Chapter Eight – “21 hot chocolates, please” 

Today we were extradited from the kitchen as Tom, a professional chef, trained in Paris, stepped in to take our place. We weren’t complaining as it meant we got to spend our morning off in Dentro Tou Kafe on Charilaou Trikoupi (shout out to Monocle’s Markus Hippi for the heads up). Although we went with the intention of sampling the recommended rose water coffee, we were met with confusion and swiftly told that it didn’t exist. Instead we filled up on delicious flavoured filter coffee and an assortment of tasty treats and friscuits (free biscuits) which we pocketed for later. As it approached lunchtime we felt we had better return to the Orange House to lend a hand to Ta’bagh (chef) Tom, who despite his red eyes from chopping 60 onions, had everything under control. He served an amazing lunch which even got the Nour seal of approval AND did all of the washing up afterwards. We didn’t know what to do with ourselves. However, that didn’t last for long as at 4pm we had to rally 20 residents, visitors and volunteers for the OH’s first official outing to the Parthenon viewpoint that the three of us had stumbled upon last week. We clambered up the rocky hill, arriving rosy-cheeked and just in time to watch the sun set over Athens and the distant mountains. It was beautiful. Even the hundreds of selfies and group shots that were taken couldn’t capture how impressive the view was and how happy everyone was to be there together. 

Anxious that the light was going to disappear entirely, we headed back down towards Monastiraki where we bundled into Salim’s choice of cafe and proceeded to order 21 hot chocolates from an overwhelmed but very obliging barista. When we presented Salim with his hot chocolate, he informed us that he’d already asked the barista in Greek for one with five extra sugars (we pretended not to notice when he topped it up with two more). 

We arrived back half an hour later just in time to teach French, Spanish and German, whilst the rest of the group flopped into chairs, or in little Keenda’s case, ran into the bathroom to splash her bright red cheeks with cold water. Lessons over, we were zipping up our coats to leave when the kids reappeared and ushered us upstairs where Sabah and Om Ziad had prepared the most impressive selection of Syrian dishes for us all. We ate and chatted until our hearts and stomachs were full to bursting, before heading home to reflect on such a heartwarming day, and enjoy our friscuits with a cup of hot water and lemon. 

Tom’s soupe à l’oignon (served 30+)

  • 60 red onions
  • 1 garlic head
  • 150ml apple cider vinegar
  • A LOT of stock, about 10 litres (mix of 2 beef cubes and 2 chicken cubes or 4 vegetable cubes) – let it reduce with a bit of garlic, couple of carrots, couple of onions, 6 bay leaves and thyme. Reduce stock to a quarter
  • 6 tablespoons plain flour
  • Butter and olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Sugar (I know… any real chef would kill me but it kind of works if you don’t put too much)
  • Whole meal bread and cheese (Comté cheese preferably)
  1. Chop the onions and let them cook in oil and butter on medium heat until golden brown. Stir them every couple of minutes.
  2. Add sugar
  3. Deglaze with vinegar
  4. Add flour and stir thoroughly
  5. Pour in the stock and let it simmer for 15 mins
  6. Don’t forget the cheese on toast!


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