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A taste of the Middle East comes to college restaurant

Posted: 10 November 2022

A taste of Syrian home cooking is coming to West Nottinghamshire College on Thursday 24 November, thanks to Mansfield charity, Maun Refuge.

The charity, which was established in 2015 is part-funded by the National Lottery, also stages its own fundraising events to support Syrian refugees who came to Mansfield as part of the government’s Syrian Vulnerable Persons Resettlement Scheme.

The charity’s intention is to ease Syrian families into British society by enabling social, educational, cultural and healthy activities, and offering support with English language and conversation classes. It now works to support other families in the area who have arrived from Afghanistan and Ukraine.

One family which has benefited from the support of Maun Refuge is Basim and Rania Al Kaddah and their three children. Basim and Rania have been in the UK for four years and arrived with no English skills but studied functional skills and ESOL courses at the college to help them with the new language.

Rania, a keen cook, has provided the catering at two of Maun Refuge’s ‘pop-up’ catering events, held at St Peter’s Centre in Mansfield’s town centre, and this month Rania, with her friend Rokaya, will be joining professional cookery students at the college’s Refined restaurant kitchens to cook up a fine fayre of traditional Syrian food.

Diners will be able to enjoy a starter of Muqabilat, a Syrian mezze sharing platter including Chorbat el Ads, an authentic Arabic lentil soup, hummus, baba ghanoush, a creamy aubergine dip with Tabbouleh, which is a fresh herby, lemony salad. There will be kibbeh, deep fried shells of bulgur wheat, stuffed with a variety of fillings and Arabic bread and pickles.

For the main course, diners can enjoy chicken Kabsa with salad. This is a traditional Syrian recipe of rice and chicken all in one dish for each party to share. An alternative main dish will be Shish Barak which contains pieces of dough stuffed with meat, onions and walnuts and cooked in Syrian yoghurt.

For vegetarians there is vermicelli rice and okra with fresh tomatoes, coriander and a Syrian twist. All main courses will be served with a glass of Aryan – a refreshing cold yoghurt-based drink mixed with salt. Drinks will be mixed and served by the students on the hospitality and supervision leadership programme.

For dessert there will be Mahalaya, which is a Middle Eastern dish made with milk, corn flour and blossom water as well as baklava, layered pastry with a creamy filling, blossom water, syrup and pistachios. Dessert will be served with authentic Syrian coffee, also produced by the students.

Rania said: “I’m really looking forward to working with the chefs and front of house students and I hope that I can teach them something new with our Syrian recipes.

“The college has taught us so much in terms of our language skills and two of my children have gone on to enjoy engineering courses at West Notts, so it will be nice to give something back by providing catering at this special dining event.”

The Syrian dining evening on 24 November will be an alcohol-free evening and all meat will be halal butchered. The price for the three-course menu will be £30 per person. All profits from the night will be shared equally between the Maun Refuge charity and the college’s Refined restaurant.

Those interested in booking a table should visit

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