Six Recipes from Canada’s Refugee Community for Your Next Summer Meal
Looking for a delicious starter, main course or sweet treat for a special summer barbecue or dinner? This tasting menu from the free “Tastes from Home” e-cookbook has you covered.
By Noah Caza
Refugees who have resettled in Canada bring a wide range of rich, cultural traditions and experiences to their new home. In UNHCR Canada’s free e-cookbook, “Tastes from Home: Recipes from the Refugee Community,” readers have the opportunity to taste and prepare dishes from around the world, while also learning about the personal stories and journeys of the incredible individuals who created them.
Whether you’re looking for meal ideas for a picnic in the park, a backyard barbecue or a weeknight meal, we have curated a menu of some of our favourite summer eats featured in Tastes from Home. From appetizers to entrées and desserts, we’ve got you covered.
1. Salvadoran Guacamole
This Salvadoran-style guacamole is sure to please even the most fervent fans of the classic avocado-based dip. This savoury appetizer introduces ingredients that may be new for fans of Mexican guacamole recipes — namely diced boiled egg and feta cheese — adding layers of texture and complementing the flavours in the traditional dish.
This recipe also leaves some room for personal preference, with the option of either dicing or mashing the avocado and adding or excluding jalapeño. Paired with crunchy tortilla chips or a hearty pita, this will surely be a crowd-pleasing appetizer at your next barbecue.
This recipe is courtesy of Lucila Cabrera, who fled her native country of El Salvador during a period of civil war and arrived in Montreal with her children in 1990. She has spent a lot of time cooking for her family.
“My way is a pinch of this [and] a pinch of that.”
It’s safe to say that her culinary exploration paid off, because this guacamole is truly a treat! Find her recipe on page 106 of the Tastes from Home cookbook.
2. Garlic-Butter Scallops
With only six ingredients and ready in under 20 minutes, this recipe is perfect if you are looking to serve a delicious meal if you’re short on time. These flavourful bites allow for the freshness of the scallops to really shine as they absorb the rich flavours of their key counterparts: lemon, garlic, and butter.
This light and buttery pan-seared seafood dish was a childhood favourite of Ahmed Hussen, who presently serves as Canada’s Minister of Families, Children and Social Development. Minister Hussen came to Canada at the age of 16 when he and his family fled war-torn Somalia. He grew up in the country’s capital, Mogadishu, which is located on the coast of the Indian Ocean, and recalled pleasant childhood memories of coastal seafood dinners with his family, before conflict crept into the city. Find his scallops recipe on page 34 of the Tastes from Home cookbook.
3. BBQ Lemongrass Pork Chops
This barbecue pork chop dish uses a unique combination of brown sugar, teriyaki sauce, and garlic to skillfully balance sweet with savoury. The pork chops are left to marinate in a wet rub overnight, which allows them to more fully absorb the flavours prior to grilling. Chopped lemongrass is a key addition to the wet rub, making palpable the recipe’s Vietnamese roots. If you’re interested in a vegetarian main course option, consider trying this recipe with tofu, tempeh, or another meat alternative of your choice.
This recipe comes from Pam Pham who left Vietnam in 1984 during the Sino-Vietnamese border conflicts with China. Growing up in rural Vietnam, Pam recalls a childhood filled with a variety of fragrant dishes that now hold such sentimental value for her and her family. Her transition to life in Canada at the age of 20 was startling, but she learned quickly and made a home for herself. “When you’re young, you adapt fast,” said Pam. You can find the recipe for this delicious dish on page 94 of the Tastes from Home cookbook.
4. Muhammara with Walnut
This roasted red pepper dip has brought with it the unmistakable culinary influences of its place of origin — Aleppo, Syria — which is also where the chef behind it grew up.
Aya Wadi fled Syria with her parents and siblings in 2017 after spending months relocating constantly to avoid escalating violence in the region. Since coming to Canada, she has started two businesses: a catering company and a restaurant.
“The nice thing is that we can share [our culture] through food.”
This muhammara recipe has a sweet and slightly smoky flavor, with just a hint of spice. Served with warm pita bread or crackers, this makes for a fantastic side dish addition to any summer meal. Find the recipe on page 62 of the Tastes from Home cookbook.
5. Juice of Fenugreek
In need of a new refreshing summer beverage? Look no further — this juice of fenugreek recipe rivals even the tastiest of lemonades. The flavour from the fenugreek seeks, popular in Eritrean cuisine, blends well with citrus fruits. It is important that the juice has enough time to absorb the flavours from the fenugreek, orange, and lime — but it is well worth the wait. It can be served as is; or, if you have a slightly sweeter tooth, you can add honey or sugar before serving.
This recipe was contributed by Amina Abdulrahim who fled Eritrea in the 1980s at the age of 20. For Amina, “cooking is a way of bringing memories alive.” Despite leaving her native country over 30 years ago, she makes sure to cook Eritrean food regularly for her family and friends. Find this tasty juice recipe on page 26 of the Tastes from Home cookbook.
6. Honey Cake
This delicious treat is the perfect way to cap off your summer meal. It artfully combines three distinct flavours: dark honey, brewed coffee and orange zest. The end result is a rich, moist, and delectable creation.
This dessert is courtesy of Rivka Augenfeld. It was passed down to her by her mother, Liba, who survived the Holocaust and was displaced to Montreal in 1948. Rivka remembers sitting with family and friends — often at Rosh Hashanah — and enjoying her mother’s honey cake.
“We’d be talking and my father [would say]… ‘Can we just take a moment, and speak about the cake? This cake is delicious.’”
Liba passed away in 2018, and Rivka often makes this recipe and reflects on fond memories of time spent together. The recipe for this sweet dessert can be found on page 68 of the Tastes from Home cookbook.