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Community Hubs leader shares culinary secrets

Post Series: SSI Stories

When thinking of a menu for a celebration, head chef Fatima Kourouche draws inspiration from an important woman in her life — her mother.

Among the eclectic spread of dishes on offer at an event held at the Settlement Services International (SSI) Community Kitchen was a yoghurt pasta recipe that Ms Kourouche’s mother cooked for her and her five siblings while they were growing up in Lebanon.

“My mum always made that recipe,” said Ms Kourouche, who is the NSW Community Hubs Manager at SSI.

“It had pasta, yoghurt and the garlic, which was all nutritious but, at the same time, it was practical to make when feeding six kids quickly. For summer, it’s also a nice cold dish,” Ms Kourouche said.

“Even now, I make it for my grandchildren when they come over for lunch. It’s quick and easy, and in a Middle Eastern kitchen yoghurt is something you always have in the fridge.”

To combat the hot summer heat, a team of chefs comprising SSI staff, clients and volunteers also prepared fresh lemonade and Jalab — a cordial that often is used to break the fast during Ramadan.

“You make the mixture, you add pine nuts, and you freeze it a couple of hours before breaking the fast,” Ms Kourouche said.

“It’s not frozen, but it’s like an icy slushy.”

Ms Kourouche’s menu also drew inspiration from all the women in the NSW Settlement Partnership (NSP) team, including Edith Gonzalez, who helped whip up “completos” — a hotdog variation from Chile that is accompanied by avocado, diced tomato, and mayonnaise.

Rounding out the feast were sausages, kofta, salads, and a Lebanese lentil and rice dish.

Yoghurt pasta

Fatima’s yoghurt pasta

Serves 4–6

Ingredients:

500g pasta

1kg plain yoghurt

1 clove of garlic

½ tsp salt

A pinch of fresh mint or mint flakes

Method:

Crush the garlic and salt together. Add the mint, and crush all three ingredients until combined, before mixing them into the yoghurt

Boil the pasta until al dente then stir through the yoghurt mixture and serve.

Fatima’s tip: This child-friendly dish goes nicely with a garnish of pine nuts roasted in butter, or chilli flakes. It works as a side dish or as a meal on its own.

Lentils and rice

Serves 4–6

Ingredients:

1 cup of lentils

1 cup of rice

5 medium onions

½ tsp salt

½ tsp cumin

½ tsp seven spices

Method:

Cover the lentils in water, leaving about an inch of water on top. Boil until the lentils are soft but still hold their shape. A layer of water should remain on top of the lentils when cooked.

Dice four of the onions and cook in a splash of vegetable or olive oil until golden. Run the rice under cold water and drain, then stir it into the onions and fry for 1–2 minutes.

Add the salt, spices, and lentils. Put the kettle on and continue stirring the mixture until the kettle has boiled. Add two cups of boiled water and bring the mixture to the boil, then reduce to low heat and cover.

Meanwhile, cut the remaining onion into half rings and deep fry in vegetable oil until dark brown and caramelised.

Simmer the rice and lentil mixture until it’s dry and fluffy, then serve and garnish with the deep dried onion pieces.

Fatima’s tip: This dish goes nicely with a side of cucumber and yoghurt. Follow the pasta and yoghurt recipe but cut the yoghurt quantity in half and substitute the pasta for 2–3 diced cucumbers.

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Settlement Services International (SSI) is the principal sponsor for Refugee Week 2019. This series of stories are stories of resilience and engagement from across their network.