The refugees giving a whole new meaning to ‘food for thought’

Michael Owens meets the asylum-seekers teaching cookery classes using recipes from home as they wait for a decision on their right to stay

Monday 18 March 2019 13:04 GMT
Osman shows one of his students the precise art of the Egyptian falafel
Osman shows one of his students the precise art of the Egyptian falafel

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.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in