Published Tuesday, 20th July 2021

A new Syrian recipe book, created during lockdown, has been published to capture some of the best-loved dishes of South-East Surrey’s Syrian community.

An image of the front cover of the Syrian Feast recipe bookPublished by Reigate & Banstead Borough Council, ‘A Syrian Feast’ represents the Syrian community, their heritage and wonderful Syrian cuisine in a colourful collection of rich and heart-warming dishes, evoking the former lives and culture of this resettled community.

The group of 20 Syrian families, resettled in the area through the Government’s 2015 Global Resettlement Scheme and a partnership between Reigate & Banstead Borough Council, Tandridge District Council and Mole Valley District Council, have warmly shared both well-known and old family recipes to create the book.

The flavoursome and heartfelt dishes, once shared among families and friends across Syria, have already been enjoyed by over 200 people as part of ‘Syrian Feast’ pop-up restaurants in Redhill before the pandemic. Following requests from attendees for the recipes, long-standing Syrian refugee volunteer, Anna Tarrant, came up with the idea of creating the collection of easy-to-follow dishes like Baba Ganouj and Baklava to be tried out at home.

Refugee resettlement  

Supporting the idea, the South-East Surrey Global Resettlement team helped coordinate the publishing of the book featuring 17 authentic recipes, including starters, soups, snacks, main meals and desserts using fresh or easily adapted ingredients like aubergine, lemon, tomatoes, vine leaves, peppers and herbs, and commonly used utensils like cups and mugs for measurement.  

Cllr Caroline Neame, Executive Member for Housing and Support, said: “Through this scheme and the incredible support from dedicated 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!”.

Enjoy a Syrian Feast

A Syrian Feast 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, as well as help them integrate successfully into the community and live independent lives. 

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.”

Follow the Council’s social media pages for information on the next Syrian Feast coming up this autumn.