events

Middle Eastern Summer Charity Dinner Party: 'My Baghdad Kitchen'

For those of us in the Middle Eastern diaspora, food is often the strongest connection we have to where we come from. We might not truly know where that is, but the smells and flavours that remind us of our grandmother's cooking are enough to trigger a confusing yet comforting nostalgia for home, regardless of whether we are Iraqi, Syrian, Palestinian, or from anywhere in that beautiful but endlessly tormented part of the world.

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That food is a particularly special part of the Middle East, not just because of its incredible flavours, but also because Middle Eastern cuisine unites the region's richly diverse countries. Whilst each nation has its own cuisine, there is so much crossover between them all that Middle Eastern food is an entity in itself, and it is the most amazing amalgam of dishes. It is a kind of language in its own right, contaminated (or enriched) by the idiosyncrasies of neighbouring nations, and spoken both in and far beyond the region, in English and Arab-speaking countries, and even in Israel and Iran. If only the Middle East could achieve that kind of union in other ways.

In fact, I myself often feel more Middle Eastern than Iraqi, perhaps due to my parents' Turkish, Iranian, and Kurdish roots, but also as a result of growing up in London with friends from all over the Middle East, who, as my brother would say, are as 'equally confused' as I am. Our food, however, continues to make perfect sense.

Last month, the AMAR foundation ran a campaign called 'My Baghdad Kitchen', which encouraged people to host fundraising dinner parties to feed Iraqi families during Ramadan. I thought it would be the perfect opportunity to bring some friends together and test out my own cooking skills for a good cause. I didn't want to just cook Iraqi food, but rather a range of Middle Eastern food, to remind us that what's going on at the moment is a regional problem, and that we really are better together.

Using family recipes, I put together a menu with food from all over the Middle East, including traditionally Levantine starters like Tabbouleh and Fattoush, a less known but incredibly tasty Saudi Arabian rice dish known as Kapsa (which is actually probably my favourite Middle Eastern rice dish!), as well as dishes popular all over the region, like the za'atar flatbread Mana'eesh and of course, Hommous and Babaghanouj. 

With the help of my magical kitchen assistant brother, we served up traditional dishes with our own twists. My personal favourite was the Shorbat Addas (lentil soup), which I served chilled in small glasses, topped with baked Arabic bread croutons and a hint of paprika. They were the perfect way to start the meal off. Clearly all the gazpacho I ate whilst living in Madrid has had an influence on my own cooking

Of course for dessert I had to make my Almond Milk Mahalabiya, which was a light and refreshing way to end the meal. I also finally tried my hand at Baklawa, mixing the usual pistachios with pecans rather than the more common walnuts or cashews, and served them up with a cup of Iraqi Chai to keep us warm as the night got cooler.

With the great British summer time on our side, we set up in the garden for what ended up being an enjoyable, balmy, candle-lit evening. We had Iraqis, Syrians, Palestinians, Muslims, Christians, and Jews all sitting beside each other, enjoying the familiar flavours that remind us of home, and sharing all too similar stories. Although it truly felt a world away from what the Middle East is today, it gave me a glimmer of hope for what the future could look like. 

Thanks to the generosity of our guests, we managed to raise over £155 for the AMAR foundation's campaign, meaning that we could feed 6 Iraqi families for a week during Ramadan. 

Although their meals would be nothing like what we enjoyed that day, by holding events like this, raising awareness, and trying to give back to a region that has given us so much, maybe one day we can be hosting supper clubs like this in Baghdad or in Damascus, where all of this incredible food was first made.

JUMA Kitchen: Iraqi Supperclub with the AMAR Foundation

There’s a pretty limited menu when Iraq comes up in conversation these days. Perceptions of the country and its people are marred by the headlines, so much so that I now expect a routinely curious reaction when I reveal that I myself am Iraqi. Thankfully, London-based Iraqi chef Philip Juma has arrived on the scene to start shaking that all up, armed (sorry) with a refreshingly positive newsflash: there is so much more to Iraq than war.

Eager to attend one of his supper clubs, I jumped on board as soon as I heard he was collaborating with the AMAR foundation at the London Cooking Project recently to raise money for Iraq through their Escaping Darkness appeal. He has also joined forces with them again this month for their 'My Baghdad Kitchen' campaign, providing recipes for you to host your very own Iraqi Supper Club. 

 

I first heard about Juma last summer, and got a chance to try out his delicious food at ‘An Arm And A Leg’, an incredible evening of food, cocktails, and music organized by the Hands Up Foundation in aid of Syria. Juma has been heading up pop-up events like this all over London since 2012, when he traded in a career in the City for a life of foodie goodness by setting up JUMA Kitchen. He’s now on a mission to introduce Londoners to the wonderful and often forgotten world of Iraqi cuisine. 

Here's a little taster of what he had in store for us at his AMAR Supper Club.

With an open-plan kitchen and dining area, and Juma cooking his dolma as the guests arrived, the warm, friendly, and communal atmosphere was there from the start – just the right setting for a very homely cuisine that hasn’t often been exposed to the restaurant sphere.

We were in for an entire five course meal, so portion sizes were fitting. In traditional Arab style, we started off with mezza: smokey aubergine Moutabal dip (or babaganouj), a staple Falafel with a drizzle of tahini, and Juma’s take on Lamb Sambousek (pastry filled with spiced minced lamb).

For those of you who know me, you’ll be aware that lamb is my foodie downfall. I just don’t like the stuff, hence why Iraqi food has never been my first choice (Iraqis seriously love their lamb). Nevertheless, I went in with an open mind and gave Juma a chance to win me over - and the Sambousek managed to do just that. Not greasy at all, and with just the right amount of tender spiced meat enveloped in crumbly pastry, I could’ve had another.

Next up, we had Djaj Bilnarinj, crispy chicken thigh on a bed of potato served with a rich saffron sauce and caramelised onions, perhaps the less traditional but most beautiful dish of the night. This was followed by Kubbat Hamouth, an Iraqi household favourite: homemade dumplings filled with minced lamb, served in a rich tomato soup. If I showed you what this looks like at home, you would understand when I say that kubbat hamouth never looked this good.

Then came Juma’s star of the show, the Dolma – vegetables stuffed with spiced and marinated lamb mince and rice, which he served alongside a lamb chop and a more traditionally Lebanese Fattoush salad. An Iraqi dinner party would just not be complete without Dolma. It's also notoriously labour intensive to make, so hats off to Phil.

Of course, I was most looking forward to dessert, which could be none other than Knafa, a dessert popular all over the Middle East and usually made in one giant cake-like portion. Juma made his with shredded filo to top the traditional melted cheese filling, drenched it in blossom water syrup and topped it with pistachios. He also went for individual servings, which were right on trend - the Iraqi cupcake, perhaps?

Clearly, Juma is aiming to use his experience of working in Michelin-starred restaurants to refine Iraqi food and rightfully bring it into the twenty-first century. It’s without doubt a great way to ease those unfamiliar with the cuisine into it. For the Iraqi audience, however, who will forever compare it to mama and bibi’s home cooking, stepping into Juma’s kitchen requires being open to something new. For me, he gives these traditional dishes the modern kick that they need to appeal to the outside world, with impeccable contemporary presentation and without straying too far from the original taste.

Whilst it’s easy to get caught up in all of the food, it’s also important not to forget why we were really there: to raise money for the AMAR Foundation. AMAR is a charity working out in the Middle East, particularly at the moment with those affected by ISIS violence. Their Escaping Darkness Appeal, which Juma’s supper club was raising money for, aims to provide women in Northern Iraq with the psychological support they desperately need after fleeing ISIS. A leaflet at our table revealed the shocking facts they are working to change: there are only 17 psychiatrists in Northern Iraq, 80% of clinics are no longer functioning, and Daesh’s sex slaves can be as young as 9 years old.

Having grown up in London, and having never been to Iraq, it’s surreal to say that these statistics apply to the country my parents grew up in. It’s hard not to feel so far removed from the situation and so helpless, which is why it’s important that we recognise our responsibility to give back. By sharing Iraqi culture through food, we are raising awareness of and humanizing a nation and a people that have been reduced to statistics and stereotypes.

Juma’s food comes with a message, a reminder that Iraq was once a great nation, the home of civilization itself. Whilst our country might now be in ruins, our culture, our heritage, our warmth, and perhaps what best sums up all of the above, our food, will endure that greatness for generations.

To learn more about Juma and his delicious supper clubs, click here: www.jumakitchen.com

To find out more about the AMAR Foundation and how you can help, click here: www.amarfoundation.org 

To host your own 'Baghdad Kitchen' and raise money using Juma's delicious recipes, click here: http://www.amarfoundation.org/my-baghdad-kitchen/

Dinerama: Shoreditch's Summer Street Food Circus

Alright so we need to have a serious conversation about Dinerama. It's outdoor street food heaven, with neon lights for added awesomeness. So if you're stuck on how to spend your summer weekend evenings...look no further.

Dinerama is the third addition to Street Feast's crazy collection of street food markets around London. This one is based in the heart of Shoreditch on Great Eastern Street, whilst Model Market is in Lewisham and the original Street Feast is in Dalston Yard. 

Every Thursday - Saturday from 12pm to 12am, and Sundays from 12pm to 9pm, Dinerama hosts 6 street diners, 5 street food shacks, 6 bars, and several street food trucks - so you're sure to find something to tantalise your taste buds. It looks super busy in these photos, but because of the nature of the food, people are up and moving around all the time and we actually found a place to sit each time we wanted to. 

We arrived just before 7pm, so managed to catch free entry. It's only £3 entry after 7pm, but you'll probably want to arrive earlier anyway so you can soak it all up and try as much stuff as possible (obviously). It's also not just the food but it's the atmosphere that's great. There's a DJ playing music all night so you could easily spend your whole evening there!

These bad boys were so good, and still my favourite dish at the market. I would happily go back and eat 10. Most dishes on the stalls were £4 for one, two for £7, or three for £9 - so it's fun and more cost effective to share with your pals. Or just eat more for yourself, because why not?

You also can't miss the Chuck Burger truck as soon as you walk in. They do some great burgers, and actually have their own restaurant up in Hatch End.

 Yum Bun was another favourite of mine, and not just because of their super cool neon sign. We went for the crispy shrimp bun, which was awesome. But be warned, if you're not a fan of spicy food, ask for it without the green chilli - it will burn your mouth alive. 

There were so many stalls left that we didn't try, like a great looking Indian which had poppadom nachos...or 'pachos' as they called them. We also completely forgot to try the lobster rolls...so are definitely going back for those!! 

There were also so many bars in the market so you could just go in for a drink. We chose to go upstairs to the 'rooftop' section and hunt down the rum bar, obviously because they were the ones with the cool stripy cups. They had a great selection of crazy cocktails that were actually really good, which you can then enjoy on the grass up there. It's practically a picnic!

Whilst upstairs, we stopped off at Baja Grill which was offering coal-grilled sweet potato with chipotle butter for a beautiful £2. The salad on the side also made us feel a little bit less guilty for chomping on all those fried goods...

And for our final dish we were lured to Bird Box by the incredible smell and sight of the fresh rotisserie chicken. It was covered in some amazing chutney sauce and came with roasted garlic & thyme potatoes...dream. I should probably mention we did share everything...we aren't that bad!

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Okay so by this point, as you can guess from the amount of food we had, we were dying. But nothing was going to stop us heading to You Doughut! for dessert (separate stomach, right?) There were two flavours to choose from: salted caramel, and indulgent chocolate. We are suckers for cinnamon, but also couldn't not have marshmallows...so we just asked for the salted caramel but with marshmallows instead of pecans. I'm not even exaggerating when I say they are the most incredible doughnuts I have probably had ever.

We then ended up sitting and chatting for hours on end, right up until the market closed for the night. The weather was perfect, the people were lovely, and the music was just right, so there was no reason for us to leave! It was one of the best nights I've had so far this summer, of course with my forever foodie buddy Em. I'd definitely recommend you grab some friends and head on down there too.

If you fancy trying out Street Feast's other markets, you can view a list of all of the stalls available here.

Happy Street Feasting!

Daylesford Summer Festival 2015

“I believe in simple, good food, which is the result of organic farming; it is better for us, our animals and the environment.” - Carole Bamford, founder of Daylesford Farm

A few weeks ago I spent my Saturday eating copious amounts of great food (nothing new there, but keep reading), in the midst of endless beautiful scenery (almost there...), soaking up that oh-so-rare British sunshine (there we go!) at the Daylesford Summer Festival 2015.

Daylesford is a farm up in the Cotswolds that has been growing produce organically for over 30 years. They're committed to good quality, sustainability and they are all about real food. It's also one hell of a beautiful farm. After the success of their first summer festival last year, they opened up their doors again this May to give food and farming lovers alike an inside look into their organic farming methods and a great summer's day out - which it sure was!

At the festival, there were so many great food stalls selling their products and offering free samples, both from within and outside Daylesford. We tried some delicious artisan cheeses - there was one herb and goats cheese mix that was incredible. There were also pies, pastries, cakes, jams, chutneys, breads, healthy breakfast mixes and so much more. The event was so beautifully styled and typically British, and those of you who know me will guess that I was in bunting heaven!

As well as being able to have a more hearty lunch at the Daylesford farmshop on the day, there were several trucks selling hot food around the grounds. There was also a big barbecue going on with some amazing looking burgers. We made the tough decision of passing up the incredible smell of those to go for one of the Dayleford trucks, which were serving some tasty Beef Brisket Wraps. Eating those, whilst enjoying our first glass of Pimm's of the year and listening to the live jazz band on the grass was the perfect way to kick start our British summer - and look how pretty the trucks were!

Daylesford isn't really your average farm. It's like its own little Cotswoldian world hidden away in the countryside. There is the market garden, the animals, the bakery, the creamery, and the kitchens, but there is also so much more. Daylesford's onsite farm shop, for example, sells all their organic produce to the public. Alongside it, they've got their café, where you can eat fresh and delicious food made using everything they grow. There's even a spa and boutique.

There is also the most beautiful cookery school holding courses all year around about how to "eat to be healthy". At the festival there were several demonstrations and events in the kitchen, including a special appearance from Madeleine Shaw who was signing her new book "Get The Glow".

BUT I've saved my favourite part until last... which is the fact that Daylesford rent out their own dreamy Cotswolds cottages. My jaw dropped walking into one of the show-cottages on the day of the festival - and yes, those idyllic photos down there show you what I'm talking about! There are several beautifully designed and cosy cottages of different sizes, sleeping from 2 to 8 people, that you can stay in for a mid-week or weekend country getaway. Some of them are on site next to the farm itself, and some are just down the road further into Kingham. I can't think of a better weekend than staying up there, booking in a few spa treatments, cooking up some food using Daylesford ingredients, and just switching off!

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Aside from the festival, Daylesford is a great place to just go spend the day this summer. It's easy to get the train up from London Paddington, or drive through the beautiful British countryside if you fancy it. You could just go have a wander around the grounds, maybe try out the spa or a cookery course, have a bite to eat in the café, and breathe in some fresh country air. They also offer farm tours three times a year, and farm walks that you can just do yourself by picking up a map from the shop and following the signs.

If you'd rather stay a bit closer to home though, you can always try out one of the many Daylesford café's and farm shops around London. They've in fact just opened up a brand new one in Marylebone! The cafés serve delicious organic food using ingredients from back up at the Cotswolds for a nutritious breakfast, lunch, dinner, or simply afternoon tea and cake.

Whatever way you try it, make sure you have some sort of Daylesford experience this summer, and be sure to head to the Daylesford Summer Festival next year!

MadrEat: Madrid's Monthly Foodie Extravaganza (English + Spanish)

Move over music festival, hello FOOD festival. Seriously, it's the new best thing ever. What better way could you possibly think of to spend a sun-soaked Saturday in a beautiful city like Madrid than wandering in and around a bunch of beautiful food trucks offering food from all corners of the world? None, I tell you. There is no better way to spend your Saturday. 

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That's where MadrEAT comes in. Held every third weekend of each month (with the exception of this month!), MadrEAT is a celebration of global street food brought to you by restaurants and vendors from all over Spain. It's an outdoor food fiesta in the gardens of AZCA in Madrid's business district, where you could easily spend hours drifting between over 50 food vendors for breakfast, lunch, or dinner, satisfying your sweet and savoury cravings. 

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MadrEAT is the brainchild of the creative minds at food marketing and communications company Mateo&Co, who have clearly clocked onto the fact that Madrid is one hell of a gastronomic capital. They've brought together food trucks, market stalls, vans, and food carts to celebrate their love of gastronomy and offer you their culinary delights. Some of them have restaurants in Madrid or other cities, and some are simply one of a kind trucks! 

And it's getting bigger and better with each edition. Every month there are new stalls and dishes to try, so there is no chance of getting bored. The festival offers a magical union of great quality and great tasting food at affordable prices, meaning you could go grab your lunch and spend your afternoon there for less than 15 euros. 

It's also all about the atmosphere. If you're heading over with a group of friends, you can buy your food and drinks and make yourself a little picnic on the grass, or sit on the steps surrounding the fountains whilst listening to the DJ sound out a feel-good summer playlist. 

 If you're lost for a starting point, the delicious nachos from Gramabar (Calle Preciados, 40) make a great snack and starter to the festival. Then, you have to head straight over to Les Delícies d'en Nilthe Colombian food truck that travels all the way from Figueres in the north east. You can't leave without trying their patacón, which is a bed of friend plantain topped with your choice of spiced chicken, beef, or both, with mozzarella, fried onions, yoghurt sauce and guacamole. It's filling, it's delicious, and its only 6 euros. 

Last month MadrEAT also welcomed Casa Ernesto and their gourmet artichokes. The artichokes are coated in olive oil, grilled, and accompanied by toppings of your choice like some deliciously creamy burrata. There is also lots of meat on offer from the lovely guys at Restaurante MEATing (Calle Valenzuela, 7), Latin American Asian fusion at Chifa (Calle de Modesto Lafuente, 64), Spanish omelettes from Lucia's, pizzas from PICSA (Calle de Ponzano, 76), cheeses from The Cheese Truck, and more and more and more.

That's all without even mentioning all of the options to satisfy your sweet tooth. Tartas de Silvia (Carr de Canillas, 10) with their amazing Cupcake Truck offer an incredible range of cupcakes flavours, like passionfruit and piña colada. The crepes by Trisk'An Crepes & Galletes are also like no crepe you have tasted before. They are filled with brioche, which, together with nutella and banana, is a combination made in heaven. There's also plenty more on offer like Lisa and Leti's cookies (Calle de la Cruz, 12), De Cake's cake pops, and Mama Framboise (Calle Fernando VI, 23) with their delicious tarts and macaroons.

But for me, the highlight of MadrEAT is Toma Cafe's incredible nutella latte. They coat the cup in a thick layer of nutella before pouring a perfectly brewed latte in, meaning you get a bit of nutella with every sip (the best bit is scooping up all the rest at the end!). They also have a great selection of cakes and lots of gluten-free options too. I warn you - if you do try it out, you'll soon become a regular at their café on Calle de la Palma, 40. Unfortunately they don't actually have the nutella latte in the café, which gives you all the more reason to head down to AZCA!

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The next edition of MadrEAT is in fact this weekend, the 8/9/10 of May - so grab all of your friends and head down there for a Madrileñan summer foodie weekend you won't forget. ¡Que aproveche!

Where: AZCA Gardens
When: Every third weekend of the month (except this month only!) Friday and Sunday 12:00-18:00, Saturday 12:00-24:00.
How to get there: Nearest stations are Nuevos Ministerios and Santiago Bernabéu
Find out more at the MadrEAT website: http://www.madreat.org/ 
Click restaurant names above to find out more!

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Olvídate del festival de música, y deja paso al festival de COMIDA. En serio, es el mejor plan de los próximos días. Cómo podrías pasar mejor un sábado soleado en una ciudad tan bonita como Madrid que pasear entre un montón de foodtrucks que ofrecen comida de todos los rincones del mundo? No podrías, te lo aseguro. No existe mejor manera de pasar un sábado.

Aquí llega MadrEAT Market. Cada tercer fin de semana (excepto este mes), MadrEAT celebra la comida callejera global traída por restaurantes y vendedores de todas las partes de España. Es una fiesta de comida al aire libre en los jardines de AZCA en el centro de Madrid, donde podrás dejarte llevar horas y horas entre más de 50 vendedores de comida para desayunar, comer o cenar, y satisfacer tus antojos dulces y salados. 

MadrEAT es el producto de las mentes creativas de la agencia de marketing estratégica y comunicación de comida Mateo&Co., que claramente se han dado cuenta de que Madrid es un tremenda capital gastronómica. Han aunado foodtrucks, stalls, tenderetes, furgonetas, carritos y containers para celebrar su amor a la gastronomía y ofrecerte sus delicias culinarias. Algunos de ellos tienen restaurantes en Madrid o en otras ciudades, y otros son puestos únicos. 

Lo mejor es que está creciendo con cada edición. Cada mes hay nuevos puestos y platos para probar, ¡así que no puedes aburrirte! El festival ofrece una unión mágica entre comida de buena calidad y precios asequibles, así que podrías pasarte allí una tarde y comer por menos de 15 euros. 

Pero también se trata del ambiente. Si vas con un grupo de amigos, podéis comprar la comida y las bebidas, y hacer un picnic en el césped, o sentaros en las escaleras alrededor de las fuentes mientras escucháis el playlist veraniego del DJ. 

Si no sabes por dónde empezar, los deliciosos nachos de Gramabar (Calle Preciados, 40) sirven como un buen tentempié y entrante al festival. Luego, tienes que ir directamente a Les Delícies d'en Nil, el foodtruck colombiano que viene de Figueres en el noreste del país. No puedes marcharte sin probar su patacón, que es una base de plátano frito coronado con pollo al curry, ternera, o los dos, con mozzarella, cebolla crujiente, salsa de yogur y guacamole. Está relleno, rico, y solo 6 euros. 

El mes pasado MadrEAT dio la bienvenida a Casa Ernesto y sus alcachofas gourmet. Las alcachofas se hacen a la parilla con aceite de oliva, y vienen acompañadas con toppings de tu elección, como una burrata riquísima. También hay mucha carne gracias a los chicos de Restaurante MEATing (Calle Valenzuela, 7), una fusión de comida latinoamericana y asiática por Chifa (Calle de Modesto Lafuente, 64), tortillas españolas por Lucia’s, pizzas de PICSA (Calle de Ponzano, 76), quesos de The Cheese Truck, y más y más y más.

Y todo eso sin mencionar las opciones para satisfacer a los golosos. Tartas de Silvia (Carr de Canillas, 10) tienen una increíble oferta de sabores de cupcakes, como maracuyá y piña colada. También, los crepes de Trisk'An Crepes & Galletes son como ningún crepe que hayas comido antes. Se rellenan con brioche, y junto con nutella y banana, es una combinación perfecta. Encontrarás también las galletas de Lisa and Leti's (Calle de la Cruz, 12), De Cake's cake pops, y Mama Framboise (Calle Fernando VI, 23) con sus tartas y macarrones deliciosos. 

Pero para mí, lo mejor de MadrEAT es el increíble nutella latte de Toma Cafe. Cubren una taza con una capa abundante de nutella antes de añadir un latte perfectamente preparado, así que sientes un poquito de nutella con cada sorbo (¡lo mejor es sacar lo que queda al final!) También ofrecen una gran selección de tartas y muchas opciones sin gluten. Te aviso – si lo pruebas, te vas a hacer un cliente regular en su café en Calle de la Palma, 40. Desafortunadamente, no tienen el nutella latte en su café, ¡lo que te da una razón más para ir a AZCA!

La próxima edición de MadrEAT tiene lugar este fin de semana, el 8/9/10 de mayo – así que díselo a tus amigos e id allí para disfrutar de un finde foodie veraniego que nunca olvidaréis. 

 ¡Que aproveche! 

Dónde: Los jardines de AZCA
CuándoCada tercer fin de semana del mes (excepto solo este mes). Viernes y domingos 12:00-18:00, Sábado 12:00-24:00.
Cómo llegar: Metro Nuevos Ministerios y Santiago Bernabéu
Más información en la página web de MadrEAT: http://www.madreat.org/ 
Haz click en los nombres de los restaurantes para más información.