One of the most important ways to stay in touch with your culture and your roots when you no longer live in your homeland is through the food of your childhood.
Food bridges divides of all sorts. We hear about Syria every day in the news, but war does not define Syria. War rips apart countries, communities and families yet food can somehow keep the connection that is lacking from the physical distance with your roots.
I was amazed to come across Hasan’s large variety of homemade Syrian pastries tucked away in a small corner shop in Gzira when I was in search for his well known falafel stand.
He is young, fresh, enthusiastic and welcoming and I was immediately served a cup of his special Syrian brew. He says that it is not the type of tea that he uses that makes a difference but the way it is prepared. While I sipped Hasan’s sweet aromatic tea we chatted about his new roots in Malta, his recent marriage and new bride.
He told me about his mother-in-law, spending hours preparing delicious homemade Syrian dishes and his integration into life here. Hasan was happy to share tips and knowledge about the flavours of Syria and the rich culinary culture, the influences that are still strongly evident today from the Ottoman Empire and the more recent influences from the mixed society of Syria today; the mix of muslim and christian communities, the Syrian Jews, Armenians, Greeks, the influences from home cooking in the villages, and from those Syrians who live close to Iraq.
And here he is in Gzira, preserving the culture of the cuisine of his homeland.
Hasan inspired me to prepare a Syrian meal during this week’s tv show.
I prepared Chicken Fatti and Cookies and made adjustments to suit local taste, making use of seasonal ingredients that are easily available. The chicken dish is very simple but is vibrant, so colourful and remarkably delicious, reminding me that simplicity is always best.
Here are my recipes for Fatti and Syrian cookies, although again I made a few substitues but was very pleased with the results.
Kitchenware by Pedrini, Prestige and Bialetti at K&Co Telephone 79415384