Chapter One – “So you’re three British girls cooking Italian food for Syrians in Greece?”

First Focaccia (served 20-30)

  • 1kg strong white bread flour
  • 4tsp salt
  • 3 sachets dried yeast 
  • 5 spoons olive oil 
  • 600ml water 
  • +200ml extra
  • Big ol’ handful of mixed herbs 
  • Chopped garlic to sprinkle
  • Glug of oil to drizzle
  • Salt (lots) to garnish
  1. Flour in bowl
  2. Salt on flour
  3. Mix yeast, 600ml water and oil in jug
  4. Pour liquids into bowl – combine (with your hands if you’re Kim or a wooden spoon if you’re Daisy)
  5. Slowly add extra water whilst kneading 
  6. Add some herbs
  7. Leave in a covered bowl (ideally with a tea towel) in a warm place (or just an oven in a cold place) to rise for one hour (or the time it takes to go and buy a kettle to make the soup)
  8. Drizzle some oil on a clean(ish) surface and knead the dough for five mins
  9. Split the dough in half and lightly oil two baking trays 
  10. Shape one ball of dough into a rectangle on each tray. Leave for half an hour 
  11. Preheat oven to 220C (quickly)
  12. Sprinkle with garlic, salt, herbs n oil
  13. Bake for about half an hour or until pretty much evenly golden on top
  14. Slice (if you’re Kim) or tear (if you’re Flo) into squares/rectangles/ambiguous shapes and serve with…

Massive Minestrone (served 30+)

  • Glug of oil
  • 4 onions
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 3 large potatoes
  • 11 carrots
  • 5 courgettes 
  • 5 red peppers (flefle in phonetic Arabic)
  • 2 x 500g bags of small(ish) pasta
  • 4 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
  • 5 veg stock cubes
  • As many boiled kettles of water as you feel is needed (basically loads)
  • Two good ol’ handfuls of mixed herbs 
  • Salt n pepper to taste* 
  1. Chop all veg into reasonably small pieces 
  2. Sweat onion in oil (and if you’re clever – which we aren’t – sweat garlic too. And maybe herbs)
  3. Add chopped tomatoes. Fill each empty can with water and add this too
  4. Add herbs (unless you added them earlier. And if you did, add more. Why not)
  5. Turn up the heat
  6. Take off top layer (of clothing) and open back door to avoid damp (heat good, damp bad)
  7. Add potatoes and carrots
  8. Crumble stock cubes into measuring jug and fill with water (this is basically the double concentrate squash of the stock world). Add to pan
  9. Boil kettle on repeat and add to pan. Your call as to when to stop (imagine 30 bowls)
  10. Add pasta 
  11. Keep boiling kettle
  12. When potato is soft, add courgettes and peppers (flefle) 
  13. Season with everything 
  14. Carry upstairs with a mishmash of plastic bowls, cups, spoons, tiny spoons and forks for the unlucky ones 

This was the first focaccia and the first minestrone (it was also massive) for 30+ visitors and residents at the Orange House. When we tasted the soup before serving, we wondered if our double concentrate stock hadn’t made it a bit too salty but once served, the only criticism was that it wasn’t nearly salty enough. And so we found ourselves running downstairs to grab the huge bag of salt we’d bought in the market yesterday, and watching (in awe) as people dunked their spoons in and added it to their bowls. We’ve quickly learnt that Middle Eastern taste buds enjoy a lot more salt!
The huge pot soon became the centre point of the room, as visitors, residents and volunteers all came together to enjoy “an Italian meal made by three British girls for Syrians in Greece”, as Ibrahim pointed out over a third helping of focaccia. 

So tomorrow we’ll be joined by Ibrahim, Mohamad, Sabah and her daughter Mariam all of whom want to learn how to make their first focaccia. We’d planned to make a carrot soup but, in exchange for the focaccia recipe, Sabah has suggested (to our delight) that she teaches us to make a Syrian juzmuz…  


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