Mazí Mas, meaning ‘with us’ in Greek, was conceived by Nikandre Kopcke, a New Yorker living in London. The inspiration was her Greek nouná (godmother), who dreamt of opening a bakery and taught Niki how to cook. Niki established Mazí Mas as a community interest company in 2012, and recruited chefs from Senegal, the Philippines, Iran, Brazil, Peru and Ethiopia. Together they have cooked – with the help of Mazí Mas staff and volunteers – at the Yard Theatre, the Albany Theatre, Tate Modern and Ashoka UK.
The goal is to open five Mazí Mas restaurants in London and five internationally, with a changing roster of chefs creating their own home cuisine. Along with her godmother’s culinary skills, Niki was inspired by volunteering at the Hackney Migrant Centre, and by what she describes as London’s ‘hyperdiversity’. Eat Hackney loves the idea of a hyperdiverse neighbourhood restaurant, with a changing menu of home cooking from around the world… Now to the food. When Eat Hackney visited Mazí Mas at the Yard, Ethiopian cook Azeb Woldemicheal was in the kitchen, helped by residency manager Carolin and volunteer Laura.
Azeb is from Addis Ababa and came to the UK with her son from Turin, where she had lived for 17 years. She cooked up sensational beef stew with punchy berbere spice, red lentil stew and injera. On the side was cabbage with carrot and a bright beetroot salad: Azeb says that households in Addis Ababa maintain a small garden, and that beetroot is a popular crop. Families in Ethiopia make their own berbere chili and spice mix – Mazí Mas buy theirs at Blue Nile Restaurant. The injera is spread with stew and vegetables and rolled pancake-style, or torn into pieces and used as a spongy utensil. Traditional injera grain – tiny iron-rich teff – is hard to find in the UK, so most Ethiopians here use wheat flour and ferment it over a couple of days, in much the same way you cultivate a starter for sourdough. Otherwise, buy precooked injera at the Andu Ethiopian internet cafe on the Waste in Dalston at 528 Kingsland Road, or at Enat Guada in south London.
Eat Hackney salutes Mazí Mas for its bracing combination of idealism, practicality and properly good food. Look out for its next appearance in the borough… Meanwhile, here are Azeb’s recipes for Ethiopian beef stew and beetroot salad.