made as much progress as you would have liked, there is always another day and in my experience, sometimes the longer a book takes to write, the better. Then again, it is also important to try and form some structure to your days, for example, dedicate the morning or afternoon to writing and turn your mobile off!”

What is next for Yasemen Kaner-White?

“Definitely more culinary travel tales on my BBC Berkshire radio slot. I am also currently working on bringing a delicious vegan product to market, so watch this space!”

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So if you’re like the team at The Sybarite and anything lemon goes? From lemon infused cocktails and drizzle cake, to lemony lifestyle hacks that will make your citrus-filled dreams come true. Check out Yasemen Kaner-White’s - Lemon Compendium and more of her delicious recipes available right here.

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