The Best of London Halal Food Festival 2017
FtLion coverage sponsored by: Oceans Best Food.
This year’s London Halal Food Festival (LHFF) truly was a celebration of the very best of Britain’s Halal food industry.
Cuisines from across the globe were being proudly represented; a buzzing and vibrant atmosphere was in evidence throughout the two days; the joy of the occasion made special by two BBC Masterchef winners, talented chefs and people from all walks of life.
While familiar old faces again graced East London with their presence, there were plenty of newcomers to the festive scene.
The highlight of the festival was undoubtedly seeing current Masterchef winner Saliha Mahmood Ahmed sharing the Tariq Halal Cookery Theatre with 2012 Masterchef winner Shelina Permalloo, who this year was not only hosting the shows, but in-between busily tending to her first child, a beautiful 2-month-old baby girl.
With limited seating, people thronged into the conference hall to enjoy both the effervescent Saliha cook a South Indian dish of chickpeas and sambal, as well as the easy to-and-fro between the two popular celebrity chefs.
In an interview with FtLion, Saliha described the festival as having “a real family-atmosphere” with some “amazing food” on offer.
She also revealed that while her new website, Saliha Cooks, recently went live, with fantastic new recipes, she was also working on a Mughal-inspired recipe book scheduled for publication in Autumn of next year.
Of the newcomers, Ocean Fine Foods introduced their impressive Oceans Best Seafoods range.
With slickly designed packaging, three types of premium cut Saithe fish from the Atlantic, and marinated in either medium or hot spicy sauces, were available for purchase.
FtLion also encountered a newly launched Online Halal Supermarket website, Maalgaari, with the simple byline: We Deliver… You Cook.
The most ambitious was a recently launched UK distribution company that aimed at introducing premium non-alcoholic French ‘wines’ to the British palette.
Of the food stalls, the first to shut shop for the day was Gaucho BBQ.
Their fiery, smoke-filled stand, complete with an attractively large barbecue rotisserie, had people queueing up for a taste of their succulent, charred-grilled selection of meats.
With chicken, beef and legs of lamb all turning over slowly, and a prime location adajcent to the Dock’s entrance, Gaucho BBQ’s popularity saw them close as early as 3pm on the opening day.
In fact, whether it be jerk chicken, traditional oven-baked Italian Margherita pizzas, gourmet hot dogs, intriguing “fried” ice cream rolls, Mr Twister’s piri piri crisps on a stick, or ice cream clouds (aka ice cream cones ssurrounded by a halo of candyfloss), LHFF had it all.
Award-winning BBQ chef, Abdul Yaseen, of Indian restaurant Darbaar in Liverpool Street, which FtLion rated 5/5 ‘Roars’, had a stand next door to Meat & Shake’s with plenty of smoking and barbecuing going on.
But it was Abdul Yaseen’s knowledge-based cookery session, packed full of sagacious cooking hints and tips, that had the audience enthralled.
The experienced chef presented a fantastic lamb dish while sharing some entertaining anecdotes from his long and distinguished culinary career.
Earlier in the day, the self-proclaimed Great British Halal Chef, Hamza, of the premier steak restaurant HS&Co in Stratford, delivered a masterclass on how to make perfect ribs.
Of all the stalls, however, arguably the most interesting had to have been the Caribbean Street Food stand and its community-driven business.
With the tagline: “Supporting Local Communities: Engagement, Empower, Education, Enterprise,” not only was their fully-manned stall serving up some delicious jerk chicken and other traditional foods from the region, but their entire concept revolved around “improving the lives of marginalised young people and their families”.
By providing a platform for socially disadvantaged youngsters at risk of being excluded from education or employment opportunities, Caribbean Street Food aims to educate and empower them.
Managing Director Nigeal Andall told FtLion: “What we do, opposed to most catering companies, is that we engage with primarily young people who are at risk of social exclusion. We use food as a means of engaging, empowering [and] educating them. [We] also give them a means directly of not only employing them, but setting up their own micro-enterprise.
“What we have created is a choices academy…. With this academy, we’ve created a holistic program which has end-to-end support not only in using this as a working environment, but also using it as a learning environment. We have been very successful in not only getting young people into employment, but getting them to set up their own business.”
The LHFF again managed to achieve the festival founder Waleed Jahangir’s vision of presenting “a platform where communities and cultures could come together by simply using food as a vehicle”.