Thursday, 27 November 2014

spiced pumpkin pecan butter

spiced pumpkin pecan butter
i recently became part of the editorial team of foodand_; an on-line food journal that provides a community for talented individuals, creatives and cooks to collaborate and share their skills and stories with a wider audience. with thanksgiving round the corner, it seemed appropriate for the editorial team to work together on a series of recipes and features. we agreed that what we wanted was for to take traditional ingredients like pumpkin, cranberries and sweet potatoes and transform them into not-so-traditional recipes. this spiced pumpkin pecan butter was created in that spirit. 

i am unfamiliar with the tradition of thanksgiving, as i have not celebrated it. however, its theme of giving thanks for the blessings of the harvest is one that resonates across cultures. in pakistan (which is where i grew up), the festival of basant shares roots with thanksgiving, as it too celebrates seasons and their bounty. basant marks the beginning of spring. in the flatlands of the agricultural punjab, the horizon is marked with fields of mustard flowers. friends and family come together to fly kites in the narrow streets of the old walled city in lahore. there is music, merriment and of course food. the traditional menu celebrates the crop of the season. sarsoon ka saag is a vegetarian dish made with mustard and spinach leaves cooked in a delicately spiced clarified butter and thickened with wholemeal flour. it is eaten with makai ki roti; a thick unleavened flat-bread of crumbly constitution made of maize flour and brushed with plenty of ghee.

Saturday, 11 October 2014

naan khatai, pakistani biscuits with a melting texture

naan khatai
i always remember our house being well stocked with biscuits. there were the regular and perfectly shaped ones from cardboard boxes that included peek freans peanut pik with slightly soft peanuts; cumin laced click and the plain jane marie. lu brand biscuits were crisper and more interesting – the scalloped shape of prince chocolate sandwiches was a kin to laser cut paper doilies. a snack pack of these often graced my school lunchbox. candi, a brown sugar biscuit had little bits of caramelised sugar. gala usually made an appearance when we had guests as they had a dainty design and a richer brioche like flavour. salt flecked tuc was the lone savoury classic. sometimes, there would be a blue tin of royal dansk’s danish butter cookies with an aroma of freshly baked pound cake.

Friday, 3 October 2014

pakistani spiced apple chutney + o's boarding school tales

m's pakistani spiced apple chutney
before i met o, much of what i knew about boarding school was from books that i inherited from mama’s childhood collection. there was roald dahl’s ‘boy’ with its rambunctious descriptions of boarding school. it spoke of a world inhabited by strict headmasters, stern matrons and care packages from home brimming with nostalgia and longing. enid blyton’s ‘malory towers’ was a detailed sketch of a british all girl’s boarding school and was much more gleeful than coolidge’s american ‘what katy did next’. as much as i loved the books, they did not inspire a love for boarding school. i could not conceive of being away from home in an environment of abysmal school dinners and strict teachers. it is perhaps the reason why i never understood o’s love for his boarding school days until i met andrew maclehose, his headmaster.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

edible genoa

tortelli with octopus ragu
we drove to genoa stopping en route in pisa to see the leaning tower. the expanse of grass that surrounds it was heaving with people trying to position their hands at an angle that would make it appear as if they were leaning against it. few stopped to admire its angled stance. after having looked at it, we returned to our journey. the landscape lining the autostrade varies, dipping into shallow hills and bends with splashes of green. every so often fields of sunflowers would appear on the horizon as rows of gold. the drooping posture of the large flower heads looked like sun bonnets curtsying in the breeze. the descent into genoa is on a circular road much like a ramp in large car parks. as the car descends a city of steps comes into view with the sea shimmering in the background. 

Sunday, 17 August 2014

edible florence

ricotta and lemon tortelli at ristorante del fagioli
on our first evening in florence the sun set over ponte vecchio colouring the sky flamingo pink. the duomo was bathed in strawberry blonde and the river arno changed colour to ink blue. florence is much more compact than rome. but like rome it is marked by history and grandeur. piazzas with fountains, churches and old buildings punctuate its narrow cobbled streets. the ascent to piazzale michelangelo affords a panorama of the city and even here the duomo reigns supreme.