One positive event to emerge from the dreadful Grenfell Tower tragedy in West London has been the birth of the Hubb Community Kitchen.
It was started by a group of women who had been displaced by the fire, and needed somewhere to cook fresh food for their families. They began to use the kitchen at the nearby Al-Manaar Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre, sharing the space for two days a week, swapping recipes, often handed down through the generations, from the Middle East, North Africa, Europe and the Eastern Mediterranean.
Fifty of these recipes have now been collected in a book, Together: Our Community Cookbook – green chilli and avocado dip, Persian chicken, aubergine masala, spiced mint tea – all photographed by Jenny Zarins and providing a unique glimpse into the culinary heritage of the many different cultures that share this part of West London. Two of the recipes appear below.
In an unexpected twist, the book turns out to have been the idea of Meghan Markle, herself a resident of West Kensington, who was an early visitor to the Hubb Kitchen and has spent some time cooking (aka peeling potatoes) with the women who volunteer there.
Beef and Aubergine Casserole by Intlak Alsaiegh
350g minced beef
4 large garlic cloves, crushed
3/4 tsp curry powder
2 aubergines, about 700g, cut into 1.5cm slices
120ml olive oil
2 large potatoes, about 500g, peeled and cut into 1.5cm slices
1 large onion, cut into 1cm slices
1 large green pepper, cored, de-seeded and sliced
4 tbsp tomato puree
11/2 tbsp tamarind paste
11/2 tbsp granulated sugar
3 tomatoes, about 280g, cut into 1cm slices
salt and white pepper
basmati rice or bread, to serve
Preheat the oven to 180C.
Place the beef and two crushed garlic cloves in a bowl. Add the curry powder and some salt and pepper and mix by hand until well combined. Divide the mixture into 12 equal pieces and roll into balls. Set aside.
Heat a large non-stick frying pan on a medium–high heat. Brush both sides of the aubergine slices with olive oil and fry in batches for 4–5 minutes on each side, until golden. Set aside.
Brush the potato slices with oil and cook in the same pan for about 6 minutes on each side until golden but not completely cooked
through. Set aside. In the same pan, fry the onion slices and green pepper in about 2 tablespoons of the oil for about 5 minutes, until just golden. Add the remaining garlic and fry for 1 more minute. Set aside.
Finally, fry the meatballs on a high heat for 2–3 minutes until well browned but not cooked through.
In a measuring jug, mix the water with the tomato puree, tamarind paste and sugar until well blended. Arrange half of the aubergine, potato, onion, pepper, tomatoes and meatballs in a 30cm round baking dish, overlapping them. Season well, then pour half of the tomato sauce over the top. Repeat with the rest of the vegetables and meatballs. Season well and pour the remaining sauce on top. Cover with foil or a lid and bake for 30 minutes, then uncover and bake for another 20 minutes. Serve with basmati rice or bread to mop up the sauce.
Caramelised Plum Upside-Down Cake by Faiza Hayani Bellili
2 tsp sunflower oil, for greasing
300g granulated sugar
100g unsalted butter, very soft
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp salt
8 plums, halved and stoned
40g dark brown soft sugar
2 eggs, beaten
50g ground almonds
100g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
Preheat the oven to 170C. Grease a 23cm round springform cake tin with the sunflower oil and place on a baking sheet.
For the caramel, put 225g of the granulated sugar into a small, wide, heavy pan on a low heat. Without stirring, let the sugar dissolve completely. Once liquid, let it gently bubble for 15–20 minutes or until it is a deep golden colour. Add 10g of the butter, half the vanilla extract and the salt, gently swirling the pan to combine the butter as it melts. Once fully incorporated, immediately remove from the heat and pour the caramel into the prepared cake tin. Place the plum halves on top, cut side down, nestled tightly together, and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, beat the remaining butter together with the remaining granulated sugar and the brown sugar until pale and creamy: this will take 2–3 minutes using a handheld electric whisk; if you don’t have one, use a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well. Once the eggs are well combined, add the remaining vanilla extract, the cornflour, ground almonds, flour and baking powder to the bowl and fold through with a metal spoon until just combined (taking care not to over-mix), then pour over the plums. Smooth over the top, then bake for 40–45 minutes until cooked through: a thin skewer inserted into the centre of the cake should come out clean.
Transfer the cake to a wire rack and leave to cool in the tin for 5 minutes before turning out onto a serving plate. To do this, put the serving plate on top of the tin and flip over before releasing the sides of the tin and removing the base. Let the cake cool for a further 5 minutes before slicing.
Together: Our Community Cookbook with an Introduction by the Duchess of Sussex is published by Ebury Press, £9.99, hbk. Photography by Jenny Zarins. Profits from the sales of this book will help the Hubb Community Kitchen to strengthen lives and communities through cooking