With thousands of Somali people living across Northamptonshire, it is perhaps surprising that there are not more eateries providing the typical food of this country.
It is may be a mark of prejudice that, until recently, the mention of Somalia would, for me, only conjure up images of civil war and famine.
But for some years many Somali people have made Northamptonshire their home and are now keen to reveal a little more about their country’s culinary culture.
These efforts can be seen in a new enterprise called Somali Soul Food, set up by some members of the Northamptonshire Somali Women and Girls’ Group in association with the Livity Community (which focuses on promoting health and well-being).
Somali Soul Food was launched at a recent market event at Castle Hill United Reformed Church in Spring Boroughs, Northampton, in which its founders showcased a huge array of the nation’s traditional food.
The scheme was set up as a result of a project, supported by Enable Community Grants, to look at more creative ways of employment for a group of 10 learners.
The women have now set up a social enterprise capable of providing Somali food to order and are also hoping to get involved with more local markets.
The pioneers of Somali Soul Food talked me through some of the typical delicacies. Foods produced by the team include zigni, a traditional spicy meat or vegetable sauce made from a tomato base, with onions, garlic, coriander, mixed spice and chilli. There is also Somali tea, black tea combined with spices such as cardamom, cloves and cinnamon. Sambusi is also popularly eaten; this is similar to an Indian Samosa but with hot spices, coriander and garlic. There is also baryaani - mixed rice and meat dishes.
Somali food seems similar in many ways to Indian, but far less commonly known in the UK.
Fardowsa Sahal said: “People know Indian food and Caribbean food, but no one knows about Somali food. We want to teach people what Somali food is about, we want to show more of our culture.”
She explains how anjeero is made, a commonly eaten bread made from yeast, plain flour, water and salt; just one Somali dish they hope to promote.
Roda Mohammed said: “I’m from the south, where people typically eat fish and spaghetti. I think Somali food could be as popular as Indian food is everywhere.”
Laney Holland, of the Livity Community, said: “This project was around long term unemployment and it had to be in this area (Spring Boroughs) which has high deprivation. We wanted to show people how to make food into an enterprise. Some women have four or five children and we know they can cook food for many people. We wanted to show them how to take what they are doing and use it.”
She continued: “They have their plans and people can order it now and they are available to attend day events and events like farmers’ markets. All the women have been through the food hygiene process and there is nothing stopping them.”
To contact Somali Soul Food, ring 07507 644763 or to find out more about the project, email email@example.com