From Aleppo to Munich and beyond part III – Diana and Anwah’s story

No news is good news, they say. Or even better: good things come to those who wait. If waiting were ever to be made an olympic discipline, Diana and Anwah would have scored gold by now. Luckily this didn’t turn into a „Waiting for Godot“ scenario à la Samuel Beckett, which seemed to be the case for many months.

I haven’t provided an update on my lovely Syrian friends for a while. Not only have I been extremely busy myself – hence the radio silence on this blog – but writing about the waiting game is a pretty dull affair. Especially when confronted with the tediousness of German bureaucrats.

Diana and Anwah’s unwavering patience and stoicism, for which I greatly admire them, eventually paid off. The decision to deport them back to Hungary, their country of arrival (Dublin Treaty), was waived mid-February, tantamount to ending their enforced confinement in the church. With the arrival of spring came the added sense of relief, of being able to wander around freely, buying food, socialising outside of their basement flat, going for a small hike to a nearby lake and so much more.

Their daughter Nour finished her B1-German course with distinction and has now started an internship at a hotel in the east of Munich, with the possibility of completing a vocational training scheme with the hotel. Sami started his B1-German course in March, with the objective of eventually continuing his architecture degree he started back in Aleppo. I hardly ever get to see him as he is well ensconced in a big circle of friends!

As for Diana and Anwah, they finally started their German course end of July, which they had been eagerly anticipating, as it constitutes a prerequisite for working in Germany. For those unaware of what said course entails: it is a fast-track language and integration course, providing asylum seekers with all the requisite linguistic and cultural know-how of their new home country, leading up to the B1-German certificate.

Furthermore, they were both very recently granted asylum for a year, which they of course wish to see extended and have thus lodged an appeal through their lawyer. It goes without saying that the wheels of German bureaucracy grind slowly, and given the inordinate number of pending asylum procedures, this could take a while yet.

But this certainly won’t put a damper on their spirits – the family continues to savour every day of their newly found freedom. Syrians are well-known for their immense hospitality – some Germans could take a leaf out of their book (…) – meaning I have been part of their delicious dinner feasts more than once. Being the inveterate foodie, I thought that including one of Diana’s culinary delights would add a bit of spice and variation on here.


Diana & family


Fatteh Djaj is a layered chicken dish consisting of fried (or toasted) Arabic bread, rice and chicken with a delicious garlic-yogurt-lime sauce and topped with some toasted nuts.

It can be served either as a starter or a main dish – one important piece of advice though from Diana: please don’t (!) use Pitta bread for this recipe, but make the effort to go an Arabic food store to buy the requisite Arabic flat bread.


What you need

(Serves four as a starter or two hungry people as a nice warm supper)

  • Arabic bread 3 standard size (small)
  • 4 chicken thighs
  • 500ml chicken stock
  • Onion cut into quarters
  • 500g yoghurt
  • 4 tbs tahini
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • Lemon
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • 4 tbs of chopped parsley
  • Pine nuts
  • Paprika
Start by cooking the chicken and making your stock. Wash the chicken thighs, cover with water and bring to boil skimming the surface till totally clear. Add the onion, salt and pepper, turn down the heat and let simmer slowly for 45 – 60 min. This will give tender cooked chicken and beautiful golden stock. I don’t use carrot, celery or bouquet garni to make my stock if I am cooking Arabic food, instead I use literally two cloves and two cardamoms. When cooked, remove the chicken and let cool down. Strain your stock and return to very low heat till you are ready to use it.
Shread your Arabic bread into one inch pieces. (picture above)
Remove the chicken meat from the bone and shred to bite size.
Add yoghurt, tahini, crushed garlic, squeeze of lemon and salt and mix together to make your topping. Add more or less tahini as you like.
Now is the tricky bit, you may not get this right the first time or even if you make fatteh regularly you might still get one wrong every once in a while. The amount of stock varies on how fresh your bread is. The amounts I used (500mls stock and 3 standard size loafs) worked fine with fresh bread. If your bread is stalled or two days old you might need more stock as it will absorb more water.
To make the dish put the bread and the chicken in a deep bowl. Add one third of the youghurt sauce and the stock and mix together. Spoon the rest of the youghrt topping and spread evenly on top.
Garnish with parsley, roasted pine nuts and paprika and serve immediately.





Ein Gedanke zu „From Aleppo to Munich and beyond part III – Diana and Anwah’s story

  1. Jessica, this recipe of Diana sounds so delicious, and I would love to try it. However, I will have to be a bit of a detective to find the proper bread !! Thank you both for sharing this recipe, and just by chance, I have some nice cardamom that I recently added to my spice rack, so I can properly flavor the stock.

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