Community Comfort: Recipes From The Diaspora is an evocative compilation of recipes from around the world – and it’s providing financial support to BAME families affected by Covid-19 in the UK.
In March, shortly after Boris Johnson was hospitalised with Covid-19, government minister Michael Gove suggested that the pandemic might act as a kind of leveller. “The fact that both the prime minister and the health secretary [Matt Hancock] have contracted the virus is a reminder that the virus does not discriminate,” Gove told a press conference.
But while coronavirus itself may not be biased, it has nevertheless disproportionately affected people from Black, Asian and minority ethnic (BAME) backgrounds. Research by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) shows that Black people in the UK are four times as likely to die from Covid-19 as white people, with Bangladeshi and Pakistani women 1.6 times as likely to die from the illness as their white counterparts. A leaked section of an official inquiry by Public Health England (PHE) concluded that racism was to blame for some of the disparities seen in coronavirus deaths in the UK.
Disturbed by this situation, cook and activist Riaz Phillips has launched a charity cookbook to raise money for BAME families affected by Covid-19. Community Comfort: Recipes From The Diaspora features over 100 recipes by chefs and cooks from African, Caribbean, Asian, South and Central American backgrounds, with all proceeds going to the Majonzi Covid-19 Bereavement Fund.
Launched by Windrush campaigner Patrick Vernon OBE, the fund is raising money for BAME families in the UK who have lost loved ones as a result of coronavirus, helping to pay for everything from memorial services to grief counselling.
You may also like
UK Black-owned independent bookshops to order from online now
Divided into eight sections (Breakfast, Bites, Salads, Veggie, Soups & Stews, Curry, Meat & Fish and Sweets & Stuff), Community Comfort features some of Stylist’s favourite chefs and cooks, including Romy Gill MBE, Ruby Tandoh and Rachel Ama. Overall, the recipes represent over 30 different cuisines, cultures and countries – from Burmese potatoes to Brazilian pirão; Senegalese seabass to Singaporean roast aubergines; Trinidadian curry chicken to Thai papaya salad.
Some of these are deliberately loose adaptations of traditional dishes, while others are faithful reproductions of recipes that have been handed down from generation to generation. A handful of chefs have simply chosen recipes they love, such as Jeremy Chan’s nettle taglioni with chilli and garlic or Tiane Stewart’s school dinner-inspired sprinkle cake. All are inspiring, mouth-watering and accompanied by witty, evocative storytelling.
The book has an undeniable British flavour, peppered with references to Liverpool, Werther’s Originals and south London chicken shop chain Morley’s. Phillips hopes the recipes will speak to readers and provide a sense of comfort, while also giving something back to communities that have been disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
“Food and recipes are how we connect, heal and mourn but also celebrate when things get better too,” he says. “For people in our communities and migrant backgrounds, food is our colour when our voices don’t always get heard.”
Below, find three recipes from Community Comfort, courtesy of Ravneet Gill, Shelina Permalloo and Yvonne Maxwell. Enjoy them at home, then buy the book – there couldn’t be a more delicious way to support a worthy cause.
Lemon loaf by Ravneet Gill of Puff the Bakery
Ravneet says: “It took me quite some time to perfect this simple lemon loaf, I basically made quite a few average ones to get to the one I consider to be IT. I grew up eating those Mr Kipling lemon slices with my family, sharing the M&S lemon loaf with friends and always associating citrus sponges with comfort. Now that I can make my own version it’s my go-to when taking a cake along with me to my friends and a new family favourite.”
Makes 1 loaf
- 3 eggs
- 225g sugar
- 180g self-raising flour
- 75g butter, melted
- 100g double cream
- zest of 3 lemons
For the syrup:
- 75g sugar
- 100g water
- 2 lemons (for lemon juice)
Beat the eggs with the sugar until pale but don’t whip it like crazy (this will affect the rise of the cake and you’ll end up with a sugary top layer that doesn’t dome nicely).
Melt the butter completely and add in the double cream to the melted butter off the heat. Afterward, pour this slowly into the egg mix and combine. Sift the flour and salt together, add to the egg mixture and fold through. Add in the lemon zest made from three lemons.
Pour the mixture into a lined loaf tin and bake at 160°C for 45-50 minutes. In the meantime, make the syrup by heating the sugar and water together and adding the lemon juice at the end.
Allow the loaf to cool slightly in the tin. When the cake comes out of the oven, allow it to cool until it is no longer hot to the touch but still slightly warm.
Poke holes throughout the top with a skewer. Pour over the warm syrup gently and evenly. Allow the loaf to cool further.
Make the icing by whisking together icing sugar and lemon juice squeezed from two of the lemons. Brush this over the cooled cake.
Ravneet has worked as a pastry chef for eight years, and is the co-founder of Puff the Bakery. After completing a psychology degree, she studied at Le Cordon Bleu before working her way up the ranks in different pastry sections including St John, Llewelyn’s, Black Axe Mangal and Wild by Tart. Follow her here
Mauritian mutton curry by Shelina Permalloo of Lakaz Maman
Shelina says: “Mutton is a wonderfully rich meat that can handle a lot of spices and chilli really well. This is the dish that I cooked in the final of MasterChef. I never thought that one of our family’s classic curries would be enough to secure me the title.
“For me it is the ultimate comfort food served alongside soft fluffy roti bread, pickles and chutney and it tastes even better the next day as all the spices harmonise and the flavours go deep into the meat.”
- 500g mutton shoulder, chopped into 2.5cm cubes
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 1 onion, finely chopped
- 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
- 2.5cm piece of fresh root ginger, peeled and grated
- 2 red bird’s eye chillies, finely chopped
- 12 curry leaves
- 4 tbsp Mauritian curry powder (or medium masala curry powder)
- ½ tsp fenugreek seed
- ½ a 400g tin of plum tomatoes
- 300ml water
- 3 tbsp freshly chopped coriander, plus extra to garnish
- freshly ground white pepper
Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat and gently fry the onion, garlic, ginger and chillies until soft. Add the curry leaves, curry powder and fenugreek seeds and continue frying for 1 minute.
Add the mutton and cook for 15 minutes, turning frequently, until evenly browned on all sides, then add the tomatoes, water and coriander and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat, cover and leave to simmer for 2½–3 hours, or until the mutton is tender. Alternatively, make this dish in a pressure cooker and cook for 30-40 mins until tender.
Taste and adjust the seasoning, garnish with more chopped coriander and serve.
Shelina Permalloo was an equality and diversity project manager before she won BBC’s MasterChef in 2012. Since then she has written two cookbooks, Sunshine on a Plate and The Sunshine Diet. She owns and runs Lakaz Maman Mauritian Street Kitchen in Southampton. Follow her here
Roasted plantain and pistachio ice cream by Yvonne Maxwell
Yvonne says: “Plantain is the ultimate form of comfort food. When cooked, the sugars are drawn out from intense heat with the flesh caramelising until soft and golden.
“Combined with either sweet or savoury elements, plantain elevates the everyday into the extraordinary. This recipe is an adaptation of boli, a Nigerian street food dish of roasted plantain that is then eaten with groundnut, and serves as one of my many odes to plantain – ‘my precious’!”
For the pistachio ice cream:
- 150g pistachios (unsalted, not roasted, shelled)
- 200g granulated sugar, separating 70g
- 320ml whole milk (or any nut milk)
- 320ml double cream
- 4 egg yolks
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1 tsp almond extract (optional)
For the roasted plantain:
- 4 plantain
- coconut oil (just enough to coat each plantain)
- sea salt flakes
To make the ice cream, finely grind the pistachios and the reserved 70g sugar in a blender or spice grinder, taking care not to over- grind into a paste. Combine the egg yolks with the remaining granulated sugar in a bowl and whisk until they are fully combined and pale yellow in colour.
Separately, place the milk, double cream and ground pistachio mix into a large saucepan and bring to boil. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla extract and almond extract (if using).
Gradually pour the hot milk mixture over the eggs, whisking continuously to prevent the eggs from scrambling. Return the custard mixture back to the saucepan and simmer on a low heat, whisking until the custard thickens and coats the back of a spoon – roughly 10 mins. Place mix in the fridge until cold, about 1 hour.
If using an ice cream maker, process the mix accordingly and freeze in an airtight container, placing cling film over the mixture before covering. Or place the mix in an airtight container as previously instructed, and freeze until firm (about 3 hours), stirring every hour in order to break up any ice crystals that may form – this will give your ice cream that creamy texture.
Preheat your oven to 200°C / 180°C fan oven. Line a baking sheet with foil and set aside.
Rinse and dry the plantain, then with a sharp knife, cut both ends off and carefully cut a shallow line down the long seam of the plantain, taking care not to pierce the flesh. Peel and discard skin. Coat each plantain with the oil and a sprinkling of sea salt flakes and place on the tray.
Bake the plantain for 15-20 mins in total, check and turn over halfway, until the plantain is golden brown on all sides and tender. Now is a good time to remove the ice cream from the freezer to soften for 5-10 mins before serving.
Yvonne Maxwell is a documentary photographer, cooking enthusiast and traveller whose work focuses on telling stories of food, culture and people across the African diaspora. Follow her here
Community Comfort: Recipes From The Diaspora compiled by Riaz Phillips (minimum donation £10, Tezata Press) is out now
Images: courtesy of Pavilion
Moya is a freelance journalist and writer from London, and a former editor at Stylist.