To celebrate Refugee Week in the spirit of Jo Cox Foundation's More In Common, we invited everyone to share a favourite recipe from their background and culture. Below are the delicious recipes that we have received from some of the refugees we support and some of our volunteers. Thank you all for sharing them with us.
My name is Allaa and I am a cook and spice maker from Syria. I had to leave my home city of Aleppo in 2013 and spent some time in Egypt before coming to the UK. We came to the UK in 2017 and in 2019 we settled in Leatherhead where we are very happy. We have a strong community and network around us here. I am in the process of setting up my catering business to provide traditional Syrian food for dinner parties and events as well as selling some items at local markets. I have passed my Food Hygiene Certificate and trained as a Migrateful Chef so I can host Syrian cookery classes. I am also working to set up my own spice business in the UK. Sharing my food and sharing my recipes brings me happiness and joy.
This dip is a beautiful deep rich red colour and full of flavour, perfect for dipping samosas, bread or using as a sandwich filling.
1 Red bell pepper
1 medium Onion
2 tbsp Pepper paste (hot or sweet)
4 tbsp Pomegranate molasses
½ Lemon, juiced
½ tsp Salt
100ml Olive oil
Samosas can be found all over Syria, and come with a wide range of different fillings, these ones were invented by Allaa, but have become very famous and popular with her extended family, with the combination of chicken, mushrooms, and cheese, with a 7 spice mix. red colour and full of flavour, perfect for dipping samosas, bread or using as a sandwich filling.
250g Plain flour
1 tbsp Nigella seeds
1.5 tbsp Cooking oil
200g Chicken, boneless and skinless breast
1½ tbsp Cooking oil
150g Grated cheddar
1 tin Mushrooms
1 tbsp Curry powder
1 Chicken stock cube
½ Lemon, juiced
3 cloves Garlic
1½ tbsp Apple vinegar
½ tsp Salt
½ tsp Aleppo 7 Spice
1 litre Cooking oil
Note: You can buy Aleppo 7 spice in most Middle Easter stores or make from a mix of black pepper, ginger, cardamom, cinnamon, cubibh, nutmeg and clove
from: Carmen Ratoi (of Zig Zag cafe)
I’m so happy to share this recipe with you today because this literally is one of the most common made dishes by my mother as we were growing up, and still is in her household and mine. So needless to say, I learned to make these meatballs a very long time ago. We call these “Chiftele” which is the Romanian word for meatballs.
I still remember that every single time my mother would make these, besides the fact that I was always in the kitchen with her, I was always in charge of rolling them.
And the taste, oh the taste! These meatballs are packed full of fresh herbs and some grated potato. I love parsley, so I’ll put a lot in these meatballs.A bit of dill or coriander will give it a nice interesting taste as well.
Potato? In Meatballs?
Forget all other meatball recipes, this recipe is to die for! We actually shred some potatoes and add it to the meat mixture. I’m not exactly sure why, but from what I heard from my mother is that back in the day, meat was more expensive, so to make more you’d add potatoes. Now of course, I do it because I find that the potato makes the meatballs juicier and I just love the texture of it.
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 small onions or 1 large, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic finely minced
2 lb ground pork, beef or mix
2 medium potatoes grated
2 large eggs
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp salt or to taste
1/2 tsp pepper or to taste
1/4 cup parsley finely chopped
1/4 cup dill fresh, finely chopped
oil for frying
All you need is a cheese grater – yup that’s right! Use the grater to shred up your potato nice and fine before incorporating them into your meatballs. It will ensure they stay nice and moist and have super consistent flavour. Prefer To Bake Your Meatballs?
These meatballs can also be baked. Bake at 400 F degrees for about 30 to 45 minutes or until cooked through.
I love using pork or beef in my meatballs because they always turn out so juicy from the higher fat content. You can use any type of ground meat that you like! Keep in mind that meat with a lower fat content like turkey, chicken, or lean ground beef will yield dryer meatballs.
You can mix a lean type of meat with something fattier like lamb, regular ground beef, or pork.
You can use these meatballs for your spaghetti, with mashed potatoes, you can make a tomato sauce with them, or you can just plainly eat them by themselves with bread and mustard. You can fry these, or if you’re watching your weight, you can even bake them.
This meatball recipe will last 3 – 4 days in the fridge if stored in an airtight container.
To freeze just place the cooked meatballs on a baking sheet and freeze separately to begin with. Transfer them to a freezer bag or otherwise airtight container and place back in the cold and they’ll keep for up to 3 months.
from: Emma Fry
This is very simple recipe and great for family meals or an easy one if you are having people over as it requires limited intervention. I had a similar dish in Ithaca in Greece whilst listening to Rod Stewart by the waters edge on a hot summer night about 17 years ago – Rod Stewart is not everyone’s favourite, but I assure you the whole experience was dreamy 😊 I found this recipe on BBC Food a few years ago in my hunt to recreate the gastro experience so all credit to them for this – (Mary Cadogan I believe). Enjoy with a light salad for some greenery and if you love to be a bit rustic, a great big hunk of homemade bread. (Like Rachel’s soda bread). To complete the experience you could try playing some Rod Stewart , but finding some beautiful sea and a hot evening may be a bit difficult in Epsom.
1. Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Cut the lamb into 4cm chunks, then spread over the base of a wide casserole dish. Add the onions, oregano, cinnamon sticks, ground cinnamon and olive oil, then stir well. Bake, uncovered, for 45 mins, stirring halfway.
2. Pour over the chopped tomatoes and stock, cover tightly, then return to the oven for 1½ hrs, until the lamb is very tender.
3. Remove the cinnamon sticks, then stir in the orzo. Cover again, then cook for a further 20 mins, stirring halfway through. The orzo should be cooked and the sauce thickened. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan and serve with crusty bread.
from: May Real-Firman
For me a selection of mezze and grilled meat dishes, brings back happy memories of family gatherings on a Sunday around my parents' dining table. It is a bit like the Lebanese version of a Sunday roast.
1 tin of chickpeas
1 clove of garlic
Juice of one lemon
3 tbsp tahini paste
Salt to season
Put all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. You might need to add a bit of water or more lemon juice to reach the right texture and taste.
Transfer to a serving dish and drizzle with olive oil.
2 grilled sweet peppers
Handful of walnuts or a mixture of any nuts
1 small clove of garlic
2 tbsp of breadcrumbs
1 tbsp olive oil
Half a tsp ground cumin
Salt to season
Brush the peppers with olive olive and put under a hot grill for 15 min. Let them cool down. Put the nuts, garlic and oil in a food processor and blitz. Add the rest of the ingredients to the ground nuts mixture and continue mixing until you get a fine purée.
Transfer to a serving bowl and drizzle with olive oil.
My children absolutely adore this appetiser. They love pulling the leaves out and eating the meaty lemony base.
1 globe artichoke
1 clove of garlic
Juice of one lemon
A good splash of olive oil
Salt to season
Boil the globe artichoke for 25 min or until the leaves detach easily when pulled.
For the dressing, crush the garlic with the salt until very smooth, add lemon juice and olive oil and whisk.
Transfer the artichoke to a bowl and drizzle the dressing between the leaves.
A handful of salad leaves
Couple of tomatoes
1 small pepper
Few mint leaves
Few parsley leaves
1 small shallot
1 small clove of garlic
1 tbsp sumac
Salt to season
3-4 tbsp olive oil
Juice of one lemon
Deep fried Lebanese bread (or flatbread) broken into small squares
Deep fry the bread (it is naughty, but nice!) set to the side and let cool. Cut the salad into big pieces and set to the side.
Cut the onion into thin slices. Crush the garlic, mix with lemon juice and olive oil.
Transfer all ingredients into a salad bowl and sprinkle the sumac. Mix the salad so the dressing and sumac are well mixed in and spread the fried bread on the top.
1 kg chicken breast cut into cubes
Mushroom, peppers or courgettes cut into chunks
For the marinade :
5-6 cloves of garlic crushed into a fine purée
1 tbsp dried mixed herbs
1 tsp mixed spices
Juice of half of a lemon
Half a cup of vegetable oil
1 tbsp tomato purée
Salt to taste
Mix all the marinade ingredients well together then add the chicken and mix again. Leave to marinate in the fridge overnight. When ready to cook, put the chicken onto skewers and alternate with the chosen vegetables.
Cook on the BBQ or under a grill for around 15 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.
from: Frances Stamp
My mum is from the Philippines and today I’m going to share her recipe for a classic Filipino dessert, Leche flan. This ultimate comfort food is the Filipino equivalent of crème caramel and was brought to the Philippines during Spanish colonisation.
My mum would make Leche flan for us on special occasions or whenever she was missing her homeland. For me, Leche flan is an expression of love from mum and celebrates our Filipino heritage. My dad is British and for his 60th birthday party, we served Leche flan. It was wonderful to share our culture with so many British friends and hear them enthuse over this delicious dessert!
Food is very linked to identity and in my experience, is the easiest way to experience another culture. By volunteering with the Epsom Refugee Network, I have been introduced to Syrian cuisine from my generous hosts. Harak osbao, a Syrian lentil dish, is a firm favourite. I may not be able to pronounce its name but I have learnt to make it for my family! It is a real joy to bring a little bit of Syria into my kitchen.
Now onto the recipe for Leche flan. You are in for a treat!
10 egg yolks
1 tin condensed milk
1 tin evaporated milk
1 tsp vanilla essence
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
Note: Leche Flan is traditionally made in a metal tin called a Llanera. If you don’t have one, you can use a takeaway foil tray, cake tin or ramekins.
There are two ways to cook leche flan:
This is the method my mum uses. If you have a steamer, place the leche flan in the basket of the steamer. Put hot water in the bottom of the steamer and steam the leche flan. The cooking time depends on how big your leche flan is. You will know when there are cooked by poking a skewer into the custard and it comes out clean.
2. Bain marie in the oven
Fill an oven proof dish with one inch of water. Place your tightly wrapped Leche Flan into the water. They should sit in the water, not totally immersed. Put in the oven at 190C until cooked. The cooking time depends on the size of your tin (mine toom 40 minutes). You will know when there are cooked by poking a skewer into the custard and it comes out clean.
Marvel at how great a chef you are! Invite friends and family to eat this delicious Filipino dessert with you (whilst maintain social distancing)!
from: Rachel Cahill
This recipe belongs to my grandmother who lived in Ireland. It is the opposite of white fluffy bread and so can be easily made by someone who isn't familiar with baking. It is cooked in a frying pan on a cooker top so you get to see it and check it as often as you want. Irish soda bread is wholesome and filling - the best way to begin any day topped with plenty of butter (Ireland is the land of rain, grass, cows and milk!!) and your favourite jam. This recipe brings back so many lovely memories of breakfast time when I was going up...enjoy !
These ingredients can be found in health food stores and buttermilk can be made using milk with a little lemon juice.
from: Anne Clay
110gm self-raising flour
1 rounded tsp ground ginger
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
40gm granulated sugar
2 tblsp golden syrup
From: Allaa Zeno
I would like to share a dish of the most famous traditional Syrian food, which is popular in many regions, which is the fattah. There are several types of fattah, such as hummus fatte, chicken fattah, and lamb tongue fattah. Here I will tell you how to make the hummus fattah.
2 loaves of Syrian bread or any flat bread, It must be sliced or cut into small squares.
1 tin of chickpeas.
5 tblsp tahina.
2 tblsp yogurt
Juice of 1 lemon
3 cloves of garlic (Some people love more garlic and some people prefer less).
Ghee or olive oil
Toasted nuts (cashews, pistachios, pine)
Parsley, mint, pomegranate, tomatoes and nuts for garnishing and ground cumin and paprika.
First of all, fry the bread in oil or grill a little in the oven.
Heat chickpeas with water.
In a blender, add tahini, lemon juice, garlic cloves and salt. You can adjust the sourness by using more lemon juice. Blend well.
Remove 1/3rd of the chickpeas from the water and reserve. Add the remaining chickpeas with the water and blend with the mixture.
Taste to adjust the salt and lemon, then add the rest of the the chickpeas - stirring with a spoon (do not blend them).
Finely chop parsley, mint, tomatoes and prepare the pomegranate seeds.
You can toast nuts like cashews, pistachios or pine, whatever you prefer.
Put the mixture on a flat serving plate with a depth of 4 or 5 cm.
You can add animal ghee or olive oil for vegetarians - heat the oil or ghee a little and put it on the surface of the mixture to give a harmonious and beautiful appearance. Then dust with cumin and paprika on the top.
Lastly sprinkle the chopped parsley, mint, tomatoes and add pomegranate seeds for decoration and health and happiness for everyone.
Quincey Kibbeh (Quince Kibbeh) is considered one of the widely known and appetising dishes of Aleppo Cuisine. It is characterised by the sweet and sour flavour of quince and pomegranate juice which are part of the ingredients. This makes it highly nutritious because it contains two important elements for body health, proteins and minerals.
1 kg quince
250gm tomato purée
2 large cups of pomegranate juice (or more according to taste)
1 kg large cut pieces of meat
garlic and mint
For the Kibbeh
1 kg of fine bulgar wheat
1 chicken breast
1 large onion
1 teaspoonful of paprika
For the kibbeh preparation, place the onions , chicken breast, salt, paprika and pepper/spice in a food processor and finely mince. Add the prepared chicken mince to the bulgar, add some water and keep rubbing them together (add water as you go) until it becomes a homogeneous mixture. Form small balls out of the mixture.
Place boiling water in a pan and add 2 large spoons of salt. Add the kibbeh and boil for 10-15 minutes until cooked and place aside.
To prepare the quince, place the meat pieces in a pan then add water, tomato purée and pomegranate juice and bring to the boil until the meat is cooked (or you can use a pressure cooker).
Then cut the quince into medium sized cubes and add to the meat and keep boiling until cooked.
Mash the garlic and mint and place on top.
Place few Kibbeh in a plate then add the quince sauce on top.
Serve and may it bring well being.
from: Ban Hikmat
There are many varieties of kibbeh in the Middle Eastern and Arabic Cuisines. As far as I know this scrumptious rice variety is only made in Iraq. Although I’m not really sure why it is named after the city of Aleppo, I remember reading somewhere that in the past it was taken as food supply by merchants travelling between Mosul (in Iraq) and Aleppo (in Syria).
To me the homemade variety is a real treat. The ingredients are simple but it does need some skill to make. Here is my mother’s recipe. Enjoy it and Happy Cooking.
1: For the dough:
1 cup of dry rice (basmati rice will give a nice flavour but any variety will do)
2 1/2 - 3 cups of water + 1 small bowl of water
1/4 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp salt (less or more to taste)
2: For the filling:
250g minced beef or lamb ( I prefer reduced fat beef mince)
1 medium onion finely diced
1/4 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/4 tsp ground coriander
a handful of finely chopped fresh parsley (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
cooking oil for frying
1: To make the dough
In a saucepan add the dry rice, cups of water, turmeric and salt. Bring to the boil uncovered then reduce heat. Keep cooking until all the water is absorbed by the rice. The end result should be sticky soft rice that can be made into a dough. Leave to cool down then kneed by hand into a homogeneous dough.
2: To make the filling
In a separate pan brown the meat on medium heat. Keep turning and tossing until most of the moisture is absorbed. Then add the spices, salt and pepper and onion. Carry on turning and cooking until all the moisture is absorbed and the meat is thoroughly cooked. Turn off the heat and add the parsley (if using). Leave to cool down.
3: To make the Kibbeh
Use a small bowl of water to wet your hands when making the Kibbeh to prevent the dough from sticking to your fingers.
Take a small handful of dough and make it into a flat circle. Place a tsp of the cooked minced meat in the centre then gather the edges to seal off the mince meat filling. Shape into a cylinder and keep aside. Repeat this step until all the dough is used.
4: In a deep frier or frying pan heat the cooking oil. Deep fry the Kibbeh on several badges to prevent the oil from cooling down. Fry until golden brown in colour.
Serve them hot with a salad.
If you have dough leftover, make it into small circular discs and fry them. They still taste good.
For a vegetarian version substitute the meat with a mixture of cooked finely diced carrots, onion, mushrooms, potatoes mixed with cooked peas or any other vegetable.
From: Ahmad Al-Rashid
A Syrian dish with chicken, potatoes, aubergines and tomatoes. The chicken can be substituted with Quorn fillets for vegetarians - this photo shows one of each type.
4 large potatoes, sliced
4 large tomatoes, sliced
2 aubergines, sliced
2 lemons, thinly sliced
2 tblsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
6 cloves of garlic sliced
4 chicken breasts, sliced
Flat leaf parsley for serving
For the sauce:
1/2 onion, chopped
2 tsps Arabic spices (a mixture of ground black pepper, paprika, ground cumin, ground coriander, ground cloves, ground nutmeg, and ground cinnamon)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tblsp tomato puree
Make the tomato sauce by frying the onion in a little olive oil till soft.
Add spices and fry for a minute
Add chopped tomatoes and tomato puree
Allow to simmer for 10 minutes
Heat over to 200C
Put potatoes, aubergines, tomatoes and garlic in layers in a large ovenproof dish and scatter the chopped onions over.
Add salt and pepper and toss everything in the oil
Dip chicken pieces into the tomato sauce and cover the vegetables
Dip lemon slices into the tomato sauce and put over the chicken
Drizzle oil over the top
Bake for 40 minutes
Scatter with torn parsley leaves before serving.
From: Nina Kaye
Chicken Soup with Matzoh balls (known as Kneidlach) is the absolute classic 'feel-better' soup, often known as 'Jewish penicillin'. Every Jewish family has its own recipe handed down from mother to daughter and this is the recipe I remember my grandmother making. Her flat always had this warming smell of freshly made chicken soup.
Traditionally you use the all the leftovers of a roasted chicken including the carcass and all the bones as well as any giblets. Nothing gets wasted from the chicken - even the fat is used to make the matzoh balls.
75ml chicken soup or water
3 tblsp chicken fat
4 oz matzoh meal
1/2 tsp salt
Beat eggs and soup together and add melted chicken fat. Add salt and pepper. Gradually stir in the matzoh meal until the consistency is like mashed potatoes.
Chill for at least 5 hours
Form into balls using your palms and boil in salted water for 25 mintues.
Put the chicken into a large saucepan and add root vegetables (onions with their skins, carrots, parsnip, leeks, celery stalk, suede) and boil gently in an uncovered saucepan for at least 2 hours, adding salt and pepper as wished. Skim away any froth from the top. Let it cool in the saucepan with the lid on to room temperature.
Drain the soup into a large bowl and put in the fridge until any fat has solidified. You can add the carrots back into the soup. When it is chilled, skim the fat off and keep this for making the matzoh balls.