A fellow AGA owner shared this photo of her beautiful cream AGA resting proudly against a brick backsplash in juxtaposition with brightly colored cookware, and I simply had to meet her.
While I’ve had the pleasure of chatting with many fascinating people in my lifetime, Nimco ranks as one of the more memorable. A native of Somalia, she was adopted by German parents, later moving to Egypt at age 12 and then on to England, where she would later meet her British-born husband. The couple finally settled in the All-American city of Somerville, Massachusetts, to raise a family.
Nimco dreamt of owning an AGA since her first encounter with the iconic cast iron beauty at the young age of 14 in Egypt.
“I think it’s beautiful in its own right,” she reflects during our conversation over the phone. “It’s the place where everyone gathers.”
And as good fortune would have it, Nimco’s mother-in-law bought her one—a gift that continues to offer daily rewards.
“It’s absolutely wonderful to cook on,” Nimco gushed over the phone with her marvelous European accent. “I literally cook every single day. Cooking is so much more fun and easy.”
Nimco reveals she’d rather spend most her time cooking. “If I could have it my way, I’d have a couple of rooms and the rest of my house would be a kitchen.”
She owns thousands of cookbooks (her preferred reading material before retiring to bed at night) and has acquired an impressive collection of enamel cast iron cookware over the years.
“Oh, it makes such a difference. It cooks beautifully. Some women buy shoes and makeup—I buy cookware!”
Word of her talent is spreading. This weekend, she will be catering for 40 people, the entire spread to be capably handled by her and her AGA alone. She also teaches private cooking classes in her home, usually in groups of six at a time.
“All of them now want an AGA someday. When I make something, people think I performed a miracle!”
And the passion is contagious among her family. Her 8-year-old son, Adan, also loves to cook, and his particular specialty is banana bread. “He’s quite proud to make it all on his own, and then I place it in the oven.”
Nimco recalls a story that best describes the refined palates of her family. “The teacher once asked my son what his favorite food was. You’d think it would be macaroni and cheese, but he told her steak and oysters.”
While it’s clear from her experiences she’s no novice to the kitchen, Nimco really hands it to her AGA. “You take chicken breast, and it comes out moist. It makes food taste good.”
In addition to teaching, Nimco also writes recipes and is currently working on a Somali cookbook, developing her favorite meals with cross-cultural appeal. She once told the Boston Globe in an interview: “’My comfort food is always, always Somali food.’ This includes stews with chicken or fish, cumin, coriander, garlic and rice and potatoes, a variety of pancakes, and lots of clear soups. She also likes Thai and Ethiopian food.”
She was happy to share a home-inspired recipe with us fellow AGA fanatics today, a personal favorite of hers. I hope you enjoy this as much as I did my chat with Nimco. Today, you'll find her working with Chris Kimball of Milk Street and sharing how to make soup the Somali way.
- 3 T extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 T unsalted butter
- 6 Roma tomatoes
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pinch saffron
- 1 T fennel seeds, ground with mortar and pestle or spice grinder
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 3 lbs of Paiche fillet, cut into six or eight equal parts
- 1 tsp mixed peppercorns (black, green and pink)
- 2 T of fennel fronds, chopped
- 2 T freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 tsp of cane sugar
- 4 servings of prepared rice
- Heat olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed skillet on the boiling plate.
- Add onion and cook until lightly browned, about 6 minutes.
- Add butter. Quarter tomatoes and add to browned onions.
- Stir, cover and transfer to the simmering plate. Simmer for 10 to 12 minutes.
- Allow to cool slightly before pureeing in a food processor or blender. (Nimco uses a handheld blender stick).
- Add garlic, saffron and fennel seed to sauce, then sugar and salt. Cook for additional 5 minutes.
- Pour half of the tomato sauce in a baking dish and place the fillets on top, leaving 1/2 inch between each fillet.
- Pour remaining sauce over all and sprinkle with peppercorns and chopped fennel fronds.
- Place in the baking oven (uncovered) for 20 minutes.
- Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and continue to bake for 5 more minutes.
- Remove from oven and serve over rice.