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Syrian flavours recall a life in Damascus

What was the occasion?

A nostalgic reunion with friends. We all lived in Damascus between 2006 and 2008. My husband worked there but, strangely, we had also been there on our honeymoon in 2002. At the time, everyone thought we were mad, but we loved it as a country and when we lived there, we grew to love it more and more.

We lived in the old city buy canada goose jacket usa in a courtyard house with a fountain and an orange tree in the middle, and would often have people over for food, like this. The ingredients were incredible and the food was so easy to prepare. A lot of the glassware we used for this meal is handblown Syrian glass, from the factory we all lived opposite in Damascus.

What did you have to eat?

As a starter we had muhammara – a spicy red pepper and ground walnut dip. We also had chicken livers and a warm lamb and aubergine puree. I bought buying a canada goose jacket online some hummus on Edgware Road in London, and it’s exactly like the hummus you get in Syria and nothing like what you get in Marks & Spencer. Syrian hummus is quite subtle and very smooth. Then we had lamb on roasted green wheat.

For dessert we had shop-bought baklava and a milk and orange pudding, which is really refreshing after all that buy a canada goose jacket online meat. These were all dishes that I had first tasted while living in Syria and then learned how to make myself.

What did you have to drink?

Red wine and a homemade mint lemonade – we used to drink this a lot in Damascus and it’s so delicious. We always wonder why no one drinks it in the UK. We also had flower tea after the meal: a blend of damask rose, verbena, camomile and jasmine. It’s a beautiful tea, and characteristic of Damascus. We had it with the sugar-coated cardamom seeds you find in restaurants there.

How long did it take to prepare?

Some of the dishes, like the muhammara canada goose jacket outlett, I prepared the night before so the flavours would really come out. The lamb dish takes a while to cook, but it is quite low maintenance. You just have to be organised three or four hours before. And then everyone helped with the finishing touches before we ate.

What did you talk about?

We talked about Syria and how we never imagined it would get to this. Each one of us has a connection with Syria, and feels sad and helpless about what’s happening. canada goose coat 0f It was nice to talk to people who understand and share the same memories as us.

Mint lemonade

Juice of 5 lemonsA large bunch of mint leaves, picked3 tbsp caster sugar (adjust to taste)

Simply blend all the ingredients together and then top up with water.

Leg of lamb with freekeh

Freekeh is made from green wheat grains that have been picked young then roasted or scorched, giving them their characteristic smoky taste. It’s apparently mentioned in the canada goose coat 1000 bulbs garland Bible as “roasted grain” and the monastery in Syria where my son was baptised served it to us for lunch after the ceremony. In rural communities, the farmers harvest the green wheat, then lay it out on the roads for cars to drive over, and then they set fire to it – so you need to rinse it thoroughly!

This recipe is adapted from Seductive Flavours of the Levant by Nada Saleh and is very easy to make.

Serves 6

1½ kg leg of lamb3 litres waterA bouquet garni (a celery stick, a handful of cardamom pods, a bay leaf, an onion studded with cloves, 2 large sticks of cinnamon and a few black peppercorns)1¼ tsp salt5 tbsp thick yoghurt285g freekeh450ml meat stock (use the lamb stock)

To garnish½ tbsp olive oil30g flaked almonds, toasted (optional)30g pine nuts, toasted (optional)

1 Set the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6. Put the leg of lamb in a large pan with a lid, cover it with cold water and place over a medium heat. Bring to the boil, skim off any foam and add the bouquet garni. Cover and place the pan in the oven for 2½-3 hours.

2 Sprinkle with salt near the end of cooking. Remove the lamb, place it in a roasting tray and smother with the yoghurt, then put it back in the oven for 30-40 minutes.

3 Rinse the freekeh several times, then add the stock and bring to the boil. Cover and simmer for 12-15 minutes or until the grains are soft and all the liquid has been absorbed. Turn off the heat, cover the pan with a tea towel and leave for 5-10 minutes.

4 If using nuts to garnish, toast them quickly in a small frying pan, taking care not to burn them.

5 Place the freekeh on a serving dish and place the leg of lamb on top. Garnish with the nuts, and serve with more yoghurt and rose harissa (try


You can improvise with this recipe – I got it from a Syrian in best canada goose jacket for men London. He has a great blog called the Syrian Foodie.

Serves 8

250g red pepper paste50g fine bulgur wheat, pre-soaked in water50g walnuts, chopped2 tbsp pomegranate molassesJuice of 1 lemonA glug of olive oilSugar (optional)

1 Simply blitz all the ingredients together in a mixer until you get a texture and taste you like. If you can’t find red pepper paste, use a jar of rinsed, roasted peppers. You can also add a tablespoon of tahini, some crushed garlic, cumin or chilli powder.

2 Serve with warm pitta bread.

Balouza (Damascene milk and orange pudding)

Use blood oranges if in season as they look stunning, and try and use a clear glass serving dish to show off the two layers. Again adapted from Nada Saleh.

Serves 6

For the milk pudding1.1 litres milk6 tbsp cornflour4 tbsp caster sugar

For the orange pudding450ml freshly squeezed orange juice3 tbsp cornflour2 tbsp waterA handful of flaked almonds, toasted

1 buy canada goose jacket online cheap Whisk the milk, the cornflour and sugar in a pan until dissolved. Place over a medium heat. Stir constantly until the milk comes to the boil. Reduce the heat and keep stirring for 3 minutes longer, until it thickens.

2 Pour into a deep, medium-size glass serving dish. Cool and set for 2-3 hours.

3 While the milk pudding cools, place the orange juice in a saucepan. Mix the cornflour and cold water in a small cup. Add it to the orange juice, place over a medium heat, and stir constantly until it boils and thickens. Remove from the heat and set aside for 3 minutes.

4 Pour best canada goose jacket the orange mixture over the cooled milk pudding to cover it. Chill for a few hours and serve with flaked almonds on top.

• Malika Browne is a member of the Syrian Supper Club which, since 2012, has raised more than £5,000 for a range of canada goose coat 1000 bulbs lamps humanitarian organisations working in Syria, including Syria Relief, Mosaic Syria and Unicef.

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