For the last few months I’ve been working on a second edition of Taste of Freedom.
The success of the Syrian refugee food event in Bath and the amazing work being done by local charity Bath Welcomes Refugees, gave me an idea that this next version should focus particularly on the favourite dishes of Bath’s Syrian families. Since their arrival here, they have generated a lot of local enthusiasm for Middle Eastern food through cooking at a number of events, picnics and get togethers in Bath.
Mum’s recipes will still be included, as well as those of other people I know through family connections and my visit to Syria. Every one of them has delicious recipes to share, and is helping make sure that the next edition will be a bumper pack of deliciousness! It’s a labour of love and I’m pretty excited about it.
I’m learning a huge amount during the process. In the Middle East it’s unusual to write down a recipe and pass it on. My Mum had a similar approach to that of the Syrian ladies I have been getting to know – “I’m not sure how I would write it down, I just cook it the way it feels right!” There’s so much skill involved - skills that have been passed down from generation to generation without a cookbook or notepad in sight.
The preferred way for the Syrian ladies to pass me their recipes is for us to meet, socialise, cook and eat together. The real pleasure in this is that the language barrier doesn't matter – we just work alongside each other and then appreciate the results together.
A typical cooking day involves me turning up at one of the families’ houses with a notepad and pen and immediately getting in the way while attempting to help. There are all sorts of pots and pans on the go at the same time while the children happily entertain themselves around our feet. Often the action happens so fast I barely get a chance to write it down. And it all seems so effortless!
So far I have scribbled down a range of incredible dishes including:
Makluba (upside down chicken and rice cake)...
Stuffed vine leaves...
Sambousek (meat pastries) and shish barak (tiny meat dumplings in yoghurt soup)...
Four kinds of the very best kibbee...
Basbousa (moist semolina syrup cake)...
and last but not least, kanafe (filo pastry and cheese cake soaked in syrup - highly addictive).
Still to come is Kurdish cous cous, shakkariya (chicken in a yoghurt sauce) plus many other recipes I’ve picked up from friends and supporters of the book.
I’m loving finding out more about Syria’s exciting food culture and look forward to sharing it with a wider audience. All proceeds will go to Bath Welcomes Refugees as well as Doctors of the World, a charity delivering urgent medical aid to refugees worldwide.
ABOUT THE CHARITIES
Bath Welcomes Refugees has one simple aim: to bring to safety and security in the UK, those people persecuted and in danger in their own countries and homelands, and in particular to help them settle in Bath or the surrounding area, should that be where their journey ends.
Click here to donate to Bath Welcomes Refugees
Doctors of the World (DOTW) empowers excluded people to access healthcare at home and abroad.
Click here to donate to DOTW
Click here to buy a copy of Taste of Freedom, a collection of my Mum's recipes raising money for DOTW.