It is no secret that Toronto is one of the most culturally diverse cities in the world; almost half of our population was born outside of this country, and the city is famous for its neighbourhoods that reflect this. It’s not surprising that new Canadians tend to first settle in neighbourhoods where the majority of residents are from similar backgrounds, with language, and cultural similarities that ease the transition to a new country. As a result the city ends up with little pockets of diverse cultures and culinary traditions popping up all over, whether it’s Greek culture and cuisine along the Danforth, Chinese culture on Spadina or East European shops and bistros on Roncesvalles.
And as a result we get fantastic restaurants all over the city proudly showcasing regional cuisine, and our supermarkets start stocking hitherto unknown goods and produce from literally all over the world, exposing all of us to new ideas and temptations and expanding our own culinary horizons; before you know it we are making our own tortillas, rice paper wraps, falafels and momos. In 1979-1980 Canada welcomed over 50,000 Vietnamese “Boat People”. How easy was it to find a banh mi sandwich in Toronto back then? Or Pho? Now these likely outsell hotdogs in this city!
Recently Canada-and Toronto-are in the process of welcoming Syrian refugees , new Canadians who are adding to the cultural fabric of this country, and, lucky for us, the cultural tablecloth of Toronto. There are a number of wonderful Middle Eastern restaurants in the city, and how many of us have popped into one of the more than 20 Ali Baba locations for a late night shawarma?
With this in mind, this season we at Fiesta Farms are starting a special category on our site focusing on some favourite foods, ingredients and recipes that hail from Syria, a cuisine rich in history with influences from all over the Middle East, The Levant and Turkey. Today we are looking at one of the most cherished dishes from Aleppo, Syria’s largest city and one of the oldest most continuously inhabited cities in the world. Kabab Bil Karaz (lamb meatballs with sour cherries) is a great example of a dish that reflects and balances various cultures, one that harmoniously blends sweet and sour and savoury in one dish. Supper as metaphor.
Kabab Bil Karaz- Lamb Meatballs with Sour Cherries
2 cups dried sour cherries
2 lbs ground lamb
2 medium onions
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon cloves
¼ teaspoon allspice
salt and pepper to taste
1 teaspoon cinnamon
approximately 5 or 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 lemon)
optional: pine nuts, parsley
Soak cherries in warm water for about half an hour. Mix the ground lamb, spices and salt and pepper. Form meat mixture into small meatballs. Fry the meatballs in oil until browned. Remove from oil and drain on paper towel. Set aside. Chop the onions and sauté in oil until translucent. Stir in cherries and liquid in which they soaked. Stir in lemon juice. Simmer gently about 8-10 minutes, then add the meatballs and continue cooking another 10 minutes or until the meatballs have absorbed most of the sauce. Garnish with toasted pine nuts and chopped parsley. Serve, with sauce, over rice or with pita.