Woman who lost three generations of family in civil war launches own food brand
A London-based woman who lost her father, grandmother and two brothers in the Somali Civil War has achieved a life-long ambition by launching her own range of Africa-inspired sauces and pastes.
Saida Mia, 49, is behind an eponymous range of six products – three sauces and three pastes – that use plant-based ingredients to create “bold and distinctive” flavours that have been passed down through generations of her family.
Her range of sauces and pastes come in three flavours – Spiced Tagine, Berbere and Maraq – that have been inspired by Morocco and Tunisia, Ethiopia and Somalia respectively.
The launch is even more remarkable given the journey that Saida, who now lives in Westminster, has taken.
She was born in Somalia before her surgeon father’s job took her to Italy when she was six.
But after returning to her country of birth to see family in 1990, she and her seven sisters and two brothers were caught up in the conflict that raged between the Somali Armed Forces and various rebel groups.
Saida and a sister managed to flee to neighbouring Kenya, but not before her father, grandfather and two brothers were killed in the fighting – and Saida was separated from her mother and the rest of her siblings for decades. The experience left her “traumatised”, and she did not even speak for a year.
She eventually made it to the UK as a 15-year-old and was taken in by a family and subsequently went on to graduate with a Masters degree from what is now the University of Westminster.
But while continuing to work for the NHS three days a week, Saida has used her spare time to follow her passion – and create her own food brand. Her range of sauces and pastes come in three flavours – Spiced Tagine, Berbere and Maraq.
“All my life I was trying to do this business,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to build on my heritage to promote and sell African food. Whatever else has happened in my life, now is the time to make it correct.”
Saida’s love of cooking began as a young girl when she used to return to Somalia from Italy for the summer holidays.
There she was taught the art of using herbs and spices by her grandmother, Xowa, an inspirational cook who had travelled around Africa, the Middle East, Italy and Portugal.
“These recipes have been in my family for a very long time,” said Saida. “The only communication I had with the Somali side of my family was through food – we’d talk about food all the time and share recipes.”
Saida is now able to pass on the recipes to her own daughter, Shareen, but suffered further tragedy two years ago when her British husband, Selman, was killed in a road traffic accident in Dubai at the age of just 50.
She has however finally managed to track down her mother – incredibly, working for the United Nations in New York – while she regained contact with three sisters in America, one in Saudi Arabia and one in Dubai.
Saida is hoping that her determination in seeing through her dream serves as inspiration for others.
“If i can make it, anybody can make it,” she said. “I know a lot of people are suffering in this life. I want to show that whoever you are, whatever your background is, you can make it.”
The Saida Mia range of Africa-inspired sauces and pastes is available to buy on her website. Saida is hoping to launch her products into retail stores very soon, and is looking for retail partners who are especially interested in ethnic products.
Notes to editors
Saida Mia’s Spiced Tagine sauce and paste are inspired by the rich, heady flavours of Morocco and Tunisia. The Berbere sauce and paste are inspired by Ethiopia’s distinctive Berbere spice blends. The Maraq-style sauce and paste are inspired by the sweet and sour Maraqs of Somalia.
The sauces can be used to create a delicious meal quickly and easily, making delicious, traditional or fusion meals with vegetables, meat or fish. They are excellent served with couscous, flavoured or plain rice, or bread or a traditional Injera flatbread.
The Tagine, Berbere and Maraq-style pastes are for scratch cooks that want to take a bit more time and create their own recipes. They make an amazing sauce base, marinade or rub, and are also delicious as the foundation of traditional or fusion recipes.
More information: https://saidamia.com/
Published on PRFIRE