Dalry Primary shows diversity with global cookbook

Ashwika Suresh Kumar, six, Mia Harper, five, Krithikha Sivaraj, ten, and Chloe Atak, ten, get busy. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Ashwika Suresh Kumar, six, Mia Harper, five, Krithikha Sivaraj, ten, and Chloe Atak, ten, get busy. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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IT is among the most unique and daring recipe books ever to hit the Capital’s kitchens – and there isn’t a celebrity chef in sight.

Teachers at Dalry Primary admit they were a little uncertain how parents would respond to a request for treasured family recipes from the dozens of cultures represented by pupils attending one of Edinburgh’s most diverse schools.

They needn’t have worried – from boiled Green Gram salad and Polish pierogi to Hyderabadi chicken biryani and good old macaroni cheese, recipes originating in family kitchens all over the world came flooding in.

Gathered by P2 and P6 pupils, who also raised £570 worth of sponsorship against total publication costs of £650, they now sit proudly in a professionally published book, Dalry World Recipes, that celebrates the district’s multi-ethnicity and its status as the home of thousands who have come to Edinburgh from every corner of Scotland and the globe.

“I was very happy about taking part,” says Nirmala Sivaraj, 40, originally from the city of Chennai in south India, and mother to Krithikha, ten, who is in P6 at Dalry. She contributed a recipe for traditional Channa Dhal Vada – a deep fried, split pea-based snack usually served on Hindu feast days.

“Not only did I give a recipe but I tried it out at the recent Christmas fair and lots of people were coming to me and saying it was awesome,” she says. “I remember whenever my own mother was deep frying them at home in India, I would run up, take one and run away.

“My husband is in IT and we travel around the world for work. It’s a challenge to move suddenly but we are very settled here.”

Compatriot Murugalakshmi Arumugapandi, 36, also from Chennai, whose children, Ashwikha and Vigneshwaran, are in P2 and P5, contributed recipes for Rava Laddu and Rava Kesar – traditional, ghee and cashew nut-based sweets.

She says: “For family get-togethers when I was young, it would be the first thing we would offer in our home before lunch. It was good to be able to share it with all the people at Dalry.”

Beauty therapist Sasha Harper, 39, originally from the slightly less exotic climes of Stranraer, has a daughter, Mia, who is in P1 at Dalry Primary.

She says contributing a recipe for her great aunt’s macaroni cheese sparked memories that were happy and deeply personal.

“She’s been dead for about nine years now but Auntie Margaret was renowned around Stranraer as an amazing cook and baker. Everything she did was total perfection,” says Sasha. “When I was very young, she would have us round for tea. At that time, she was caring for my Uncle Jimmy, her brother, who had been blinded and lost a leg during the Second World War. She devoted her life to looking after him.

“We would sit round the table at their home – when I was very young I had to sit on a cushion – and eat the macaroni cheese. She’d make it really thick, with Red Leicester cheese on top. It was proper comfort food.”

With aroound 60 languages and regional dialects spoken in classrooms, teachers have had to work hard to accommodate the educational needs of youngsters. But while the curiosity of children has made for a naturally integrated and welcoming environment, staff have also been striving to ensure parents – many of whom have only recently arrived in the Capital – are not left out in the cold. From mothers whose religious beliefs have led to them using the school’s windowless dining hall for yoga and aerobics to opportunities for volunteering as helpers during outings, teachers are constantly seeking ways to bring parents together.

Mums and dads say the opportunity to share family recipes with others from completely different cultures has made them feel closer than ever to the school.

Jodie Wilkie, 26, mother of P6 pupil Chloe, says her 40-year-old partner, Yuksel Atak, who grew up with ten siblings in the Turkish capital of Ankara, was “over the moon” when told that the family recipe for Giymali Isbanak, or mince spinach, had been included.

“He found it difficult here at first when he came to Edinburgh 15 years ago. He was really happy that he could share the dish with other people at the school, it means a lot to him.”