We all know what it’s like, we’re reasonably content, the bills are paid we have a holiday or two and then something, a dream, a turn of events, an article in something glossy, turns out to be the catalyst for a life changing light bulb moment. THERE IS something else out there, something we know we would be great at, we can make ourselves truly happy & others along the way if we’re really lucky, then life and the car service gets in the way, the bubble is burst, the inspiration fades. THANK ALL OUR GODS that this wasn’t the way it panned out with the lovely head Honcho at the Hampstead Kitchen, Saima Khan. All round clever stick Saima, ditched the city & business attire for the kitchen and an apron and now spends her long days & nights, sleeves rolled up, creating wonderful banquets packed with middle eastern promise for a growing following of very content, very full clients.
The Hampstead Kitchen also make time for, and are generous supporters of, the charity Food Chain which in my eyes makes them even more awe-inspiring & benevolent.
I was lucky enough recently to be invited to a private chef’s table at the Hampstead Kitchen’s hub. Joined by a diverse gathering of women from all walks of life and professions, we started as strangers and became more over pomegranate strewn tahini, rose petal embellished desert and a whole host of delights in between, including the show stopping dish of Mukloubi-bi lahmi. I unfortunately couldn’t partake, but judging by the faces of my fellow diners, the slow cooked lamb with rice & spice was glorious. For myself I was presented with a delicious fish dish, salmon chermoula, smoked salmon marinated in lemon, garlic, dill & fenugreek, so delicious in fact, I omitted to share! The wonderfully named, Na-na wa jorz, a mint and walnut sauce was also a favourite. I hope that the spelling of these aromatic delicacies are correct, if not please forgive me.
Sitting amongst piles of beautiful, jewel coloured crockery and towers of cookery books so precarious, the wonderful aromas permeating throughout the dining room made me want to book the earliest flight & zip off to Persia. With names so unpronounceable I wouldn’t even attempt them, the dishes Saima creates are full of wonderful fresh produce from near and flourishes of magical ingredients from afar. Rich & complex the Syrian dishes that we were lovingly presented with, were accompanied by knowledgable (Saima has lived pretty much everywhere so what she doesn’t know!) detailed descriptions of ingredients and cooking methods used, which, when being newly introduced to an unfamiliar cuisine, I think is always a blessing.
Now I’m not one to take pictures of everything I eat, however, I couldn’t resist & I took some sneaky shots. I think the final one sums up what a glorious evening was had by all.