‘Feeding the Soul’ a cookbook comprising of recipes of Dubai jail inmates, was released on Friday at the Emirates Airlines Literature Festival session. Session was attended by (From right) Chef Zahra Abdalla, Colonel Jamila Al Zaabi and Isobel Abulhoul. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: Dubai Central Jail inmates dish up a cookbook which was launched at the Emirates Airlines Literature Festival on Friday.

The cookbook, a collection of recipes and reflections by the prison inmates is titled ‘‘Feeding the Soul’

In a first, the Dubai Central Jail and Dubai Correctional Institute is also considering opening two kitchens inside their premises for inmates to cook and bond together, following the success of the cookbook.

‘Feeding the Soul’ is part of an ongoing project ‘From the Inside Out’ which is a long-term collaboration with the Emirates Literature Foundation, supported by Dubai Police and Dubai Central Jail. From the Inside Out organises visits from Dubai and international authors to talk to inmates about books and the process of writing

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How it all started

Isobel Abulhoul, CEO and Trustee of the Emirates Literature Foundation said: “We have been thinking for a while as to what we can do that is meaningful for the inmates of Dubai Central Jail. And then we thought about how one of the greatest pleasures of life is food. More so, our earliest memories of food is our mother preparing dishes in the kitchen. The aroma from the kitchen would lure us to the dining table. Whether it was bonding with the family, breaking bread together, there were memories created. We wanted to give this to the inmates. And that is how the idea came about.”

Abulhoul said since last March, the Foundation and celebrity chef Zahra Abdalla worked with male and female inmates of the Institute to record their favourite recipes and memories associated with the dish. and this has resulted is 30 recipes published in Feeding the Soul.

(Second left) Chef Zahra Abdalla , Colonel Jamila Al Zaabi and Isobel Abulhoul at the Emirates Airlines Festival of Literature during launching of the cookbook 'Feeding the Soul' comprising of recipes shared by the Dubai jail inmates. Image Credit: Supplied

Bond over cooking

Colonel Jamila Al Zaabi from Dubai Police said she was moved seeing the prison inmates bond over cooking and food. “The idea was simple but a powerful one. The intention was to create a programme that would rehabilitate the inmates. The recipes put together in the book are not just recipes from all over the world, they are recipes close to the heart of our inmates. It stirred memories of their families and loved ones.”

Al Zaabi said that it was heartening to see inmates share their memories of cooking and eating with their families. “We wanted to give our inmates a taste of their favourite home cooked meal and we succeeded in that.” she added.

Chef Abdalla said it for her it was a way to give back to the society. “So we went and hosted the workshops. And then it just kept developing into something bigger. No sooner, we had 30 recipes from inmates including those from Brazil, Cameroon, Uganda, Kenya, Pakistan, Yemen, UK, among others. “There is a story behind every recipe and that is why it is so special,” she said.

Roast Turkey — Inmate from the UK

Roast turkey, roast potato, sausages, Brussels sprouts, peas, gravy and cranberry sauce. A recipe known to all mothers and served on Christmas day and other days. It is a meal to be shared with family and friends. The smell itself creates a longing to taste the food and inspire a sense of togetherness that is realised by sitting down and eating the meal. It is best enjoyed in a cool place, either in wintertime when its cold outside or, in hotter climates in a cold air-conditioned room.”

Green curry Chicken Soup — Inmate from Thailand

“Green Curry Chicen Soup holds a special place in my heart because it reminds me of my mum. Whenever I taste it, I miss her because no one else can make it as well as she can. She cooks it perfectly and there is never anything to complain about. It was also the first spicy food I ever tried to eat and it has remained one of my favourites.”

Fish stew or Moqueca Fish — Inmate from Brazil

This food is very important in my life, because I make it for my family’s special moments. Moqueca is a coconut seafood dish from Bahia in tropical eastern Brazil, and its name comes from an African word for fish stew. It is a traditional recipe in my country, and when I prepare it for my family, I put all my love and energy into the dish.”

Mooli Paratha — Inmate from Pakistan

This dish brings back memories of the breakfast my mother made every weekend as a special treat when I was small. I like to think of those times in Lahore when I was growing up.

Chicken Mandi — Inmate from Yemen

“I love cooking and I consider it to be my hobby. What always draws me towards cooking is making Mandi, both chicken and beef. I cannot help but sing every time I cook them.