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GEMMA BELL AND COMPANY MANAL RAMADAN WHITE news image

#INSPIREDBY MANAL RAMADAN WHITE

05/08/20

Manal is the MD of Palestinian fine foods supplier Zaytoun and one of the most humble and hard-working people we know. Manal and her small team work to support Palestinian farmers by bringing their produce to the UK, raising awareness of the difficulties they face farming and trading under occupation, and selling the incredible products to wholesalers, independent shops, Oxfam and through volunteer distributors. We really don’t know how she does it.

 

What was one of the very first dishes you remember eating?

Makdous (walnut-stuffed pickled aubergine) made by my late Syrian grandmother Mariam. She was the most incredible cook and would prepare traditional Syrian dishes with so much love and attention to detail even though she was feeding a large family of at least a dozen or so people on a daily basis. She had a walk-up pantry above the kitchen packed with sacks of store cupboard staples, but the real magic was in the giant jars of home-made jams, preserves, labneh, cheese, and pickles. Those flavours take me straight back to happy childhood breakfasts with my grandparents in Damascus.

 

Who is your food hero?

Conscientious food producers all over the world have my full admiration because it's that much harder to compete when you're not putting profit above everything else. I would have to pick the women who produce our giant couscous Maftoul in Palestine. Their commitment to high food standards and resilience under the most challenging circumstances is nothing short of heroic.

 

What is your guiltiest food pleasure?

Pizza or cheeseburger. I've got a food intolerance that makes both of them extra guilty and extra yummy.

 

Which restaurant do you long to return to?

Our first meal out after almost 5 months was a Sunday roast at the Wolseley. It was exquisite.

 

What would be your last meal?

It would have to be my mother's Maqloubeh with an obscene amount of fried aubergine, and to finish an epic cheese board with an array of breads and salted butter, accompanied by my mother’s caramelised, chunky quince jam.

 

What dish do you cook the most at home?

Thai curry with my husband.

 

What restaurant T-shirt would you wear?

St John's, with one of Noble Rot's totes.

 

Favourite vegetable?

Aubergines. Tomatoes would be strong competition, but they’re a fruit.

 

Most-used condiment?

Olive oil and za'atar.  Garlicky lemony tahini sauce is a close second.

 

Most overrated dish?

Vitello tonnato

 

Favourite restaurant anywhere in the world?

Cafe Diglas in Vienna because you can relax and read the paper or a book for hours undisturbed. They have staple dishes unchanged for decades as well as a daily changing seasonal menu, and everything is delicious: lunch, dinner, breakfast, coffee, snacks, desserts. I’ve been going there for over 30 years, sometimes more than once a day when I’m in town. Feels like a second home, despite the resolutely aloof service.

 

Favourite fast food joint?

Dukan 41 on Leather Lane when I'm in the office. The Fresh Falafel van on North End Road in Fulham on a weekend. Afteem in Bethlehem when I'm in Palestine.

 

 

Quick Fire

Breakfast in bed or in the hotel restaurant?

A long leisurely one in the hotel restaurant eating food I don't normally have for breakfast.

 

English Breakfast Tea or Long Black coffee, or something else?

Both, but coffee wins.

 

Martini - gin or vodka?

Vodka

 

Ketchup or mayo?

Mayo

 

Stella or Boli?

Boli

 

London or New York?

London! Or Barcelona.

 

City break or hideaway

All citied out for now. Craving a hideaway.

 

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