Eating Better

A taste of Sudan: Salha’s story

By Salha

The latest Bristol Good Food 2030 story is from Salha, a refugee from Sudan who will be hosting Aid Box Community’s first cook-along class. The event will raise funds for Aid Box Community, a charity that provides practical aid and community to people who have been forcibly displaced. Salha tells us about her cooking experiences in Bristol and food events coming up soon.

I’m from a city called Al Fashir in the Darfur region of Sudan. We are a big family (my mother had five girls and three boys) and I’ve been cooking from the age of 13. My father had a huge restaurant in the town, while my mother was living in a farm in the countryside. We would spend our holidays going with her to the farm. She grew lots of vegetables for us – everything was so fresh and healthy. My dad would come and collect us to take us to his restaurant in the city, bringing produce with him to supply the restaurant. We would cook many different dishes at home including Aswad Salata (aubergine salad) with traditional Sudanese bread. This dish is what I’ll share at the Aidbox Community Cook-along on 1 March.

Aubergine is my favourite vegetable that we grew and as a child I remember we would eat Aswad Salata for any celebration. Often when we wanted something to eat, one of my many sisters would say, “we want the aubergine dish!” It’s a lovely, rich celebration dish. At the weekends all the families and neighbours come together and we would eat this for our lunch on a Friday.

We grew lots of fresh vegetables: tomatoes, okra, aubergine, pepper, dill, mint, spring onion, white onion, red onion, white sesame seed and peanuts. The peanuts for the peanut butter we used in Aswad Salata were grown on the farm. We also made a carrot salad similar to the aubergine one. The carrots are coated in flour and then fried in oil with garlic, lemon juice and some yoghurt.

My mum loved our okra. We would dry it out, and also use it fresh in the summer to make Bamia, lamb made with okra sauce, served with rice or bread that’s a bit like injera [a fermented pancake-like flatbread with a slightly spongy texture made of teff flour]. Another recipe we loved was Zalabia, a kind of doughnut made with flour and peanuts from the farm. We would fry it in oil and take it to town. Falafels were another favourite – we didn’t grow chickpeas, but you can buy them grown in Sudan.

I married my husband who is a teacher when I was 17 and we then had two children. Darfur was not safe. My husband left Darfur first and I moved back to my mother’s house to stay with my family. I was pregnant at that time with my third child. I was able to join him in the UK in 2016.

I met Kim [one of the other founders of Houria catering] through the organisation Borderlands in 2018 and participated in a six-month mentoring programme. At that time I didn’t know anything about Bristol. I was still quite new and she helped me a lot.

Photo credit: Houria.

Kim and Anna started Houria in 2020, I was the first trainee refugee women chef. During the lockdown we were cooking and delivering, and I started sharing my Sudanese dishes in this way. We moved to Baraka Community Café and we were cooking so much: 150 meals for the homeless every Thursday. It was a lot of fun and a lot of work. We have also been cooking in St Werburgh’s City Farm kitchen. I just love being there. It is so natural with the animals. It reminds me of home. We did so many events with Houria including a Sudanese Supper Club at Harvey Nichols when I was eight months pregnant!

When my baby was born, I had to do less with Houria and I needed a way to be at home. I have started running my own business from home to make work more flexible. My food will be available on All About the Cooks website soon. For now you can order my food by contacting 07477 440 041. This way I can look after my baby at the same time as I’m cooking. In the future it would be wonderful to be involved with food growing here in the UK, but it is difficult for me at the moment with family life. I’ve learnt so much since I’ve come here and I love sharing my knowledge of food.

Learn how to cook the Sudanese classic Aswad Salata (eggplant salad) with a side of traditional Sudanese bread with Salha and BBQ expert Genevieve Taylor to raise money for Aid Box Community, 1 March.

Celebrate International Women’s Day with a special Sudanese feast cooked by Salha to raise money for The MAZI Project, 8 March.

Read more on this blog about All About the Cooks, the marketplace website that allows talented home-cooks to sell their food to local people in Bristol and now beyond. Find out how you can find real food made by local people near you.

Discover the Bristol caterers working to support both people and planet, including Houria, and find out how to support their missions.

Join the conversation

So, what change do you want to see happen that will transform food in Bristol by 2030? Do you already have an idea for how Bristol can make this happen? Join the conversation now.

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