The Syrian PopUp
Khalid and Yaakhoub worked all day long to prepare the mouth-watering meal we enjoyed on June 4th with a good number of hungry guests. Finally, all the food was ready just as the guests started arriving. The only thing left cooking was the Falafel, but with so many other items on the menu, no one seemed to notice.
In case you missed it, the Shabab Radio team was on site, interviewing the chefs and the guests. Many insightful responses that were valuable to hear, and learn from. We learned a lot from this event overall, from beginning to end. And this event started in the central market, Varvakios Agora.
Our chefs were really well organised, however we needed to do the shopping together, how else could we read the list!?! Navigating the market stalls and various shops with Khalid was an adventure, collecting many bags of produce for the cooking, trying to use recycled bags, and buying as locally as possible, which in Greece, is a snap. And it’s also a great way to learn the culinary geography of Greece. Kastoria, for example, is famous for making “Giant Beans”, it’s even designated a bean-producing region by the EU, which is famous for its bean counters.
One of the highlights was the Arab spice shop, which was one of the more social shops in the market. There we had to buy special ingredients that weren’t available anywhere else, like the lemon salt for the stuffed grape leaves (Dolmadakia). The Dolma was the most time consuming part of the day, which kept both chefs very busy.
The church that hosted this event recently acquired a professional oven, so making the lamb in the oven was less difficult than what we had imagined. Luckily, Yaakhoub was familiar with the model and warmed it up for all the cooking that was going to happen.
And Yaakhoub would also have his turn to shine, by making Algerian baklava that he made from scratch. Yaakhoub was a pastry chef in Algeria before seeking refuge in Europe after he was kidnapped and held captive by militants. You can read his story by clicking on his name. His pastries were a hit, but took a lot of time and effort.
At long last the meal was prepared and guests flooded in. So many items to choose from! The chefs were happy to have the compliments, and on the third floor of the building, our colleague Dan was making his signature mojitos!
Inevitably, there were some leftovers, which one of the members of the church volunteered to distribute to the homeless after the meal. Please see the gallery for further pictures.