Monday, 20 June 2016

World Refugee Day : Syrian Cauliflower Zahra Mnazalet

I do feel my calling is to work in a big community kitchen with people from diverse, cultural and ethnic backgrounds.  I even dream one day if I win the lottery big time to start a community canteen where people from all backgrounds can come together, share and eat food and mostly talk with each other to break down preconceived ideas and challenge misinformation disseminated often by cheap paper tabloids.  I would not want it to be one of those places, where people come along, a bit like so-called 'Diversity days' 'eat the food from different countries, dance to the music, have their hands painted in henna', then go back to their homes continuing to still carry those prejudices.  I've seen that way to many times and always avoid it as tokenism.  Anyway, today (and the rest of this week) is not about me.  This week I give my blog space freely over to Refugee Week in the hope that it will raise some awareness of refugees and asylum seekers across the world for what its worth.

Today it is the 20th June and today is World Refugee Day.  World Refugee Day marks a collective acknowledgement across the world to raise awareness  of the plight of refugees and asylum seekers across the world.  
When I started this blog I lived in Scotland and through some of my work in the voluntary sector I was involved with the Scottish Refugee Council.  It was in the 1990s and many vulnerable asylum seekers and refugees from Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan and  Eritrea were homed in the Red Road flats in Glasgow and Edinburgh, Scotland.  Previous to that my only experience of refugees was through books and history lessons.  And the only real life encounter I had up until then with a refugee was when I was a child in Wales.  I learned of 'the boat people' - Vietnamese people who came to Wales in the  1970s.  If you are a regular reader, you will know that dotted throughout my blog are thoughts on how 'we are all foreigners somewhere'.  

In 2011, an estimated 9 million Syrians were forced to flee their homes because of the outbreak of the Civil War.  This is the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War. The rest ...we all know.  

The theme for Refugee Week for 2016  is Welcome. On a daily basis I engage and interact with people from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds, some are from an asylum seeker and refugee background, some are not - but the one thing we all have in common is that we are all human beings looking to better our lives.  But for the purpose of my blog my Simple Act is to Cook A Dish from Another Country and try and raise some awareness that way among some colleagues and some of my readers.
In Syria Zahra means cauliflower, it is also the same word for flowers.  Kano - The Syrian Foodie writes, and the word Mnazalet is a generic word for vegetable dishes.  
I have adapted the meat version which is made with minced lamb with reconstituted soy mince, but you can omit it all together if you wish.  For those of you who like mild flavours, then this one is for you.  I liked it, for me the fresh coriander elevated the dish.  You will find the recipe below if you wish to recreate it at home. 

On another note about Syria, I went to an exhibition called from Syria With Love
This is a UK based initiative.  The exhibition shared artwork created by Syrian children living in refugee camps in Lebanon.  Here are some pictures I took on that day.

If you get the chance, visit Savouring Syria - A project that tells the stories of Syrians and Syria through food.  Also if you have time, please watch Queens Of Syria.  
In 2013, 50 Syrian women came together in Jordan to create and perform their own version of The Trojan War, a take on the Greek tragedy about the plight of women in the war.  It is Arabic with English subtitles and is directed by Yasmin Fedda. Here is a review by The Guardian.

Syrian Cauliflower Mnazalet Zahra 
Serves 4
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 medium cauliflower, broken up into florets and the stalk chopped into small pieces (waste not)
1 onions, peeled and minced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Optional: 75g - 100g soy minced, reconstituted
200ml vegetable stock
Good handful of fresh coriander minced
Salt and pepper to taste
Lemon wedges to serve
In a wide pan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil.  When the oil is hot, fry the cauliflower florets until they begin to golden, keen turning so not to burn.  Then drain and set aside.
In the same pan, heat the remaining oil, then stir in the onion and garlic and cook until soft.  Then stir in the soya mince along with most of the coriander and cook until the water in the soy mince has been absorbed.  Then stir in the cauliflower florets with the stock and cook with the lid on for 10 minutes or until the cauliflower if completely cooked and the stock has reduced.  
Serve immediately with rice and garnish with the remaining coriander and lemon wedge on the side.  Inspired and Adapted from The Syrian Foodie in London 


  1. I'm doing my bit for cultural integration by eating food from a different world cuisine at least three times a week!

  2. "I even dream one day if I win the lottery big time to start a community canteen where people from all backgrounds can come together" I LOVE this! A friend and I were recently talking about how if we had unlimited supplies of money, we would open a vegan food bank so we could have the community come in and enjoy plant-based meals together and everyone get to know one another and learn about each other.
    I admire you for everything you do to help others and promoting awareness. The world would be more beautiful if we were all more aware and empathetic.

    1. Thank you so much Kimmy, its warming that you have a very similar dream - mine would also be plant based too (ans maybe acquire a plot of land to grow some of the veg - it can be very therapeutic. We can only hope x


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