Chapter Fourteen – “Me, food and the sea”

Since day one, residents and visitors have been asking us if the meals we make are “British” and we always struggle to answer. For us, British food encompasses Italian minestrone and Moroccan tagine as much as it does leek and potato soup and roast potatoes. But for our fellow British volunteer Isra’s last day, we set about making a twist on an incontestable British classic: the full English. We’ve made many a brunch over the past few years, but as this was our first time cooking for thirty and with only two saucepans, a wok and the world’s slowest kettle, we had to be a bit inventive. The result was a mushroom, bean and tomato stew with sides of scrambled eggs, potato rosti and flatbreads (obviously). Whilst the bowls may not have been the most attractive fare, the food went in a flash and we struggled to serve it out fast enough. Naturally, Ilyas chose his serving station based on his favourite element (this time scrambled eggs), topping every bowl with a neat spoonful of egg and a perfectly balanced rosti. 

The afternoon continued with our first theatre/drawing class, where we explored emotions (happy, sad, angry and shy) with a group of ten, slightly excitable but no less focused, 4-9 year olds. The language barrier meant that the class didn’t go quite as expected, though that didn’t matter at all. When we moved from acting to drawing, every child filled their page with words and illustrations responding to one of the four emotions. There were lots of happy homes in Syria, sad fights with Mums and Dads and of course some flowers and more than a few stick people. For 5 year old Reem, happy was “me, food and the sea”. This is a girl after our own hearts. 

At the end of the day, Mama Aida decided to throw an impromptu dinner at our flat, meaning a trip to the supermarket via a new and exciting bakery. We were lured in by perfectly formed bread bowls in the window (the ultimate dip receptacle and the best idea ever) and we left with 4 bags of cake, baklava, delicious bread and a friscuit (free biscuit) for the road. 

Almost English Breakfast (served around 30)

For the mushrooms and beans

  • 750g mushrooms, cut into chunks
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1 head of garlic, finely chopped
  • 5 tins kidney beans
  • 4 tins chopped tomatoes
  • 5 fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • Fresh Ekkie, snipped 
  • Half a lemon
  • Olive oil
  • Salt, pepper, cumin, chilli powder

For the scrambled eggs

  • 30 eggs
  • A BIG knob of butter
  • A generous pouring of milk
  • Salt and pepper

For the potato rostis 

  • 8 potatoes, grated, water squeezed out through tea towel 
  • 3 eggs
  • Big handful of snipped Ekkie 
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil 
  1. Sweat onions and garlic in oil in a large saucepan
  2. Add mushrooms, herbs and spices and cook until almost soft
  3. Add all tomatoes (fresh and tinned) 
  4. Season again and leave on a medium-low heat to reduce a little
  5. Add the beans and lemon juice
  6. Leave to reduce whilst you…
  7. Mix grated potato with 3 eggs and season
  8. Shape into small balls, squeezing out the last of the water
  9. Medium fry in hot oil, flipping half way,  until golden brown
  10. Remove excess oil and keep warm in oven (on a low heat), whilst you…
  11. Crack 30 (yes, 30) eggs into a bowl and beat with milk, salt and pepper
  12. Add to saucepan with butter and scramble. This takes longer than you may think  (probably down to the THIRTY eggs). Remove from the heat just before they look done as they will keep cooking on their way up to the table 
  13. Quickly heat up some flatbreads cut into quarters, carry everything upstairs and serve



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