Cooking up an Iraqi storm in London – “grub that references the entire country”

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Off The Grid with Luke Coleman – Our man in Iraq

With my hand on the tiller of our English output (facebook.com/yallen), and my determination to return to the UK, I’ve been spending more time seeking out stories of Iraqis in our country.

Be it a second-generation Londoner donning the gloves for a white collar boxing event, or a grandmother whose stories of life as a young girl in Iraq have found a publisher, it’s been grand to bimble up and down the country interviewing and shooting those with a yarn to spin.

This past Sunday I found myself in the kitchen of Philip Juma, sampling magnificent kubbeh (a crunchy oval, filled with minced rice, and deeper, spiced mince and onions) and helping prepare dolma. Arguably the national dish, it’s simply magnificent, and when prepared by chef Juma, it’s elevated to global treasure.

We spent a few hours chatting identity, the state of his father’s homeland and how his self-taught cuisine is finding fans across London and beyond. It’s easy to think of Iraqi dishes as limited to kebabs and mezze associated with Lebanon, and if you really know your stuff, the grilled butterflied carp dish masgouf.

What Philip does is present grub that references the entire country and avoids the cliché of fusion. It’s Iraqi through and through, but it’s serious cooking – and the best I’ve had anywhere.

You get to know a culture through your belly, so if you’re in London, look him up on Twitter (@JumaKitchen), to see if he’s cooking up a storm. You’ll thank me.

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