Syrian families who as refugees resettled in south-east Surrey have contributed flavoursome recipes for a new book reflecting their culture and former lives.
The twenty families providing items for the book, “A Syrian Feast”, came to the area under the Government’s 2015 scheme for refugee resettlement, aided by a resettlement partnership between three local councils: Reigate & Banstead, Tandridge, and Mole Valley.
Dishes listed in the book, previously shared by the families and their friends across Syria, have already been enjoyed by over 200 people as part of ‘Syrian Feast’ pop-up restaurants in Redhill (in pre-pandemic times).
Diners at the pop-ups asked for recipes, and Anna Tarrant, a long-standing volunteer working with Syrian refugees, came up with the idea of creating a collection of easy-to-follow dishes that can be tried out at home.
The south-east Surrey resettlement team coordinated the publishing of the book which features 17 authentic recipes, including starters, soups, snacks, main meals and desserts.
Cllr Caroline Neame, Reigate & Banstead’s executive member for housing and support, said that through the resettlement scheme and the “incredible support” of volunteers, “the Syrian families have been helped to develop independence and resilience to ensure they are able to contribute to, and thrive in, their new communities.
“A Syrian Feast is a reflection of the long-lasting trust and friendship brought about by those involved in the scheme. The sharing of food and recipes with family and friends is something we can all relate to, and I thank all the families for their generosity in sharing their delicious recipes and special memories of their lives in Syria to create this unique book.”
Seham, originally from Aleppo, in north-western Syria, resettled in the borough with support from the scheme and local volunteers. She said: “We were amongst the first families who arrived in Redhill five years ago under the resettlement scheme for Syrian refugees.
“We have been so lucky to have benefitted so much from all the support that the resettlement team and volunteers provide us. We are happy and feel very much part of the community.
She added: “Whilst learning English and working here in the UK, I often cook food for colleagues. Everyone really appreciates the effort and loves my food.”
A Syrian Feast, published by Reigate & Banstead Borough Council, can be purchased from the Harlequin Theatre in Redhill for £5 or online.
Proceeds from the book will go towards future projects to help increase skills, work experience and job opportunities for the local Syrian community. The work – undertaken with a dedicated team and supporting volunteers – enables the families to adjust to their new lives in the UK and integrate into the community.
An opening quote in the book says: “When we prepare these dishes, we remember what we left behind and the friends and families with whom we used to enjoy these meals. Now we share them with new friends.”