On the 14th of June 2017 Grenfell Tower burned and a community lost 72 people and their home. The recovery process is still ongoing and the building is a scar and a reminder of how cutting costs and ignoring residents can come with a very high price. But Grenfell is a community and they have pulled together in the aftermath of these events to rebuild their lives. And one of the ways they have come together as a community is through cooking – the Al-Manaar mosque opened their kitchen and their hearts to the local people and provided a place people could meet and share food and stories. Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, visited this setting early this year and inspired by that community has worked with them to produce this book of recipes to support their efforts.
It’s almost hard to just review this as a cookbook because it means so much more than that to the community and to all affected. It’s also a beautiful reminder of multi-cultural London to see people of mixed races and faiths (sometime embodied in a single person) coming together to share their culture through food.
This isn’t a complex cookbook, it’s not “chef-y” and that makes it perfect for cooking simple food for friends. There are breads, dips, salads, main meals (that lean towards being simple one pot dishes), and desserts. Some of the desserts are particularly good looking and I want to try them all (plum upside down cake especially) and the beignet bread is another one I’ll try. What is also good is each recipe is introduced by the creator of the dish explaining what it means to them and where its inspiration comes from and it’s typically something that relates to family or to a memory from another place or time.
I would recommend that anyone with an interest in food – particularly Middle Eastern or North African – buy this book. It’s got simple recipes you can make at home and by buying it you will be supporting the rebuilding of a community.