A few weeks ago I had a rather surprising e-mail from a photographer friend in Damascus (www.johnwreford.com). It started "...news of your amazing Kibbe has even spread to Damascus..."
Can you believe it he was talking to someone about Syrian food and my name came up!!
Separately, another regular customer recently told me he thought my Syrian night was the best supperclub he'd been to (I guess that should be good but it makes me worry about my other cooking...)
So I think on that basis I'd better do another Syrian night. I won't have the little tidbits I brought back from Syria in November (though I still have a lot of spices), but I will have the distinct advantage of actually having cooked the dishes before, as I hadn't actually cooked any of the dishes I did last time, just written down the recipes I begged off people in my notebook! And I had flu.
I'll have to draw heavily on my notebooks again because I've just read ALL of Claudia Roden's Middle Eastern Food (allegedly the definitive work) and found 2 sorry excuses for Syrian recipes in there (one was kibbe, for heaven's sake, you could hardly miss it out). You don't get much chance to eat Syrian food in London (apparently there are only 2 restaurants and as I've just proven, you can't even find the recipes!), so take your chance whilst you can.
The 2 star dishes of that supperclub (according to customers) were Kibbe Bel Ferroun (Quince Kibbe), taught to my by a lady from the Syrian Institute of Gastronomy, and the Hirak Isbaoo, a lentil recipe that I pinched from Naranje, one of the top restaurants in Damascus.
Also on the menu will be Yalanje, Syrian stuffed vegetables, the absolutely essential Fattoush salad, and a broad selection of other, mainly vegetarian, mezze. I plan to make some Syrian breads after having spent literally hours staring at the bakers making them through the shop window - I think they thought I'd never leave. I will mail a family friend in Aleppo for her Meloukhiyya recipe.
Please let me know if you'd like to book. Usual cost - £25 of which £20 will go to MSF. Start time 7.30
Syrian photos here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=63313&id=185907978092623&l=e7f74ec443
I travelled to 20 different places all over the country and ate an indecent amount of food.