My Syrian Feast

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.

Orizzont Syria, Hasan fir rokna tieghu l Gzira

Hasan inspired me to prepare a Syrian meal during this week’s tv show.

Orrizont Syria It-tisjir Sirjan li ghamilt fuq it tv din il gimgha, dixx ta tigieg u galletini bil lewz

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.

Chicken Fatti

Total Time: 15 minutes

Category: Chicken

Cuisine: Syria, Middle East

Yield: 6

Chicken Fatti

A layered Chicken and Rice Dish, simply assembled together just before serving

Ingredients

  • 500g cooked chicken
  • 1 cup cooked rice
  • 4 slices toasted bread
  • For the sauce:
  • 1/4 tahini paste
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup Greek Yoghurt
  • the juice of 1/4 lemon
  • grated zest of 1/4 lemon
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • salt to taste
  • For the top to finish off:
  • 4 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • a pinch of smoked paprika
  • nuts of your choice [I used walnuts]

Instructions

  1. It is best to start with pre-cooked ingredients.
  2. It is a great dish for using up left over chicken.
  3. The bread can be brushed with olive oil and lightly toasted and cut into small cubes.
  4. Prepare the tahini sauce buy whisk together the tahini, ground garlic, Greek yoghurt, lemon juice and smoked paprika. I like a thin consistency and added 100ml water to my sauce but it is entirely up to personal taste. Cover and keep aside.
  5. Shred the cooked chicken and warm it through before assembling the dish. The rice also needs to be warm.
  6. Start by lining the bottom of a large bowl or platter with rice.
  7. Add a layer of shredded chicken.
  8. Then a layer of the toasted bread.
  9. Top with the tahini and yoghurt sauce.
  10. Then start layering again, first the rice, chicken, toast bread and sauce and finish off with the toasted nuts, chopped up parsley and sprinkling of smoked paprika.
  11. Drizzle some olive oil, salt and black pepper, some grated lemon zest and serve immediately.

Notes

Provided that the chicken and rice are cooked and that all the ingredients are prepared, it is just a matter of assembling the ingredients in layers. The sauce cannot be heated as it will curdle and the chicken and rice need to be warm just before assembling the dish. The bread needs to remain crispy and will do so if it is served as soon as it is put together.

https://leahogg.com/2018/03/18/my-syrian-feast/

Syrian Cookies.jpg

For the Syrian cookies [Ghraybeh] you will need:
150g butter
150g plain flour
150g oats
zest of 1/4 lemon
vanilla
1 tablespoon rosewater
Nuts for the top of each cookie [i used walnuts]
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Cream the butter using and electric hand held mixer until it is very light and fluffy. Add the soft brown sugar and carry on beating. When the mixture is smooth and consistent, add the other ingredients. Bring the mixture together using your hands and knead the dough lightly. Cover in cling film and place in the refrigerator for half an hour. Prepare an ovenproof dish with baking paper and non-stick spray. Form small dough balls and place on the baking paper. Leave some space apart from each dough ball. Press each dough ball with your finger and then place a walnut piece [or nut of your choice] in the centre of each cookie. Bake in a preheated oven for 10 minutes and allow the cookies to cool down before removing them from the tray. They harden up as they cool down.

Trade Enquiries:
Kitchenware by Pedrini, Prestige and Bialetti at K&Co Telephone 79415384

Advertisements