Location: Birmingham
Era: 1980 onwards

I was brought up in Birmingham in the eighties, so a lot of our food was frozen food for convenience – things like Finder’s Crispy Pancakes, Birds Eye Potato Waffles and Fray Bentos Pies. My parents owned a chip shop, but we didn’t tend to eat takeaway food as it didn’t seem unusual or a rarity. Our diet was very limited on the fresh food front, that was saved for the Sunday roast. My Mom is Scottish/Irish and so the weekend was her forte. Food was always the conversation starter – what we were eating, what we’d be eating next, what we’d be eating later.

As I got older and started cooking for myself, I started to have more of a Mediterranean diet. A lot of our food would be Turkish, Greek or Arabic. My favourite foods to eat and to cook are Magronia/Pasticcio – a pasta bake, almost like a sandwich pasta, that you cook in the oven. A base of pasta, then your meat sauce, another layer of pasta and a bechamel sauce. When it’s cooked it comes out in a slab that you then square off and cut up into portions. Dolmades are vine leaves that you get in a jar, rinse them off and then stuff them with rice and then steam them. Stuffed aubergines too – papoutsakia – stuffed with minced meat.”
Arif Nedjat


  • A medium sized bowl of cooked rice
  • 250g minced meat, preferably lamb
  • Dried oregano
  • 1 small onion
  • Fresh parsley
  • 1 celery stalk
  • Salt and pepper
  • Tomato puree
  • Vine leaves, drained
  • Crushed garlic
  • Juice of 1 lemon

Mix the rice with the meat, onion, herbs, celery, salt and pepper and stir through some tomato purée.

Stuff the vine leaves with the filling, on a flat surface. Roll them, not too tightly as the mixture will expand.

Put the rolled up vine leaves into an oven dish that has a layer of chopped tomatoes on the bottom.

Squeeze over some lemon juice and a small cup of water then cover with foil, tightly.

Pop in the oven at 180 for 45 minutes.