Taste of Morocco and Syria in Madrid

Written by: Ekaterina Kuznetsova

One thing you are missing when reading this article is the smell of the amazing food that was cooked by a very talented Moroccan chef Rachida. You are missing out on a lot, trust me. But let’s start from the beginning.

Rachida moved to Syria with her husband. Later she was forced to leave the country with him and her four kids. First, she moved to Germany but then her family decided to relocate to Madrid. She moved to Spain in September 2017 but already speaks a very fluent Spanish. She could lead the cooking class and interact with the participants freely.

On a calm Sunday Rachida came to the event’s venue – Gabinete de Historia natural. She was accompanied by her older son, who seemed shy but proud of his mother’s work. Gabinete de Historia natural is a beautiful space that is now used as a co-working space for anyone who wants to dive into their work right in the centre of Madrid. Filled with books, paintings and reminds you more of a very creative biology class.

Rachida’s calm voice and pleasant smile made everyone engaged and excited. The group was small and cozy and attendees felt free to ask any questions about the food making process. So what was on the menu?

If you ever visited Morocco or Moroccan restaurants this definitely will ring a bell. For starters, there was delicious Mutabal. Eggplant, garlic and lemon juice, tomatoes to decorate a little masterpiece. “It’s all about the details” – nods Rachida.

Delicious Mutabal

It certainly is. Seems easy? Well, it is not if you want to make it taste and look good. Rachida’s fast movements, flawless performance – you can tell it all comes with years of experience.

Mutabal was followed by Fattoush – originally a Lebanese bread salad made from toasted or fried pieces of Arabic flat bread combined with mixed greens and other vegetables, such as radishes and tomatoes. Rachida made the dish in traditional Moroccan way which included beans and nuts to decorate with.

In the process of cooking Fattoush

Jerry Lean from the United States shared: “I followed Madrid for Refugees on Facebook, the event popped up and it was interesting and I want to do more activities like this. I don’t like cooking but I have to do it and I really like it when someone shows me how to do it. It’s very interesting today.”

Jerry’s friend Alex Berney: “If I can learn something new and delicious in the meantime and support a great organization, it’s fantastic! I will try to cook one of these meals I learned today at home.”

And last, but not the least – chicken tagine with olives (neatly decorated with nuts). Tagine was actually the first dish that the group starts cooking – it takes the longest but oh, that divine smell! Chicken serves as the protein, bathed in a blend of North African spices — cinnamon and coriander, turmeric, ginger powder and cardamom — combined with tomatoes, saffron and a little stock. Preserved lemons and nuts are added at the end provide bite. The key to cooking it is to use all the special Moroccan spices and Rachida knows exactly the right amount and the exact proportions. From the distance, it looks like some magic potions!

Isabel from Chile, who lived and worked in Madrid for the past fifteen years really liked the class: “I came to this class because it’s a very interesting concept. We are all, based here in Madrid, but basically, we came from everywhere. And there are so many new things we can learn from one another. I like to cook but I don’t do it very often so today I learned new things and did something very enjoyable.”

You will not try these meals and you are missing on a lot, trust me. But you have a chance to attend future Madrid For Refugee Chefugee events, just stay tuned with our social media announcements. And in case you are wondering why, here is the reason explained by Juanfran Velasco, Events Coordinator at Madrid For Refugees:

“In the midst of the ‘migrant crisis’, we wished to promote the values of food in order to take a stand against the prejudicial and dangerous stereotypes used against refugees. By giving refugee chefs access to the cooking classes to showcase their talents, while giving everyone the opportunity to discover foreign culinary traditions.We have worked with refugees from Venezuela, Sudan, Syria… and from the beginning we were on equal footing. It does not matter our language because we talk about cooking and we use another language: gastronomy. There is no barrier, nothing that could stop us from moving forward. This cooking pop up are
universal and the best bridge to reach across to each other. If the world opted for simplicity instead of political complexity, things would be better.”

Bon appetite!