Refugees share tastes of home over Ramadan

UNHCR celebrates culture and cuisine over Ramadan, with refugee recipes.

Parastoo and her mother Elahe cooking food from their home country of Iran, including Mirzah Ghasemi (smoked aubergines with egg) and Adas Polo (meatballs with rice and lentils).  © UNHCR/Kim Nelson

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency has teamed up with Migrateful, an initative helping refugee and migrant chefs teach their traditional cuisines to the public, to bring you some delicious recipes made by refugees in the UK. Come together with family and friends, to celebrate the cuisines and cultures of refugees, whilst also remembering those refugees around the world longing for a peaceful Ramadan. 

Try some refugee recipes below.


An Iranian feast

Mirzah Ghasemi (Smoked Aubergines with Fried Eggs (V))

Mirzah Ghasemi is an Iranian dish made with smokey aubergines and a rich tomato sauce. Charring the aubergines on the hob gives the dish a deliciously smokey flavour. If you don’t have a gas hob, you can roast the whole aubergines in the oven instead. Delicious served with flatbreads.

Serves:  4
Preparation: 15 minutes / Cooking time: 45 minutes

Mirzah Ghasemi, an Iranian dish cooked with smoked aubergines and tomatoes, topped with fried eggs.  © UNHCR/Kim Nelson


  • 2 large aubergines

  • ½ tsp saffron threads

  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed or finely chopped

  • 2 tsp ground turmeric

  • ½ tsp ground black pepper

  • Salt, to taste

  • 500g tomatoes, chopped

  • 70g tomato purée

  • 5 tbsp vegetable oil

  • 4 eggs

  • To garnish

  • fresh coriander leaves,

  • cherry tomatoes


  1. Place the aubergines directly onto the gas hob and char over a medium flame for about 5 minutes, using tongs to turn occasionally until the skin is well charred and the aubergine is very soft. The aubergine will look burnt, but it is this process which gives it the smokey flavour. Transfer to a plate to cool. ​

  2. If you do not have a gas hob, you can bake them. Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7. Prick the aubergines in a couple of places, place on a baking sheet and roast them in the oven for 40-45 minutes until the skin is charred and the flesh very soft.

  3. When the aubergines are cool enough to handle, carefully peel off and discard the burnt skin and chop the flesh into small chunks.

  4. Heat 3 tbsp oil in a large pan over a low heat, and gently fry the garlic for 2 minutes until golden, stirring continuously to prevent it from burning (remove the pan from the heat if you think that it is burning), before adding the turmeric, pepper and salt.

  5. Stir in the tomatoes and tomato purée and cook gently for 20 minutes on a low heat.

  6. Add the aubergines and cook for a further 15 minutes, until meltingly soft.

  7. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, cover the saffron threads with 4 tbsp of just boiled water and set aside to soak for at least 10 minutes.

  8. Heat the remaining 2 tbsp oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and crack the eggs into the pan to create 4 fried eggs. Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper and cook until the whites are set and the yolk still runny.

  9. Transfer the aubergine to a large serving dish and top with the fried eggs. Drizzle over the saffron-infused water and garnish with coriander leaves and cherry tomatoes.

Adas Polo (Meatballs with Spiced Rice and Lentils)

This recipe is also delicious, and vegetarian-friendly, if you leave out the meatballs. Be sure to scrape up the crusty bits at the bottom of the rice and lentil pan; in Iran everyone fights over these prized morsels.

Servings:  4
Preparation: 10 mins / Cooking time: 50 minutes

Tumeric-spiced Iranian meatballs used to cook the Iranian dish Adas Polo.  © UNHCR/Kim Nelson


For the Rice and Lentils

  • 250g dried brown lentils, rinsed and checked for stones

  • 300g extra-long grain white Persian rice or white basmati rice, rinsed

  • 1 cinnamon stick

  • 1 tsp saffron threads

  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil

For the Meatballs

  • 250g beef mince

  • 250g lamb mince

  • 1 large onion, peeled and grated

  • 2 tsp ground turmeric

  • Salt & ground black pepper, to taste

  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil, for frying

For the Walnut and Raisin topping

  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil

  • 1 large onion, finely chopped

  • 1 tsp ground turmeric

  • salt

  • 250g chopped walnuts

  • 250g raisins

  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon

  • Mint leaves, to decorate (optional)


  1. Put the lentils and 750ml water in a large pan and bring to the boil over a high heat, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for about 20 minutes until just soft. Drain and rinse well to prevent the lentils from discolouring the rice when combined later, then set aside.

  2. While the lentils are cooking, put the minced meat and grated onion into a large bowl and mix well. Add the turmeric, season with salt and pepper and mix again, then roll the mixture into small meatballs.

  3. In a small bowl, cover the saffron threads with 120ml of just boiled water and set aside to soak for at least 10 minutes.

  4. Put the rice, 600ml water, cinnamon stick and a pinch of salt into another large pan, cover and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook, still covered, for 6 minutes.

  5. Add the drained lentils to the cooking rice and mix well. Continue to simmer on a low heat for another 5 minutes, or until the rice is mostly cooked through, then drain the rice and lentil mixture.  

  6. Cover the bottom of the empty pan with the oil. Place over a medium heat. Add 2 tbsp of the saffron mixture, then pour the rice and lentil mixture back into the pan, carefully shaping it into a mound so that it covers the bottom but does not touch the sides of the pan. Sprinkle with 2 tbsp oil and 2 tbsp saffron mixture. Cover and leave it to steam over a low heat for 4 minutes, then reduce the heat to very low and leave to continue steaming while you fry the meatballs and prepare the topping.

  7. To fry the meatballs, heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the meatballs. Fry, turning occasionally, for 15-20 minutes until browned and cooked through. Remove the meatballs from the pan and drain on kitchen paper.

  8. To prepare the walnut and raisin topping, heat the oil in a pan over a medium-low heat. Add the finely chopped onion and fry for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently until golden, then stir in the turmeric, season with salt and cook for 1-2 minutes. Add the raisins and walnuts and 2 tbsp of the saffron water. Cover and cook over a low heat for 20 minutes until the whole mixture is nicely browned, then stir in the cinnamon.

  9. To serve, spread the rice and lentils on a large serving dish and cover with the meatballs, then top with the raisin and walnut mixture. Drizzle with the remaining saffron water and sprinkle with a little more cinnamon and, if using, decorate with the mint leaves.

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