Our Syria: Recipes From Home
Itab Azzam and Dina Mousawi
Running Press/Hachete Book Group, 2017
Here in Toronto, where Food Book Feast is based, Syrian food is hot and trendy. Canada welcomed tens of thousands of Syrian immigrants last year and many of those who have settled in the Toronto area have started restaurants or food businesses. For those of you not so lucky to have these great new neighbours, you can get a taste of what Torontonians are experiencing with the book Our Syria by Itab Azzam and Dina Mousawi.
The authors met in the UK in 2014, and since then, they have travelled to Beirut and across Europe and the Middle East, meeting cooks who shared their own recipes for traditional Syrian dishes. Profiles, often heart-breaking, of some of these contributors, are interspersed throughout the recipes, a solemn reminder of what these people have experienced in their country and as they try to flee for safety.
This recipe collection includes many family favourites, passed down through generations. All of the traditional dishes are here, although there are some creative variations as well. I’m struck by how simple many recipes actually are, with only a few fresh ingredients, some basic cooking or frying, and then spicing with the delicious land pungent lemony sumac or a regional za’atar. More detailed dishes offer the reward of intense flavour and texture.
Recipes are clear and straight-forward, with lines dividing each step, and measurements offered in both metric and Imperial. A few recipes are presented as watermarks atop a light-coloured photo, but these are usually still quite readable.
Offerings range from a multitude of mezze, brunch and lunch dishes (popular in the Middle East), main courses, sweets, drinks and pickles. There’s also a comprehensive pantry section with explanations of Middle Eastern ingredients and where to find them.
If you’re not lucky enough to have access to Syrian dishes cooked by a fantastic Syrian restaurant, then Our Syria is a great way to bring the flavourful food of that country into your own home.
The authors have also donated a portion of their royalties to the Hands Up Foundation, a UK-based charity raising funds and awareness for the crisis in Syria.