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Wednesday 3 February 2010

The London Cooking Club - "A Syrian Supper" #2

“A Syrian Supper”

For our second London Cooking Club evening on 23rd January 2010, we decided to host a Syrian themed event inspired by one of my favourite blogs “Syrian Foodie in London”.

In addition to the usual faces, three new members joined us on the evening - Jennifer Ah-Kin of Dashi Dashi, Eduardo Sant’Anna of Start Café, Columbia Road, and fellow foodie extraordinaire Hendrik de Jong.

All recipes were taken from the Syrian Foodie in London blog with each person contributing at least one dish and accompanying wines. It was an informal evening with a great atmosphere as we all participated in the cooking and tucked into some amazing Syrian fare.

We started with a selection of different mezze served with flat Arabic bread freshly baked by Tim and Regis, washed down with some delightful Pomegranate Bellinis expertly mixed by our new joiner Eduardo.

The recipes were easy to follow and only a few unusual ingredients were required to prepare some scrumptious dishes. The mezze and main ingredients were:

Baba Ghanoush” (aubergine, pomegranate molasses, walnuts, parsley and tomato)

Hummus” (chickpeas, tahini, garlic, oil and lemon juice)

Aubergine Mutabal” (aubergine, tahini, garlic, yoghurt, lemon)

Beetroot Mutabal” (beetroot, tahini, yoghurt, lemon)

Chicken Livers with Pomegranate Molasses” (chicken livers, pomegranate molasses, ghee, red wine, butter)

All these dishes were delicious with some of the favourites, by common consent, being the chicken liver with pomegranate molasses and the aubergine mutabal prepared by Hendrik.

We also had a good variety of main dishes, these included:

Hummus with Meat” (hummus, venison fillet, pine nuts, ghee) – the venison fillet was a gift from Uyen of Fernandez and Leluu and was incredibly tender, the perfect accompaniment for the creamy hummus and toasted pine nuts. I thought this was one of the highlights of the evening; it looked fantastic and was very easy to prepare.

Mnazaleh” (minced lamb, aubergines, tomatoes, pine nuts) – also prepared by Hendrik, and similar to a Greek Moussaka. This was very flavoursome, honest, homely comfort food at its best.

Chicken Fatteh” (chicken, Arabic bread, tahini, yoghurt) – this delicious chicken dish was cooked by Jen of Dashi Dashi. The composition of this dish was interesting as the layers of bread soaked in stock, chicken and a combination of yoghurt and tahini provided different flavours and textures.

To accompany the main dishes, we also had:

Vermicelli Rice” (rice, vermicelli, ghee) – this was deliciously buttery from the ghee, and accompanied the Mnazaleh well.

Mujaddara” (green lentils, bulgar wheat, tomato paste, onions) – this was surprising good as the combination of bulgar wheat and green lentils was brought to life by the addition of fried onions and the accompanying chilli sauce. It was an interesting alternative to the Vermicelli Rice.

Foul Ma’alla” (broad beans, yoghurt, coriander) – this was a delightful and quick accompaniment that went well with all of the main dishes.

Fatoush” (salad of ba’aleh, Arabic bread, cucumbers, tomatoes) – I loved this salad and the aromatic and refreshing flavours of the dressing which included sumac, lemon juice, dried mint and garlic. The addition of “ba’aleh” (Syrian greens) was interesting as they tasted slightly bitter and citric and unlike any other greens I have tasted.

Our dessert was baked by Tim who embarked on a foodie expedition around Edgware Road to find “Akawi” cheese for the “Syrian Cheese Cake”. This look very pretty in a delicate case of filo pastry. The cheesecake centre was firm, being oven cooked, and savoury-sweet in contrast to the more familiar soft, sweet American version.

By sharing the cooking from a single source/theme we were able to explore Syrian cuisine in greater depth than we could have achieved individually. It was heartening to see that a common love of good food and cooking helped us all to connect around the table even though some of us were meeting for the first time.

I was delighted to see what a successful and productive collaboration this evening proved to be. As a host I felt that it was one of the most stress free dinners I have had as everyone got stuck in from the moment they arrived.

Many thanks to Kano of Syrian Foodie in London for inspiring this evening.

Our next meeting will be in March 2010 and the theme will be Vietnamese Cuisine inspired by the cookery books “Secrets of the Red Lantern” and “Songs of Sapa”. Please visit our Facebook page “London Cooking Club” or e-mail me if you would like to take part.


  1. Looks like you had a fantastic evening! It all looks so good! I bet it tastes better than at any restaurant too! And really happy you put the venison to good use! Lots of love, Uyen x

  2. What a gorgeous idea... Looks like such a lovely way to bring people, food and different cultures together!

  3. wow, what a great event and idea to bring people together..to bad we're across the pond to take part in the Vietnamese cooking!

  4. @ Uyen - the venison was delicious and everyone was amazed by how incredibly soft it was! Thanks again for giving it to us.

    @ Anonymous- that is the idea and it is working quite well, maybe you will be able to join us one day?!

    @ Ravenous Couple - we'll be holding events like this monthly from March 10, so hopefully you will be able to join us when you happen to be on this side of the pond! Thanks for stopping by my blog.

  5. I feel full again just looking at the pictures - sooo much food!

    Thanks again for a great evening - and by the way, I want your camera =)


  6. @Luiz

    Thank you very much for the write up. I can't explain how proud I am. This exactly what I started this blog for, an attempt to raise the profile and introduce people to the Syrian Cuisine.

    I am really impressed with the effort you guys put into the evening. Going as far as finding Ba'aleh, that is dedication :)

    The food looks great and I am sure it tasted as good. Any comments about any of the recipes? Anything that didn't work or didn't come out as expected?

    Thank you again for organising this evening and sorry I couldn't be with you.

  7. Yeah that Camera - I wanna know all about it too; but more importantly how come you dont have a tripod so we can see pix of you too

  8. Wow! Fantastic idea to get cooking enthusiasts working together on a single national theme. I hadn't really considered Syrian food as being noteworthy, but it looks delicious from your pics. I hope I'll manage to get to one of these events. Any chance of a Japanese evening?
    Mr Truffle

  9. @ Jen - I know, we had plenty of food didn't we? I was pleased that the evening went so well. Looking fwd to Dim Sum on Saturday, see you at 1pm.

    @ Kano - the evening was a great success, and everyone was very happy with all dishes cooked. I will send you an e-mail later in the week with some more info, thank you very much for introducing us to this amazing cuisine, we were all so happy to have experienced your recipes.

    @ Rob - I am terribly camera-shy, that is why! You've gotta come to one of our evenings to see what I look like, but don't hold your breath...

    @ Mr Truffle - funny that you say that, Japanese food is one of my favourite and I was considering for our next meeting in April. Watch this space!

  10. @ The Londond Foodie - I wish I could join you'll but I think Singapore is too far away! Hopefully one day... I really enjoy reading your blog and now have a list of restaurants I must visit when im in London next :)

  11. What a wonderful idea! I can't believe people actually had not met each other before and did it anyhow! Wow!
    I could not believe the comment from anonymous about "not thinking there was anything noteworthy about Syrian cuisine" !!!! When it is considered one of the best in the region!

  12. This is a great idea!! I was happy going through ur blog for the first time. Everything looks deliciouuuuusss

  13. I love middle eastern food, but it is one of those cuisines that I only eat out in restaurants, as I'm a bit intimidated by the unfamiliar ingredients! What fun to figure it all out and get your hands dirty. Your pictures are so great, they always make me hungry!


  14. @ Anonymous - thanks for stopping by my blog, and do let me know next time you visit London, I would be pleased to personally recommend you a few places to go to, and you never know we might also be running a London Cooking Club evening then...

    @ Taste of Beirut - these evenings are proving very popular and we are delighted that on both occasions, people really seemed to bond around the table and have a great time.

    @ Cherine - welcome Cherine to The London Foodie, and thanks for your kind comment!

    @ Jill - there is nothing more rewarding than cooking your own - I really recommend Kano's site as well as Taste of Beirut (both in my blog list), these are great sites. The recipes were easy to follow and were very good. I can't recommend them enough!

  15. Hi We live in Cowden 1hr from London we would like to host a wood fired Middle Eastern Foodie day where we all make something to go into our huge wood burning oven

  16. Hi We live in Cowden 1hr from London we would like to host a wood fired Middle Eastern Foodie day where we all make something to go into our huge wood burning oven intrested? email me: c (the at sign) cav.cx


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