Last week was Refugee Week. As supporters of Australia accepting refugees and asylum seekers, we were keen to get involved in some of the many activities that our local government area and refugee welcome zone, Auburn, was holding for the occasion – particularly when we saw food related events on the agenda!

The first event that we attended was a Pakistani cooking class. The class was held at the wonderful Auburn Community Centre, hosted by some lovely ladies from the organisation House of Welcome and taught by two energetic women who came to Australia as refugees four years ago. They were Uma from Bangladesh and Promela from Pakistan. Uma and Promela were so engaging with the small class and ensured that we all had a feel, taste and smell of each individual ingredient as well as a go at helping to prepare and cook them. They also introduced us to some unique ingredients that we had never seen or heard of before like roasted vermicelli noodles, ajino motto salt and black cardamom pods.

CC spices  CC roast verm

The menu which was prepared by Uma and Promela and consisted of an easy yet flavoursome lamb and potato curry, an accompaniment of chickpea rice and two types of chutneys for an extra punch of flavour. There was also a creamy semiya payasam made from the roasted vermicelli noodles for dessert.

CC curry  CC dessert prep

The lamb and potato curry was made using lamb mince. This makes it really easy and quick to cook and is a nice alternative. It was flavoured with Promela’s home ground spices of garam masala, coriander and cumin. You can really smell and taste the difference when comparing home ground spices to store bought powdered spices. Now that it’s been introduced to us, it will be hard to go back to the packet. The curry was so simple and delicious so we can definitely see it popping up on the menu at home.

CC Alice  CC curry rice

Our accompaniments really lifted the curry. The addition of some simple onion, spices and chickpeas to the basmati made it that more textural, flavoursome and exciting to eat. Topped with a dollop of the cool, herb chutneys and it was a real flavour hit.

CC chutney ing  CC Chutney

Then there was the semiya payasam. We were a little unsure if we would like this unusual dessert. It was a milk and cream based dessert, flavoured with cardamom and sugar. The mixture is brought to the boil to cook the noodles and then spooned into individual bowls to set a room temperature. Once set and sprinkled with almonds and pistachios, the dessert is ready to be eaten. To our surprise, the dessert was a completely creamy texture. The noodles and the cream blend into one formation and it is just like eating a smooth custard. Everybody, including us, were scraping every last bit of the delicious dessert out of their bowl.

CC dessert  CC dessert2     

The cooking class was a fantastic learning experience where we were able to meet new people and taste new food. We felt no barriers in sharing the cooking in a kitchen with a handful of strangers. It’s incredible how food can bring together people from all walks of life. We are so grateful for the knowledge shared at this class and look forward to participating in more.

CC prep  CC prep1 

CC dinner  CC Plate 

The second event that we attended was the ‘Refugee Camp in my Neighbourhood’ tour. Also held at Auburn Community Centre, it involved following the vastly different stories of four individuals, their eventual arrival to Australia as refugees and how they were subsequently treated very differently due to their situations – some good, some not so good.

RT sign  RT rations

We were also walked around a makeshift refugee camp and learnt some interesting and shocking facts about life as a refugee, such as:

• On average, people spend 17 years in a refugee camp waiting for relocation
• On average, people spend 3 of those years waiting to be given the forms required to apply for relocation
• The ten countries that accept the most refugees in the world are Pakistan, Iran, Germany, Kenya, Syria, Ethiopia, Chad, Jordan, China and Turkey. Australia is number 49 on the list.
• Australia's standards for treatment of refugees are below the recommendations put in place by the UN

RT hut  RT kid

For more facts on Refugees check out House of Welcome and RACS.

Written by Alice