Café Cairo in Landor Road was a fixture on the South London landscape, renowned for the unique atmosphere of its tent-out-the-back, where one could recline on cushions and smoke a hookah while sipping mint tea. That's all past tense though because, after a succession of break-ins, the tent went up in flames last November on the night before Bonfire Night. While its operators seek new premises, the Cairo crew came to the Pullens Centre for a fund raising evening and, seeing as it takes them so long to set up their extraordinarily rich interior decor, I suggested that they should make soup at lunchtime, too.
Harira - extolled on soupsong.com as 'quite possibly the best soup in the world' - is the Middle Eastern meal-in-a-bowl that's traditionally served to break the day's fast during Ramadan. This is Daisy's hand-written recipe for a vegetarian version:
(Heat oil and fry onions and garlic 'till soft. Add parsley, ginger, black pepper, turmeric, cayenne, paprika, ground coriander. then add potatoes, carrots, celery, green lentils, tomato puree. Stir well and add processed tomato (i.e.: fresh or tinned tomatoes that have been whizzed in a food processor), then stir again and add enough water (or light vegetable stock/Marigold bouillon) to cover all ingredients well and bring to boil. Simmer for 30-45 minutes, concentrating the flavours and reducing the volume of liquid to make a thickish broth. Then add chickpeas, white beans, and vermicelli. Cook for a further 5 minutes, until the vermicelli softens, and add lemon juice and salt to taste.)
Not only was this soup was a great success, so too was the evening's event, with many people remarking that they'd never seen the Centre looking so fabulous. Café Cairo will return to 184 Crampton Street on February 15th (that's Valentines' Day + 1) while Daisy and Rhiannon will return to the Soup Kitchen next week.