When Mohamad Rahimeh arrived in the Calais refugee camp that was nicknamed “the Jungle”, cooking was the last thing on his mind. He was a political scientist from Syria with a journey from hell behind him. Food was just a means to an end.
But when a close friend fell sick, he rustled up a meal of eggs. A hidden talent was uncovered.
“He loved my food and after he got better I made everyone a big feast from one pan, and everyone had my ‘Jungle eggs’ – people loved it,” Rahimeh says.
Rahimeh is one of almost 14,000 Syrian refugees who have arrived in the UK since 2015, and a growing number of chefs bringing Syrian cuisine to the country’s food scene.
His recipe, using simple ingredients such as tinned tomatoes that were donated to the camp by charities, is still a big hit three years later, served to customers at his popup Syrian brunch in Archway, north London.
Asylum Eggs have also been added to the menu since then – a new recipe that came to him during his stay in a detention centre while seeking asylum in the UK. “Whenever I make something new I always try to have a story behind it.”
Rahimeh buys most of his ingredients from the market, having grown up in the mountain town of Ain al-Fijah surrounded by fresh fruit and vegetables.
While his popup continues, he hopes to set up shop permanently with a street food stall and add his specially made Syrian ice-cream to the menu.
But not only has Rahimeh brought his Syrian cuisine to the UK, he’s also been introduced to classic British food dishes too. “The first English dish I tried was roast potatoes, and I love them. It was Christmas time [when I first arrived in the UK] and everyone was making roast potatoes and roast chicken. It’s my favourite.”
Source: The Guardian.