Wednesday, 26 August 2015

the original plum torte and more

marion burros' original plum torte
autumn has begun to show face. she is plums the colour of dark bruises and apples like rosy cheeks. she has come to replace peaches with sun gold flesh, nectarines, glossy strawberries and blackberries. there was so much sweetness and warmth in the soft fruits this year, nurtured by a strong summer sun and plenty of heat. i have polished punnets of raspberries and strawberries with little embellishment. the peaches were at their best eaten leaning over the sink. their sticky juices running down my arms and chin. the kentish cherries this year were as if they had been candied, such was the texture of their flesh.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

choti eid + a recipe for channa chaat (chickpea chaat)

ilona's channa chaat
ramazan (the month of fasting) concludes this weekend. around the world, muslims will celebrate the festival of eid. in pakistan, the country of my birth and early adulthood, a committee of old men with compromised eyesight will be tasked with sighting the crescent moon that heralds the celebration. the politics of the sighting of the moon are such that celebrations will vary, with some parts of the country celebrating a few days later. 

choti eid always makes me miss my family palpably. i find that its festive nature and tradition of giving is much like christmas in the christian calendar. in pakistan, the nation stirs into jubilation after of a month of austerity and fasting. celebrations begin on chaand raat (literally moon night). even the buildings wear garlands of lights. families rush to the bazaars which remain open late into the night. there are bangles to be bought and clothes to be collected from the tailor along with the last minute rush to stock up on ingredients such as milk, bread, cream and yoghurt since most of the shops will be shut over the holiday.

Thursday, 21 May 2015

aloo bukharay ki chutney

aloo bukharay ki chutney
there is a colony of jars in my kitchen. they come in assorted sizes with gingham patterned screw tops, clip tops and embossed glass surfaces. they are home to all manner of pickles and preserves, both sweet and savoury. i have been preserving in earnest since that first jar of diana henry’s fig and pomegranate molasses jam. there has been marmalade in tones of amber and caramel, strawberry jam with the fragrance of rose petals and maroon tomato jam to be had with cheese and eggs. to these i added the more familiar condiments of my childhood like achaar.

Friday, 20 February 2015

bergamot marmalade

bergamot marmalade
marmalade is the beloved preserve of my favourite childhood storybook character. i am of course talking about paddington bear. it is also my father’s favourite. as a child i preferred sweet jam. the pale emerald mitchell’s rose’s lime marmalade was marginally bitter. i loved its citrus fragrance but did not care for it on toast. two years ago mama sent me a jar of her kinnow marmalade. kinnow is an easy peel citrus cultivated in the sub-continent’s punjab. i loved eating dollops of it with strained yoghurt and a scatter of flaked toasted almonds. it was what piqued my interest in marmalade making. since then, i have made the classic seville orange marmalade as well as experimenting with different citrus with herb and tea infusions. this year’s flavours include seville bay leaf, screwdriver marmalade (blood orange and vodka) and treacle marmalade. i loved making all of them but the real treat was a pale amber bergamot marmalade. 

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.