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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.

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