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Last week we hosted a benefit in aid of the Red Cross Syria Crisis Appeal. The evening featured recipes from Taste of Freedom, a cookbook of Syrian recipes written to raise money in support of this important cause. Please read on for pictures and more info about the event, how you can support Syria, plus a delicious recipe for M’jaddara, featured in the cookbook.

Taste of Freedom Syria Benefit

Demuths Vegetarian Cookery School hosted 40 guests for an evening of Syrian dining in aid of the Red Cross last week.

With the Bath Christmas Market and Film Festival getting into full swing outside, Rachel Demuth and Chef Jo Ingleby showcased dishes from Taste of Freedom, a cookbook of family recipes compiled by local resident Jenny Sowerby.

The book is a collection of Jenny’s late mum’s Syrian recipes, which is available to buy as a PDF download in aid of the Red Cross Syria Crisis Appeal. Buyers are free to pay as little or as much as they like for the book, which features a mix of meat and vegetarian recipes as well as photos of Syrian food and culture.

Taste of Freedom Syria Benefit

As well as learning innovative cooking and preparation techniques, the guests tasted a range of traditional Syrian dishes that had been given a new Demuths twist. M’jaddara - a lentil and rice dish popular throughout the Middle East - was garnished with toasted almonds, rose petals and a generous sprinkling of orange blossom water. Tabbouleh salad was loaded with a multitude of different herbs, and mutabbal (smoked aubergine dip) was finished with a dash of Aleppo pepper.

Taste of Freedom Syria Benefit

Rachel Demuth commented, “Here at Demuths Vegetarian Cookery School we are always keen to support charitable causes through our food and cooking. Jenny’s book provided a good opportunity to explore some of the dishes that Syria is so renowned for, as well as raise much-needed funds for the Red Cross. We raised over £700 on one night alone, which is a great result.”

Taste of Freedom Syria Benefit

Jenny added, “Mum’s recipes have been popular with all who knew her over the years, and it’s been great to share them with a wider audience for such a good cause. It was amazing to see Rachel and Jo add their Demuths flair to her dishes – I know she would have been really proud”.

Taste of Freedom Syria Benefit

Launched in May 2012, the Taste of Freedom book first gained attention on twitter where popular chefs and food authors such as John Torode, Jay Rayner and Henry Dimbleby supported it. The book has now sold over 250 copies and raised nearly £2,000.

Taste of Freedom Syria Benefit

Sample recipe:

M’jaddara (lentils with rice)

200g dry brown lentils 100g long grain or basmati rice 3 onions 2 tbsp olive oil 2.25 litres water Salt & pepper to taste


1. Rinse the lentils and the rice. 2. Cook lentils in water over medium heat until tender (about 20 minutes). Keep checking the water to make sure it doesn’t dry out. 3. Add rice and seasoning and cook for a further 15 minutes, adding a little water if needed. All water should be absorbed when rice is cooked. 4. Chop onions and fry in olive oil until light brown. Remove from heat.

Serve m’jaddara garnished with the onions, with a green salad and pickles.

Jo Inglebys suggestion: bring out the flavours further by garnishing m’jaddara with toasted almonds, plus a sprinkle of orange blossom water and edible rose petals. These ingredients can be found in Middle Eastern food stores such as Sweet Mart in St Marks Road, Bristol.

Lend your support to the Red Cross Syria Appeal by clicking here: Taste of Freedom.

Find more photos of the event on Flickr.