A long time ago, like 67 years, I got off a bus on a damp, cold January night and walked a hundred metres or so into the entrance to an R.A.F. station in the north of England; a path trodden by thousands of other young men doing their “National Service” of 18-24 months. I was directed to a “Reception” hut and thence onwards to a “billet”, where I found about 18 other rather apprehensive fellows. A sergeant came in and told us the first task was to get the essentials of life: a mug, a knife, a fork and a spoon (called your “Irons”) from the Stores. Then he said: “After that, go to the cookhouse and get your tea”.
That building was not far away and smelt warm, greasy and grubby and only slightly welcoming. We all lined up, a motley young crew dressed in “civvies”, a good cross section of social classes, but mostly from the West of England, holding our precious implements. We took a plate and queued at the servery for our “tea”. This consisted of a fairly large slice of a cooked dish, two pieces of bread and a pat of margarine. The cooked item consisted of mashed, cooked beetroot, topped with a layer of mashed potato and grated cheese, baked. It was the first time I had ever eaten hot beetroot and I enjoyed it. I make it every now and then, and it always reminds me of the night I left home, never to return.
The best known “hot beetroot” recipe, of course is the delicious Russian soup, with which, if you are not careful, you can become somewhat the worse for wear. In contrast to where I ate the hot beetroot dish above, my first dish of Borscht was at a dinner at London’s Dorchester Hotel in Park Lane, given by the movie mogul J. Arthur Rank, when I was working as a film publicist. It’s a good sup up, this soup.
One day, perhaps, I will write a book about Lebanese food. In my opinion its range, style and variety put it among the finest cuisines of the world.
Bassem and Elena, of Droushia’s started feeling their way into it (it is much more complex than Cypriot cooking) a dozen or so years ago, with their then new catering service. I encountered them when they did a lunch for around 20 in the garden of friends in Episkopi. At that time, Bassem was in full-time employment and the children were either very young or not yet thought of. So, Elena did it all. Since then, Bassem has become an integral part of the catering operation and the three children (nicknamed “The Orexettes”) are all regularly involved, too. Bassem and Elena have developed quite a repertoire of Levantine dishes, so a taste of their Lebanon at the Droushia Heights Hotel on Friday next week, January 29, will be worth a detour for many. Elena writes:
“Our luxurious Lebanese mezze will be served buffet style this time as the Orexettes are at school and can’t take time off for waiting at table. It will be a whole evening of Middle Eastern delight, as the ambassador of Lebanon will be giving a talk about his beautiful country. Some of those who came on our gastronomic trip in 2010 could quiz him on all those foodie places we visited ( The talk will begin at 6.30pm, followed by the meal at 7.30pm and we also have an amazingly talented belly-dancer to entertain us”.
For reservations call Droushia Heights Hotel 26 332200, Orexi Catering Services.