Foodies flock to London’s halal food festival

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The London Halal Food Festival was launched four years ago to fill the gap in the UK market. (Photo/London Halal Food Festival)
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Ojos Foods provides high-quality cured meats from Spain as well as beef-based award-winning products. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)
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Ojos Foods provides high-quality cured meats from Spain as well as beef-based award-winning products. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)
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AF Fragrances has been participating from the start selling fragrances that they produce themselves. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)
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Ayoub Mirza, from East London, came along with his family for the first time to the festival. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)
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AF Fragrances has been participating from the start selling fragrances that they produce themselves. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)
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The Date Company London offered fantastic delicious dates with a variety of fillings. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)
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The Date Company London offered gift boxes with some of the most luxurious date varieties. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)
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The London Halal Food Festival was launched four years ago to fill the gap in the UK market. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)
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The London Halal Food Festival was launched four years ago to fill the gap in the UK market. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)
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The London Halal Food Festival was launched four years ago to fill the gap in the UK market. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)
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This is the third year Band of Burgers participated in the London Halal Food Festival. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)
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This is the third year Band of Burgers participated in the London Halal Food Festival. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)
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With 11 years experience and 11 chains around the UK, Steakout is looking to expand to the Middle East. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)
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The Tobacco Dock is a Grade I listed warehouse in Wapping and is in the East End of London, United Kingdom. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)
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The Date Company London offered fantastic delicious dates with a variety of fillings. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)
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This is the third year Band of Burgers participated in the London Halal Food Festival. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)
Updated 08 August 2019

Foodies flock to London’s halal food festival

  • The festival is a fantastic celebration of halal food from a wide variety of vendors
  • There were also cookery and butchery demonstrations on stage, several activities for children and burger and chilli eat off competitions

LONDON: The Halal Food Festival in London took foodies on a cultural world tour and gave them a chance to explore a wide range of cuisines. The two-day event, on August 3 and 4, also targeted entrepreneurs, startups and those looking to launch a career in the industry, from chefs to caterers, providing a great platform at which to introduce products and services.

Organizers said the festival was launched four years ago as a reaction to the high demand for halal food in the UK “by the Muslim community and everybody outside the community,” and a dire need, and resultant opportunities, for more variety.

“There was no one place where people could get different cuisines, all of halal nature, under one roof, so at the Halal Food Festival you have more than 150 cuisines from all over the world and all completely halal,” said Waleed Jahangia, the event’s founder and CEO.

Over the years, he added, the number of participants from the Middle East, particularly Saudi Arabia and Dubai, has greatly increased. The event has also attracted many vendors from countries in Africa and Asia, including Egypt, Morocco and Malaysia.

“It really is an international platform for businesses from around the globe to tackle the UK market,” said Jahangia. “Each year we get bigger and we are always trying to progress the industry. We will be doing more by reaching out to a more international audience as the years go by.”

Islamic Relief, the charity sponsor of the event, was accepting donations for the upcoming Eid Al-Adha holiday from locals and foreigners alike.

“It is in line with Islamic Relief’s work because it is appreciating the different foods and different cuisines from across the globe,” said Hasnain Syed, the charity’s major gifts manager. “Islamic Relief is about building bridges among communities, sharing love, sharing hope and providing hope and support to those in other parts of the world who don’t have the luxuries and facilities we do.”

He added that visitors from the Middle East had come to the charity’s stall to make donations that will help provide food packages and lamb sacrifices for the needy during Eid, which is expected to fall on Aug. 10.

The concept of Halal is not only based on food and diet, but has developed to encompass other lifestyle choices, including fashion, cosmetics, travel, health and finance.

The festival was held at the weekend at the Tobacco Dock building in east London. In addition to the chance to sample an amazing array of food and drink from all over the world, there were cookery and butchery demonstrations, activities for children, and even burger and chili-eating competitions.

Nine-year-old Ayoub Mirza, from East London, came to the festival with his family. It was the first time he had been to the event and he said he would be back next year.




This is the third year Band of Burgers participated in the London Halal Food Festival. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)

“My favorite (vendor) was Band of Burgers — that was really nice, and so were the churros as well, and the pineapple stuff and the strawberries and the marshmallows,” he said. He added that he was also enjoying the musical entertainment.

This year’s event marks the third time that London restaurant brand Band of Burgers, which launched in 2015, has taken part in the festival.

“It has been amazing all the time,” said the company’s director, Muhammad Zeeshan Amin. “It is one of the best events where Muslims can go and gather together.”

He added that he had noticed an increased number of Arab visitors compared with last year, most of whom were visiting from France.




With 11 years experience and 11 chains around the UK, Steakout is looking to expand to the Middle East. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)

Staff at Steakout, a casual-dining restaurant specializing in steaks and burgers, reported a similar trend. The business was participating in the event for a second year in a row.

“We are residents here now and we intend to come back every year,” said Kaysor Ali, the company’s managing director. “Last year we had customers from France, and this year again. There’s also a lot of customers coming from up and down the country, from as far north as Manchester, which is a four or five-hour drive. So it’s been quite a widespread response.”

Ojos Foods, another vendor at the event, offers high-quality cured meats from Spain, including salami and chorizo, as well as award-winning beef products.

Company director Encina Barragan said she enjoyed seeing the expression on people’s faces and their reactions to her products.

“To start with, they don’t want to try (the food) because it is something new and the question that we get asked every time is it halal? Of course it’s halal, and once you’ve tried it you find the flavors are actually really good,” she said.

Ojos products have earned stars from the Great Taste Awards this year, and the company’s premium beef is in contention for the Golden Fork Awards.




The Date Company London offered fantastic delicious dates with a variety of fillings. (AN Photo/Sarah Glubb)

Date Company London offered festival visitors delicious dates with a variety of fillings.

“We have Ajwa Al-Alia from Madinah, which is the most refined type of ajwa and it’s been extremely popular,” said Farakh Iqbal, the company’s managing director and co-founder. “It’s the best seller all around the world, especially among Muslims. People have really enjoyed them; they’ve enjoyed tasting them and they’ve enjoyed dipping them in chocolate as well. Many have bought the lovely gift boxes, which worked very well.”

The venue also featured a chill out lounge offering deserts, cocktails and other treats while listening to the uplifting sounds of the live Qawwali band.
It also included a Souq (market) section with shopping stalls, selling health and beauty  products, hijabs, homewares and gifts.
Adil Qayyum, director of AF Fragrances, has been participating from the start selling fragrances that he has produced himself. 
“I really enjoyed this event. People from all over the UK come, and also Europe, so it is a really good atmosphere. The food is really nice, the weather is good, it’s good fun,” he said.


Two engineers help fight Lebanese farming foe

Updated 19 August 2019

Two engineers help fight Lebanese farming foe

  • Early-warning system lets farmers know when to protect their crops from fruit flies
  • Mobile app tells them the best time to spray pesticides to halt their advance

DUBAI: An award-winning startup led by two female Lebanese engineers has created an automated early-warning system that allows Middle East farmers to protect their crops against the Mediterranean fruit fly, one of the world’s most destructive pests.

Fruit flies can devastate entire harvests and have infested over 300 types of vegetables, fruits and nuts globally, causing financial ruin to countless farmers in the Arab world.

However, an ingenious system designed by Nisrine El Turky, a computer engineer and university professor, and Christina Chaccour, an electrical engineer, will tell farmers via text messages and mobile app of the best time to spray pesticides to halt the pests’ advance.

“Many Lebanese farmers weren’t able to export apples because the quality of their produce wasn’t good enough,” said El Turky, co-founder of IO Tree.

“So many I met were desperate to sell a crate of apples for $2 (SR7.50), which is nothing. I wanted to help the sector by better integrating technology.”

Farmers were found spraying too much pesticide to try to kill fruit flies. (Shutterstock)

She began by investigating the difficulties that farmers faced, attending workshops and seminars, and visiting farms. She found the main problem was that farmers were spraying too much pesticide to try to kill fruit flies.

“I found a way that could reduce the use of pesticides and increase production.”

El Turky began working on the IO Tree concept in February 2018 and swiftly built a working prototype, which she showed to Chaccour, who promptly joined the company as a co-founder.

IO Tree’s technology is being tested on farms in Lebanon and the Netherlands. There are two prototype machines — one for indoor use and another for outdoor. The machines can be placed in an orchard, field or greenhouse.

“We need to ensure that the prototype functions in all conditions. Outdoors, there is sun, dust, rain and other weather factors that could disrupt its operation,” said El Turky, who still works up to 10 hours a week as a lecturer at Lebanon’s Notre Dame University.

Using machine learning and artificial intelligence, the machine’s sensors monitor indicators such as temperature and moisture, as well as studying plant stress.

The system can detect and identify pests, providing data on the likely scale of an imminent pest invasion and the best action the farmer should take to combat it. Information is conveyed to the farmer via IO Tree’s app.

“If you’re using pesticides, our app will tell you the best pesticide to use to tackle that problem, the quantity you need and when to spray.”

IO Tree’s sensors use machine learning to measure plant stress. (Supplied photo)

EL Turky said her technology had shown over 90 percent accuracy in identifying medflies.

“Machine learning means that every day the system becomes more accurate,” she said.

“We’re also working on identifying other pests, but medfly is our main target. Once medflies arrive at a farm, they will eat everything.”

IO Tree will enable farmers to use fewer pesticides, reducing environmental damage, while produce will be in better condition and can command a higher sales price.

“By using fewer pesticides, farmers will be better able to preserve biodiversity: Spraying kills a lot more insects than just pests,” she said. IO Tree has initially targeted all types of fruit trees, plus tomatoes and cucumbers, and the product will be launched commercially in September.

“We’re aiming at farmers directly,” said El Turky.

IO Tree’s services will be sold via subscription. After a farmer signs up for one year initially, the company will install its machines at the farm. The number of machines required per acre depends on crop type, crop yield, land topography and other factors.

The company’s initial target market is the Middle East, North Africa and Turkey, though it also plans to expand to Europe and eventually worldwide.

The product’s potential has helped IO Tree win a string of startup competitions. It was selected to represent Lebanon GSVC 2019 (Global Social Venture Competition) at the University of California, Berkeley.

IO Tree also joined Lebanon’s Agrytech accelerator, which provided $44,000 in funding, and schooled the fledgling entrepreneurs in how to create and manage a startup.

 

• The Middle East Exchange is one of the Mohammed bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Global Initiatives that was launched to reflect the vision of the UAE prime minister and ruler of Dubai in the field of humanitarian and global development, to explore the possibility of changing the status of the Arab region. The initiative offers the press a series of articles on issues affecting Arab societies.