At Spud, we never get tired of learning more about food because of the multi-faceted relationship it has to community, culture, and friendship. In lieu of the news about last week’s US presidential immigration bans, we were floored. Though the ban has now been lifted, the emotional aftermath of such a harsh order is still very much present. In an echo to what I’m sure many of you were feeling, I couldn’t believe that this was actually something that was happening in 2017.

We thought that we’d take an opportunity this week to showcase one recipe from each country that was affected by the US travel ban. Food, though perhaps seemingly peripheral, is one small yet powerful way we can embrace and learn about those who live, come from, or identify from all different parts of the world. We hope you enjoy these recipes, which feature national favourites from Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Somalia, and Libya.

Javaher Polow – Iranian Jeweled Rice

If the name alone doesn’t intrigue you, just wait until you hear what’s in it. Jeweled rice is a sweet and savoury Iranian delicacy that shows off some of the native ingredients of Iran, including pistachios, almonds, candied orange peel, barberries (you can use dried cranberries if you can’t find barberries), carrots, and saffron. It’s typically served at large celebrations like weddings, where the sweetness of the dish symbolizes a sweet life. The rice is cooked with a pinch of sugar to cut the bitterness of the barberries, and is traditionally served with chicken.  

Zengoula with Lemon Syrup – Iraqi Funnel Cakes

Looking for a new dessert mission to try out? You need to try this recipe for Zenguola with lemon syrup. Zenguola resembles what you might recognize as the funnel cake you’re used to seeing at carnivals and sporting events, but with a Jewish-Iraqi twist. It only takes a few minutes to whip up the Zenguola batter the night before, which makes it a little easier on you to fry them up the day you want to serve them. You’ve also probably got all the ingredients you need in the cupboard, so give ‘em a try!

Lebaniyye – Syrian Yogurt Soup

Though the idea of warm yogurt might sound a little odd if you’ve never tried it before, it really does work in this recipe! The base of this soup is made by cooking rice in vegetable stock and garlic, then slowly adding yogurt and seasoning spices. It’s served with a generous spoonful of lentils, handfuls of mint, parsley, and spinach, then drizzled in a warm garlic and chili oil. This heavenly soup might very well be my new favourite way to enjoy yogurt!

Malikia – Yemenis Banana Honey Dish

Malikia, as it is known is Yemen, or Masoub, as people call it in Saudi Arabia, is essentially a banana bread pudding that’s been doused with whipping cream, sliced almonds, raisins, honey, and a little bit of shredded mild cheddar cheese. It’s traditionally eaten as a breakfast food, or is served after a meal as dessert. We love this recipe because it’s easy to follow, uses up overripe bananas, and is fairly forgiving in terms of topping flexibility. You can mix things up by throwing on dates, more fruit, or different kinds of nuts, but I’d encourage you try out the traditional recipe first.

Sudanese Beef, Spinach, and Peanut Stew

Did you know that peanuts are a key ingredient in Sudanese cuisine? They’re used to add flavour and texture, and add serious depth to slow-cooked dishes like stews. This stew tastes great served over couscous–or whichever grain you like–but it is traditionally served with sorghum, another Sudanese staple. Sorghum is typically eaten by men for breakfast (in porridge form), by women after they’ve given birth (as it’s believed to improve the flow of breast milk), and by children as a snack in the form of popped sorghum (similar to popcorn). This recipe is no more complicated than any other stew you’ve tried to make, and the ingredients are all very easy to find.

Somali Cambuulo – Rice with Adzuki Beans in a Spicy Tomato Sauce

Adzuki beans are used in many Asian dessert recipes, typically through grinding the beans into a paste and sweetening it up into soups or stuffed into buns. However, in Somalia, they eat something called Cambuulo, which is adzuki beans with sesame oil or butter, and a pinch of sugar. This meal is typically eaten for dinner, but can be served in many different ways. The simplest way to enjoy Cambuulo is by mixing it in with rice, but this recipe enjoys it with a spicy tomato sauce.

Shorba Libya: Libyan Lamb, Chickpea, Mint and Cinnamon Soup

Shorba Libya is a nationally famous soup that combines many of the flavours that characterize Libyan cuisine. This soup is traditionally made every day during the fasting month of Ramadan, and is met without complaint–which is saying something. Grilled lamb is boiled in a stock containing cinnamon and a medley of other spices, chickpeas, dried mint, and the juice of one lemon. It’s an aromatic, full-bodied soup that truly encapsulates the flavours of Libya.

Having fun with cooking often means trying new recipes, and cooking new cuisines is always encouraged! We hope you give at least one of these delicacies a try as they are all well-loved, cultural favourites in the countries they were created in.

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