Sunday, 14 May 2017

edible islamabad and lahore

samosa chaat, mashallah chaat house
islamabad is no longer the sleepy metropolis of my girlhood. its boundaries have stretched into new sectors, swallowing land between the garrison town of rawalpindi and outwards towards the hill station of murree. i feel the change palpably on each annual visit. there is a new network of roads and a shiny new mass transit system that commands its own lane. the metrobus stations are wavelike in design and constructed of glass, allowing a clear picture of the commuters. i imagine they must be boiling in the summer when the sun shines mercilessly and the mercury is high.

there is a proliferation of malls too.

what i love of the city are the green hills that border it. march is a lovely time to visit. the days are warm coaxing flowers to blooms and leaves to appear on the trees. in my parent’s garden, the roses revealed themselves in hues of bridal red and rhubarb and custard. there were fuchsia geraniums and lines of pansies. trumpet flowers hung heavy with their fragrance. we had many cups of afternoon tea and late lunches in the garden.

Sunday, 5 February 2017

bread, butter, books | an essay for papercuts

plump pierogi fried in goose fat, krakow
my essay on 'bread, butter, books' was published in volume 17 of papercuts magazine with the theme 'appetite'. it is about first tastes and travel and about how real and imagined foods coincide in experience. papercuts is a biannual literary magazine established by desi writers' lounge. desi writers' lounge provides a platform for aspiring south asian writers. volume 17 of the magazine explores 'appetite' and is guest edited by novelist and playwright anita nair. this is an excerpt - 
"the discovery of fictitious worlds and meals coincided with an awareness of how my family was different. my maternal grandparents, who have polish and kashmiri origins with english leanings, met in london at university and spent the first decade of their marriage in wales. i realised that there were stories and memories associated with the things that i ate. it was our kitchen table that gave colour and substance to my mixed heritage. my school day breakfasts of a soft boiled egg cradled in an egg cup to be eaten with buttered toast or pancakes drenched in orange juice and dusted with sugar were very different from the ‘fried anda and paratha’ of my classmates. my school lunch of soft white buttered bread with crimson strawberry jam contrasted with the meaty whiff of their shami kebab sandwiches."

Tuesday, 27 September 2016

a manifesto for preserving + a recipe for raspberry chambord jam

raspberry and bayleaf 
it is not enough for jam to just be sweet. a good jam is one where the fruit tastes more of itself, making it a true expression of the word preserve for jam is really the essence of a season in a jar. this is true even in this time of plenty when one can get strawberries in winter and oranges in summer. there is nothing quite like the taste of strawberries in high summer, when their plump little bodies and scarlet flesh is sweet with sunshine. or bright skinned oranges on a damp winter day that gently perfume the air around the fruit bowl. fruit outside its season is a fraction of its flavour, much like a watered down memory, scant on detail.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

on white + a recipe for pasta with labne, spinach and almonds

conchiglie with labne, spinach and almonds 
white is known for the absence of hues that are visible to the naked eye. this explains why some argue that it is not a colour at all. a (my sister-in-law) disagrees. she is an artist. she says that white is like light. it contains the full spectrum of colours that are sometimes visible, like when a rainbow appears in the sky.

Monday, 7 March 2016

gaajar halva; a cardamom laced carrot pudding

gaajar halva with a squiggle of milk pak cream
winter is the season of indulgence. it calls for the richness of butter and cream; of dark meats and root vegetables.

in england, my adopted home, winter is the time to eat roast meats with potatoes to sponge the juices. soft cheeses high on fat are eaten with sharp chutneys made from apples, quince and beetroots. desserts feature steamed puddings, deep dark ones heavy with vine fruits or soft sweet ones with delicate constitutions. both love a little cream or custard to mellow the heat and sweet. in pakistan, my erstwhile home, december is wedding season, so alongside the kormas, paalak and fragrant pilaus are trays of my favourite dessert. gaajar halva (carrot halva) is made from laal gaajar (literally red carrots). these are particular to the sub-continent. they are distinct from the orange ones that i use in england. they are crisp and sweet and an almost transparent red in hue.