Bashar’s mugadara

by Victoria Brown

This recipe for the #CookForSyria campaign was shared with Victoria Brown by Bashar, a Syrian refugee in London

Bashar fled from Syria to Lebanon in 2013. As an activist involved in the Syrian revolution, he had been detained twice for a total of 11 months and didn’t feel he would survive the third time: “I always say it’s something very similar to death, to the extent that you feel that death is a solution for that.”

In March 2015, he came to the UK as part of the Syrian Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme, a humanitarian protection programme offered by the UK government. After 17 months in Bradford, he now lives and works in London. He also helps out at the Syrian supper club, Marhabtayn, which is how we met. Bashar tells me that mugadara is a dish associated with poverty in Syria. He loves it because it is simple, healthy and reflects how Syrians adapted to difficult circumstances. A lot of refugees make it because it is a cheap dish that feeds a lot of people.

Led by Clerkenwell Boy and Suitcase Magazine, #CookForSyria is a campaign to raise funds and awareness of the humanitarian crisis affecting children in Syria.


For the mugadara:
250g brown lentils
500g coarse bulgur wheat
Olive oil
2 brown onions, peeled and sliced into half moons

For the accompaniments:
1 bunch salad onions
1 bunch mint
1 green pepper
1 red pepper
A handful of mild green chillies
1 small cucumber, diced
4 tomatoes, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 lemon
Olive oil
A handful of gherkins
A handful of olives


Rinse the lentils and put in a large saucepan with cold water. Over a medium heat, bring to a simmer then reduce the heat to low. Cook for 30 mins or until tender.

Add the bulgur wheat, stir and top up with cold water until a tablespoon stays up when inserted straight into the lentils and bulgur. Cover and leave to cook until all the water is evaporated. You can check this by inserting a knife, moving it to one side and looking at the bottom of the pan. Season with plenty of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add a generous glug or two of olive oil and fry for a few mins, stirring occasionally.

While the lentils are cooking, fry the onions in a large pan over a low heat with a generous glug of olive oil. Stir occasionally. Cook for at least 30 mins until caramelised. Put the mugadara in a large dish and arrange the onions over the top.

To make the accompanying salad, trim the salad onions and slice two into rounds and put in a bowl. Take a few sprigs of mint, finely chop the leaves and add to the bowl. Core and deseed the peppers, slice into eight or so thick strips. Dice a couple of the strips of both peppers and add to the bowl. Slice two green chillies into thin rounds and add to the bowl.

Add the diced cucumber, tomatoes and carrot to the salad bowl. Using a knife, remove the peel from half of the lemon, staying close to the skin so there is not too much pith. Finely chop the peel and add to the salad. Dice the flesh of half the lemon, remove the seeds and add to the salad. Add the juice of the other half of the lemon to the salad.

Just before serving the mugadara, add a generous glug of olive oil to the salad, season with salt and pepper and toss.

Arrange the leftover salad onions, mint, peppers and green chillies on a large plate. Add a handful of gherkins and olives to the plate.

Serve the mugadara with the salad and the plate of vegetables, herbs and pickles as accompaniments.

Recipe & images: Victoria Brown