Osman watches 20 golden falafel fry in a pan of simmering oil. He is using a recipe taught to him by his mother, more than four decades ago and thousands of miles away in Egypt. Now, he’s in a community centre kitchen in south London. “Ninety per cent of Egyptians eat falafel in the morning,” he says. “I made it with my hands, not a machine. It’s different to the Lebanese falafel, it’s green not yellow – because of something special, it’s a secret.’ (A quick Google search suggests the “something special” is more coriander.)
The 53-year-old was raised on a farm outside Cairo, growing fruit and vegetables. “I left school when I was 10 years old and started working to help with everything on the farm, and sometimes in the house,” he says. “I have one brother, who’s a doctor now, and two sisters.”
Osman’s family is still in Egypt. He has a 24-year-old son who is due to qualify as a doctor this year, and a 14-year-old daughter who lives with his ex-wife. In Cairo he had his own business, exporting goods. But when he came to the UK in 2015, initially to resolve a business dispute over payment for containers of grapes, he knew no one. He had never been to Britain before.
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