Pomegranate, tamarind and tahini are vital ingredients in Syrian cooking according to human rights activist and refugee, Majeda Khoury. She’s cooking up a delicious damask feast in collaboration with Help Refugees, at our newest Second Home – London Fields on the 27th February. Buy tickets for this very special supper club here.
“When you share food, you share love” says Khoury, when we spoke to her ahead of the event, “it’s how I sum up Syrian food. The food is full of the taste of love, it’s colourful and there are lots of special flavours.” She came to the UK at the end of 2017, after escaping political persecution for her human rights work in Syria. Away from home without family and friends, she found comfort and familiarity in feeding the many hosts she lived with. For her, “cooking was a way to promote Syria and integrate into society.”
Khoury is now on a mission to use her cooking, through classes and supper clubs, to raise the awareness of the Syrian humanitarian crisis. Particularly, “I want to speak about Syrian women and how they deal with the conflict, and how much power they have. They do a lot of things to carry and support their families,” she says. Food has always been at the heart of Khoury’s humanitarian work. She was imprisoned in 2015 for helping to feed refugees arriving in her city from other parts of Syria, “ I used to smuggle bread to feed people. I couldn’t watch them starve.” Recently, she’s used her cooking to raise funds for Syrian Eyes, a charity in Lebanon that has been helping to replace refugee tents that have been destroyed by heavy rain and snow.
What makes her food so good? “I take a lot of care over the details and the presentation” she begins, before telling a story of how her extended family loved coming over to her home for meals as they knew they would be spoiled. Khoury’s level of devotion to Syrian cuisine amplifies the flavour of dishes that are delicious to begin with. The lip smacking tang from the flavours of pomegranate and tamarind, mixed with fresh herbs and crispy fried bread is comfort food at its finest.
Harrak esbao – a traditional Damask dish of lentils, pasta, tamarind, coriander and garlic, decorated with fried bread & onions and pomegranate seeds, is one of Khoury’s favourite things to make, and will be adorning the tables at the supper club. Various dishes will follow, including the well known fatoush salad, kebeh labanieh (minced lamb and bulgar wheat balls cooked in yoghurt), and a smoked aubergine, yoghurt and tahini dish named motabal. Vegetarians are treated to a main of pumpkin kibbeh, full of spinach and toasted pine nuts, and for dessert there’s halawet el jebn, a semolina and cheese based dough, rolled and stuffed with fresh cream and submerged in fragrant and sweet syrup.
As well as the tantalising abundance on the menu, what makes this dinner so special is Khoury’s personal story, “food is one of the ways I express my feelings to others. When you share food, you really share love. You ask others to open their hearts and minds”. The connection of the dishes also celebrate the rich heritage of Syrian culture and there is so much to learn. Let Majeda Khoury feed you and most importantly, listen to what she has to say.
£5 from every ticket will go towards Syrian Eyes, as selected by Majeda.