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Home Cookbook Reviews "Soup for Syria" is Soup for the Soul

"Soup for Syria" is Soup for the Soul


Yes, soup can be healing, and that's the promise of “Soup for Syria: Recipes to Celebrate Our Shared Humanity.

"The 208-page cookbook has recipes from over 80 chefs, some among the biggest names in the food world such as Alice Waters, Anthony Bourdain, Yotam Ottolenghi and Paula Wolfert. The photos, many which were taken at Syrian refugee camps, overwhelmingly capture the beauty of the people.

The award-winning Lebanese food writer Barbara Abdeni Massaad conceived of the project after witnessing first-hand the dire conditions of Syrians living in a refugee camp near her home in Beirut -- a camp across the Baaka Valley to which she brought soup and other ingredients every weekend to cook for families living through the cold in plastic tents.

The cookbook aims both to raise funds for refugees and increase awareness of their plight. Massaad is the author of the well-received "Man’oushé: Inside the Street Corner Lebanese Bakery," by Interlink Publishing Group in 2014. (Man’oushé are Lebanese folded flatbread sandwiches with various fillings.) The Northampton, MA publisher is donating all profits from sales of the North American edition of "Soup for Syria," to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), the United Nations refugee agency. UNHCR has given assurance that 100 percent of the donations will go to fund food relief efforts, according to Interlink.

The book itself is worthy of any cook's shelf. The recipes, from hearty thick winter potages to chilled summer refreshment, range from easy to complex. Some of the most tempting recipes for the experienced home cook, are likely to be the more challenging ones, such as gonidi soup with chicken dumplings by Israeli-Palestinian chef-duo Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi. The white turnip, hazelnut soup by Cambridge, MA chef Ana Sortun was also a standout in my test, for its intriguing balance of flavors. Seasoned cooks might also fast track to Michelin-starred Australian chef Greg Malouf's satisfying fennel soup with lemon and cinnamon.

Many of the recipe contributors provided a comment that accompanies her or his recipe. Claudia Roden, the famed London cookbook author originally from Cairo, contributed a recipe for a borlotti bean and pasta soup. Her hope, she says, is that the cookbook will "keep the plight of Syrian refugees in people’s minds and that it will raise funds to alleviate their awful living conditions until their future is settled." Food for thought. Food for the soul.

Fennel Soup with Lemon and Cinnamon Adapted from "Soup for Syria" By Greg Malouf

Fennel Soup

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more to drizzle
2 onions, sliced
2 small garlic cloves, roughly chopped
2 leeks, roughly chopped
3 large fennel bulbs, sliced
2 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
6 cups chicken stock
1 cinnamon stick
Peel of 1/2 a lemon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
2 bay leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 egg yolks
1/2 cup heavy cream
Juice of 2 lemons
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3 tablespoons roughly chopped parsley

Heat the oil in a large heavy-based saucepan and saute the onions, garlic, leeks, and fennel for a few minutes until they soften.

Add the potatoes and chicken stock, then the cinnamon stick, lemon peel, allspice, and bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and gently simmer for 20 minutes.

Remove and discard the cinnamon stick, lemon peel, and bay leaves, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks with the cream, then stir in a large spoonful of the hot soup. Whisk together well, then tip the egg mixture into the soup. Slowly return the soup to just below boiling, stirring it all the time. Remove from the heat and adjust the seasoning, adding more salt and pepper and the lemon juice. As you serve, drizzle each bowl with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with cinnamon and parsley.

Recipe used with publisher's permission.