UK's first Halal Food Festival to prove halal is about 'more than a kebab roll'

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The UK's first Halal Food Festival will aim to show off the variety available within halal
The UK's first Halal Food Festival will aim to show off the variety available within halal
Chefs Cyrus Todiwala of Cafe Spice Namaste, Vivek Singh of the Cinnamon Club and Muayad Ali of La Sophia are among those supporting a festival dedicated to halal food this month in the hope of proving that halal is about 'more than a kebab roll'.

The festival, the first of its kind to be held in the UK and the world's largest, will take place at London's Excel from 27 to 29 September and aims to give visitors 'a never seen before glimpse into the very best that halal has to offer'. 

The term halal means lawful or permissible in Arabic and refers to all matters of daily life, not just food and drink. Followers of Islam must follow a dietary requirement that does not permit pork or pork products, alcohol and only allows meat slaughtered in accordance to strict guidelines in the Qur'an. Yet, halal food is not a cuisine or a style of cooking, so any style of cooking can become halal provided the chef or cook uses halal ingredients. 

Halal Food Festival founder Imran Kausar said with the UK's Muslim population growing in the UK along with its increasing spending power, there was a need to improve understanding of and access to halal food. 

"The growing British Muslim middle-classes have greater needs and demands from food producers, retailers and restaurateurs and command significant spending power," he said. "The Halal Food Festival will bring together consumers and businesses in a festival format that can be used to showcase new brands and to raise the range and quality of halal offerings to the consumer." 

Growing demand

Chef Muayad Ali who runs French restaurant La Sophia in Notting Hill, agrees that there is a need to boost awareness of the range of halal food available in the UK, both among Muslims and the rest of the UK population and says he wants to prove that it can be about 'more than the kebab roll'. 

The chef, who claims to run the only entirely halal French restaurant in the UK, says he constantly pushes the boundaries, serving halal quail, rabbit and duck alongside the more traditional meats of chicken, beef and lamb. As a result, he has seen a 60 per cent increase in the number of halal diners visiting the restaurant in the last year.

"We receive calls daily checking that our food is all 'halal' as many people are so surprised that have found a French restaurant with our menu being entirely halal," he said. "People come from all over the UK and each month we notice that more and more diners are travelling to La Sophia for the halal French cuisine in a fine-dining atmosphere.

"There is a lack of variety of halal meats offered in restaurants other than the usual lamb, beef and chicken. The working generations are working more, eating out more and want to eat good food that is halal.  There is a huge demand for this and we work hard every day to broaden our halal menu at La Sophia. It's important to offer a good choice, top quality and not limited menus as this is what people are wanting."

Ali will be joining a host of chefs, including Todiwala, Singh, Malaysian chef Norman Musa and French chef Jean Christophe Novelli at the Halal Food Festival's Cooking School where he will talk attendees through some of his dishes. 

The event will also host more than 100 exhibitors from across the globe and Singh and his head chef Abdul Yaseen will be heading up an Indian street food stall. 

Halal Food Festival events director Norman Khawaja said: "The Halal Food Festival sets a new standard in food shows aimed at Muslims in the UK. The range of chefs, features, exhibitors and production quality will leave haloodies (halal foodies) eager for the show each year." 

The festival takes place from 27-29 September at London's Excel.

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