Those who have known us over the years know that we have a long and personal association with Syria from our earliest days, which ties in well with the work that MSF do there. So when I was contacted by a sommelier who had lived and worked in Syria, and wanted to donate her expertise to help raise money for aid work in Syria, of course it was a perfect combination.
Anna Greenhous is a qualified sommelier who teaches and also writes a regular column for Harper's magazine. We will do a fun and social wine tasting of 6 wines, interspersed with a Syrian buffet. Anna will take you through the basics and some finer points of wine tasting and then you will be divided into teams. These teams will be set a challenge to identify the wines they are given. Don't worry if you're a beginner - sometimes beginners are better than those with more experience as they're less prejudiced! And even if you lose, you still get great food.
I set out to the northern city of Aleppo in December 2009, not
knowing a soul in the country.
It wasn’t long before the local community pulled me in: cooking for me
and introducing me to Aleppo’s cuisine: sour cherry ice-cream and kebabs, sweet
pastries, street-food: ojja egg rolls, sujuk sausages and lahmajoon Armenian
pizza. My new friends shared home-made
wine bursting with cherry notes, and took me on a whirlwind tour of Aleppo’s
beautiful souk where bags of pungent spices were bought and their use explained.
Tupperware filled with beetroot mutabal dip and bags of home-mixed zaatar spices
were generously given. I was shown where to take an empty bottle to be filled
with fresh pomegranate, carrot and orange juice and generally inducted into
Syrian life. Friends of friends in Damascus and Latakia also became friends,
treating me with the same warmth and kindness. The people I met along the way
represented a rich mosaic of cultures and religions: Syrian, Syrian Armenian,
Kurdish, Palestinian, Christian and Muslim.
Sadly, I now know very few people actually living in Syria. Both Aleppo and its souq have been partially destroyed by
fighting. My friends have almost all fled to the safety of other countries: Lebanon,
Turkey, the USA, Sweden, and Armenia. Many have lost their livelihoods, homes,
and communities which are now spread across the world. Luckily, my friends seem
to be pretty fortunate, with friends and family to help. I’ve been impressed
with how dynamic and positive they have been in working hard to create new
lives and opportunities for themselves. Sadly, life is a lot harder for many
more vulnerable people, particularly those in refugee camps or stuck within
To accompany the wine, there will be a buffet:
a mountain of Falafel – which I remember eating on the way into the Citadel of Aleppo, one of the largest and oldest castles in the world. These are homemade and really, really good (v)
Hummous - "so rich and velvety smooth you could slip into a hotel room with it and lose an afternoon" as one reviewer said (v). We'll serve this with really delicious real Kurdish bread (the area known as Kurdistan is partially in the North East of Syria), made (astonishingly!) very locally using a special oven.
Borek - a baked "home style" borek made with home made pastry (v)
Lamb Mansaf - We are lucky enough to have a Palestinian lady who will cook us this traditional Bedouin dish with special dried yoghurt brought by her mother from the Levant
Pumpkin Mansaf - A vegetarian version of the lamb mansaf, using the same delicious yoghurt
Kibbeh Bil Saniyeh - a traditional baked lamb dish with pine nuts, often eaten by Damascene Christians for Sunday lunch
Hirak Isbaoo - Fabulous Lentil dish from “Naranje”, it was arguably the best restaurant in Damascus, if it still exists (v). This is a speciality of the North East of Syria.
Yehlanji - Vegetarian rice stuffed vegetables (v)
Fasolia Bzait - Green Beans, Syrian style (v)
Sebenirh Bezzet - Our ever popular spinach with onion dish, one of the favourites of the supperclub (v)
Ma'amoul – date stuffed pastries, very traditional throughout Syria
Assabih b'Sutlaj – delicious crispy custard stuffed rolls, a speciality of the Aleppo Jews, and I have to say they are exceptionally good.
The cost of this special one-off night will be £35 of which £20 will go direct to Medecins Sans Frontieres to help with their work in Syria.
Please email us on firstname.lastname@example.org if you wish to make a booking.