Sunday, 15 December 2013

a pakistani teatime treat: chicken patties with sriracha

a pakistani chicken patty with sriracha
chicken patties always remind me of the monsoon in pakistan. it is a memory of grey skies that burst into heaving showers. the earth would release trapped heat, allowing it to waft up in warm steam laced with the smell of earth. in one of the houses where we lived, i had a monsteria plant outside my window. during the monsoon it would grow threefold, its large waxy green leaves balancing fat raindrops. i have a memory of a weekend, in which i am curled up on my beanbag, reading fiction. as the breeze cooled, baba opened the doors and windows, and the house came alive with the sound of rain. you could feel the warm air moving out on a cooler current. reshma’s husky voice serenaded the breeze.

and soon after there was the call for afternoon tea.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

on baking fails and cookie swaps

smitten kitchen's brownie roll-out cookies
do you have days when your efforts in the kitchen go awry? when recipes that should work fail? well, that is what i experienced in the fortnight of baking for the great food blogger cookie swap. i was keen on sub-continental khatai, a wonderful snow white biscuit that dissolves in the mouth like fine sand under the feet on a beach. i have memories of eating these with late afternoon tea at my phoopi’s house in lahore. the batch that i made was a variation on the traditional khatai as they had a fair bit of gram flour. they tasted lovely and were much appreciated by colleagues at work, friends and family but the recipe proved to be tricky. the second try involved ghraybeh, a shortbread like lebanese biscuit that echoed the feel of khatai, gently scented with orange blossom. once again the recipe i used failed me because the consistency of the dough did not match the description.

Thursday, 28 November 2013

lemongrass spice paste

lemongrass spice paste
the last of autumn is fast receding. the trees are nearly bare, an erect frame of bark and branch. on sunny days, the light has been silver bright and the air so cold that it almost hurts to breathe. this is the season for soups and i am partial to those that clarify the senses, expanding the ability to breathe deeply and fully. such soups are aromatic and bright with ingredients like chillies, ginger and coriander.

the easiest way to make such soups is to start with a spice paste. the one i am sharing with you today has become a staple at thirty-two. i always have a jar of it in the fridge (and a little in reserve in the freezer). it is an amalgam of my favourite aromatics and spices.

Friday, 8 November 2013

on autumn with recipes for sweet and savoury labne

a carpet of leaves in the bloomsbury

autumn is the cusp of summer and winter. it is the brief interlude between long light filled days and the short sullen days of winter with abbreviated sunlight.
it is also the season of abundance.

Monday, 21 October 2013

packed work day lunches and a recipe for courgette butter

courgette butter
at the tail end of the summer vacation mama would take my sibling and i shopping for the new school year. there were books to be bought and uniforms too. the most exciting element was buying a lunch box. the one that stands out in my memory was baby pink with a large picture of minnie mouse on the front. m had a turtle green one with a scene from ninja turtles. inside the lunchbox was a rectangular lidded box to hold lunch and a thermos for water or juice.

my fascination for school lunches was limited to the lunch box. 

m and i always had a packed school lunch. very often it would a jam sandwich made with buttered slices of soft white bread. sometimes there would be aloo tikki (potato cutlet) or shami kebab (beef kebab) sandwiches with a smidgen of ketchup. mama was careful about the architecture of the sandwich, balancing the moisture content to keep the bread from disintegrating. she spared us fried egg sandwiches or ‘unda paratha’ (fried egg rolled in a flaky griddle fried flatbread) that were curiously popular with children whose parents were in the army. i had zero tolerance for the smell of eggs and grease and spent the better half of secondary school trying to distance myself from two classmates who perpetually smelled of the combination.

Tuesday, 15 October 2013

the pleasure of jam + diana henry's apricot and vanilla jam

the beginnings of apricot and vanilla jam

o has taken to teasing me about my jam making. he says given a chance, i will make jam out of everything. i am a small batch preserver and ironically he is the one who eats it in copious amounts, stirred through yoghurt or spread on buttered toast. 

it was not always like this.

mama has been making jam since i was a little girl. every time someone travels back and
forth between islamabad and london, i receive a jar or two of jam carefully swathed with duct tape and wrapped in plastic to prevent accidents in transit. over the last two years (and depending on seasons) i have received bottles of strawberry jam laced with gulkand (rose petal preserve) or boiled with red wine, mulberry with orange zest and in winter, my favourite; a thick cut kinoo marmalade with an easy consistency. when i would run out bonne maman would reappear on the kitchen counter.

Friday, 4 October 2013

notes on how to cook chicken karahi + mama's recipe

mama's chicken karahi
i missed this. a pool of bronzed oil, chicken with slightly crisp, caramelised edges and a lacquer of tomato along with the bright heat of fresh green chilli. a really good chicken karahi must be all these elements and must be accompanied by fluffy and soft white naans. the naans should be thick enough to allow their edges to be prised open to a thinner layer. this exposes the dough like centre that becomes a sponge for the spiced oil and masala.

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

edible athens

yoghurt with honey and walnuts at stani
london has its public houses, italy its trattorias, paris its bistrots and greece its tavernas. the tavernas are where you should go for mezedes (small plates), grilled meats, seafood and ouzo. whatever you do, never forgo the greek salad. you should ask for it for the tomatoes alone. they are intensely sweet and juicy, tasting of sunshine and freshness. 

our first meal in athens was rather mediocre given o’s insistence on eating a gyro in the heart of the plaka. i used it strategically to allow me to take charge of choosing where to eat, leaving him to navigate for the rest of the trip. that division of labour (along with some excellent recommendations from m and culinary backstreets) meant that we ate very well. in fact, it allowed athens to join the league of paris and turin, the two other cities where we had outstanding food.

Friday, 27 September 2013

ilona's tea-time koftas

frying the koftas
i have always wanted the recipe for these delicately spiced little koftas. they are a departure from the traditional pakistani ones that are usually simmered in gravy. they are very much my mama’s recipe, partly drawn from a norwegian cookbook as well as being inspired by auntie y’s teatime entertaining who made something similar. i do not remember auntie y’s koftas but have a vivid memory of her person. she had a petite frame and was the essence of femininity and grace. her signature fragrance was motia especially in the long months of summer when she would weave a gajra into her long hair or wear individual jasmine flowers in her ears. perhaps that is unsurprising given that her name is the persian variant from which ‘jasmine’ is derived.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

brown sugar labne with roasted peaches for hello! pakistan

roasted peaches with brown sugar labne
this brown sugar labne with roasted peaches recipe has been a steadfast favourite this summer. it is infinitely adaptable because you can pair it with pretty much any fruit that takes well to roasting. incidentally, the first time i made it was when aunty m and her brother came to thirty-two for dinner. she is the editor-in-chief of hello! pakistan and had been asking and encouraging me to write a recipe for the magazine. the original recipe featured muscovado sugar which was adapted to brown sugar or shakkar. i believe that the charm of a recipe lies in using local ingredients. shakkar is an unrefined sugar made from sugarcane and has a caramel depth like that of muscovado. i grew up eating it rubbed into roti hot from the griddle with plenty of butter. it is also used to make ‘gurr wallay chawal’, a light treacle coloured sweet rice fragranced with cardamom.

i would like to thank the very talented shu han lee author of the beautiful mummy, i can cook food blog for her food-styling and photography and to hello! pakistan for printing the recipe. the recipe is reproduced here with permission from the magazine and appears in the september twenty-fourteen print version.

Saturday, 14 September 2013

tomato ginger jam: the western cousin of tamatar ki chutney

tomato ginger jam
sometimes on weekends baba would make tamatar ki chutney (tomato chutney). he would fry roughly chopped tomatoes in a karahi in a free pour of oil till they reduced to the consistency of a jam. we would eat it straight from the frying pan with its rim of saffron coloured oil, scooping it with tandoori roti that either mama or m would have bought from rana market. baba always garnished it with fine rounds of fresh green chilli. in june last year he made it for us on a hot, sticky sunday. he decorated it with hard boiled eggs, the yolks of which were rimmed light blue as he likes very hard boiled ones, along with the fresh green chillies.

Tuesday, 27 August 2013

carrot cake; the western cousin

a slice of ilona's carrot cake
when it comes to cake making, some vegetables are self-conscious. the courgette for instance has a proclivity to immerse itself leaving only softness and moisture as its imprints. but then there are root vegetables like beetroot and carrots that are not cowed. they give cakes an earthiness and are not shy of spices like ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg.

i have always loved carrots. the pakistani carrot is terracotta orange. i would often eat them raw when mama or my dadi would slice rounds to add to a mixed vegetable bhujia. when i was six i discovered gajar ka murabba, a candy sweet condiment of thin carrot batons gently simmered in a simple syrup infused with whole green cardamoms. the sugar would permeate the membranes and make the carrots limp. this condiment is preserved in a memory as the flavour of a carrot caramel. i helped myself to one too many and felt quite poorly afterward. perhaps this is what explains their absence in my life after that brief encounter in my phoopi’s kitchen.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

//guest post for dishoom// eid al-fitr, the celebration of breaking fast

a guest post for dishoom
i am delighted to have written a guest post for dishoom, a bombay café in london. it would be fair to say that it is a steadfast favourite for o and i. i am particularly partial to their egg naan rolls. they are a genius combination of perfectly fried eggs anointed with chilli jam and cream cheese encased in a soft pillowy naan and a little spring onion for freshness. today's post is not about breakfast or brunch though. it is about their special eid feast. i write from the memory of many eid's celebrated with family. now having settled in london i am still struck by the unity of eid customs across continents and cultures. and so i wrote, "i am always struck by the comforting unity of eid customs – the gathering of family, the new clothes, the giving of gifts, the generosity of spirit and of course, the plentiful food. the devotion with which families prepare each iftar feast, the care taken on each sumptuous dish for the tid table, the extra jalebi sneaked onto the plate however much you protest that you’re full – these are all tangible expressions of love."

you can read the full post here.     

Sunday, 21 July 2013

brownie politics + a recipe for espresso pecan brownies

espresso pecan brownies
when i was in secondary school i had a classmate whose mother made exceptional brownies. they were gooey and fudgy with a thin, flaky epidermis several shades lighter than the deep brownness of what lay beneath. in fact they were my first real brownies and became the benchmark for all others in islamabad. no other brownies ever measured up to them and even my own attempts to recreate them at home failed miserably. in those years the closest i ever got to approximating auntie r’s brownies were through betty crocker’s brownie mix.

Saturday, 20 July 2013

vulcan the smoker + burger night

a full view of vulcan
in roman mythology vulcan is the god of fire. at number five in bani gala he has been reincarnated as a barbecue grill/smoker. his body is fashioned from a large steel barrel supported by a rectangular frame. his fire is contained in a little hatch fed by coal or wood. his name brandished in metal is proudly displayed on the lip of the curve of his upper body. in a jar beside him are tools that are capable of withstanding his wrath. they are used to retrieve large hunks of meat and poultry after they have been smoked or grilled. 

vulcan was inspired by a combination of arizona living and the pakistani love for grilling. the yusuf family’s adventurous appetites led us to try mexican and american meats and we fell in love with long slow smoked brisket and ribs. barbecue in the land of red, white and blue is an extended affair. the southern states are famous for cooking tough cuts of meat over indirect heat usually a wood fire for a long while. in pakistan meat is generally grilled after being marinated which essentially helps tenderise the meat. it absorbs some of the smokiness of the grill but it is nowhere near the deep almost tobacco like smokiness of american barbecue. i have fond memories of baba’s barbecues on trips to murree. back then he used a rectangular grill with a mesh of diamond shapes as a platform for grilling chicken tikka and bite-sized pieces of beef.

Monday, 24 June 2013

top of the pops and a childhood tv dinner: cheese béchamel with toast fingers

cheese béchamel
i know. you are wondering why i am giving you a basic recipe for a cheese béchamel. the truth is, sometimes the simplest of things are the most memorable. there is childhood pleasure in this pale ivory sauce whose colour attains a little depth from flour toasted in butter. it recalls a particular tv dinner on a weeknight when mama would allow us to eat in front of the television. the programme that warranted this special treatment was top of the pops (totp), which was broadcast on a local private pakistani channel called ntm. before that the public broadcaster ptv maintained a monopoly that equalled to boredom.

Monday, 17 June 2013

toast with personality + a recipe for 'accidental cardamom peach butter'

sunday afternoon with the observer + accidental peach and almond
butter toast
when i was little toast was limited in my imagination to slices of either dawn or continental white bread. the toaster would bronze their whiteness. it would crisp the epidermis while allowing the centre to remain a little soft. one had to be careful to not exert pressure on the slice given its unsubstantial thickness because unlike in england one could not get thick sliced bread in pakistan. brown bread made an appearance in the late 90s and was largely ersatz, merely coloured wheaten.

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

a green and white supper for the pakistan election

asparagus spears
there are some things in life that one is not prepared to feel emotional about like elections for instance. nonetheless this saturday both o and i woke up with a lump in our throats and a feeling of pride. eleventh may was the day that pakistan went to the polls in what was the first real election in my lifetime. pakistan has had elections before but never one in which one democratically elected government has been succeeded by another. up until now pakistan’s system of governance was a pendulum that swayed between the military and the political offspring of dictatorships. the terms of the latter were aborted by the military before they were able to complete them. 

Sunday, 12 May 2013

a home-made provençal aperitif that makes wonderful truffles

vin d'orange truffles in my parents garden
winter has over extended its stay and in doing so has snatched spring of its element. a british winter is much like its summer. it has a variable temperament. its inconsistency is its chief characteristic. although not my favourite season, i have come to appreciate its turn. there is something charming in the bareness of the trees, mere sharp silhouettes of branch and trunk. a crisp cold morning with silvery sunlight marries well with a breakfast of warm cardamom buns and a milky latte. 

but what i love most about winter are oranges. to me they are the fruit that promises change. their vibrant colour and freshness resists the often dull and grey tones of winter. their sharp, sweet and sometimes astringent nature is everything that winter is not.

Sunday, 31 March 2013

my dadi and her besan ka halva

besan ka halva
my dadi (paternal grandmother) is a formidable woman. as a child, her appetite for grisly stories intended to inculcate fearlessness in her grandchildren gave me nightmares. they were peppered with kidnappings and robberies by wadera’s and daku’s (vernacular for tribal chieftains and robbers). it did not help that my vivid imagination was easily supplemented by figures in dramas like kashkol and dasht. the latter was about the story of two lovers caught between personal enmities of warring tribes in balochistan. it was replete with burly men with butterfly moustaches bearing arms. the former was about a beggar cartel whose network was made up of kidnapped children. she was keen on us watching these with her. in addition she had grown up in an age when religion was synonymous with fearing god. and so i grew up hearing much about sinning, the afterlife and hell.

Friday, 29 March 2013

a thursday cake + a common cold

nigel slater's banana chocolate muscovado cake
it’s wednesday. winter is dragging its feet. i have just finished evening classes on refugee law. tomorrow i have plans for a grand breakfast with my cake making and food loving friend t. i am thinking bloody marys and a stack of scotch pancakes at hawksmoor guildhall. but the winter season has other plans for me. the cold and cough that i have been pre-empting since last year has decided to make an appearance. i wake in the middle of the night to a familiar soreness that marks the onset of a cold.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

a wednesday cake.

lemon buttermilk loaf cake
wednesday was in two minds, vacillating between bright sunshine and flurries of snow. from a window it looked like confetti. it reminded me of my aunt’s snow globe, a static scene of london encased in an arch of glass. shake the globe and it would snow. the little me thought snow was wondrous. even now snow retains some of that sense of wonder but only when i am warm and watching it through a window. o and i took the canonbury river walk one weekend when london was blanketed with white. on our way there we stopped in highbury fields and attempted to make a snowman. that was in january and now it is march. it should be spring.

Thursday, 7 March 2013

blood orange marmalade

blood orange marmalade
marmalade is a curiously british obsession. it is a preserve of much beauty with lengths of citrus peel suspended in amber tones of orange or jewel tones of green when using limes. at verde and co a line up of marmalade jars lit from behind summons a warm luminosity that is substantial enough to brighten a cold and dull winter day. at the close of the year the tidal wave of christmas and new year recipes are replaced by marmalade. they coincide with the appearance of blood and seville oranges at farmers markets and in shops. despite its inherent britishness marmalade draws its origins from the portuguese preserve ‘marmelada’ which was made with quince. the tradition goes back some two thousand years. it is to the scots that we owe marmalade as we know it now as they pioneered the switch from quince to seville oranges. by the nineteenth century british companies like robertson’s and frank cooper’s were producing marmalade commercially. frank cooper’s marmalade has a rather distinguished pedigree. it was favoured by sir edmund hilary who carried it when he scaled mount everest. the fictional james bond has it for breakfast with jersey butter.

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

a recipe for artichoke hummus

artichoke hummus
hummus appeared in my family’s kitchen in the early 90’s. baba brought the taste back from his travels around the middle east. i should ask mama where she got the recipe, for this is before the time that the world wide web became part and parcel of our daily existence. in london baba would take us to beirut express. their hummus has an assertive tahini character and is finished with a pool of olive oil , chopped flat leaf parsley and some whole chickpeas. hummus has become ubiquitous. it has global allure and everyone seems to be eating it. the brit’s will even eat it in sandwiches or wraps for office lunches. it crops up with crudities at parties and cocktail receptions. the real problem though is that most of this hummus comes from little plastic tubs from supermarkets and tastes awful. my home-made version is rich in tahini and will find itself adorned with herbs and spices like cumin, sumac or zaatar.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

raspberry brown butter blondies

not so neat around the edges brown butter blondies
brown butter. i call it crack for bakers. every so often the baking blogosphere explodes into a new craze. brown butter is from sometime ago. right now it’s caramelised white chocolate. yes. i’ve got it on my list too. but in the meantime these brown butter blondies will do. i’ve had blondies on my list of things to bake but personally i’ve never seen the appeal in them. i mean when one can eat a brownie then why settle for something sans the chocolate. a blondie is just a brownie bereft of the chocolate. but brown butter is a whole other ball game.

Sunday, 24 February 2013

pom molasses pulled chicken

pomegranate molasses pulled chicken slider
i have had pomegranate molasses on my mind. it is essentially pomegranate juice reduced to viscous syrup and is the beloved of middle eastern and mediterranean cuisine. it is sharp, sweet and sour at once and its assertive character makes it a wonderful partner for meats, root vegetables and squash. i love making butternut puree with tahini and garlic adding a swirl of pomegranate molasses and olive oil to finish it. it calms the sweetness of the butternut. when i make a batch of these sweet potato falafel i smear a pomegranate molasses whipped greek yoghurt on the insides of the pita pocket before tucking in the falafel. it is good for breakfast too – think a sliced banana and a drizzle of pomegranate molasses on greek yoghurt.

Thursday, 21 February 2013

marrakech; spices in the souk and street food

piles of khobz at a local shop
mountains of spice 
the fruit of the prickly pear cactus
lentils and such
the spice souk 
the spice souk

edible marrakech

djemma al-fna at night
i did not know what to expect of marrakech but my first and lasting memory of it will be as the city of contrasts. it is a city that necessitates new understandings of how to move and how to deal with people. the centre of the medina (old town) is djemma al-fna. the square is the hub from which the city extends outwards into a maze of alleys. some of these end abruptly whilst others twist into a labyrinthine like maze leading to the souks. one competes with the tide of humanity, motorcycles, horse carriages, donkey carts and the monkey and snake charmers. the women here ride as precariously as the men. i am amazed at the ease with which the people especially women and children navigate. there is no concern even when a motorcycle is within a hairs breath. there is only a dogged determination to get to where they are going. walking is precarious, an activity that engages alertness and the faculties of sound, sight and reflex. and here is the contrast for in all this noise and chaos one can step into a sanctuary like the ben youssef madrassa or jardin majorelle or even in the privacy of a riad and have no sense of the chaos outside.

Wednesday, 20 February 2013

a recipe for salted treacle fudge

salted treacle fudge
in my mind making fudge has always been synonymous with the soft ball test. this mama said was the way to check the fudge for readiness. she would keep a glass of cold water next to the stove. on the stove the mixture of sugar and cream would make its displeasure at being heated and reduced felt. angry boils marked the surface bursting to a residue of steam. the hiss and sputter was audible. there is a curious comfort to the sound of sugar fury.

Saturday, 9 February 2013

a memory of the tandoor-wallah and a recipe for rye and honey soda bread

honey and rye soda bread, blood orange marmalade
and godminster brie
i am in my kindergarten years. on our way home from school we stop at the tandoor in the local bazaar to get roti for lunch. it is searing hot and i am seated on a ledge peering into the tandoor. the heat rises in a constant wave. it distorts the image of what is seen through it. our local tandoor is an assembly of a few men – one who kneads the dough, another who shapes the peras (rounds of dough) and rolls them. the last in line is the tandoor-wallah who stretches it and slaps it onto what resembles a small rectangular but hard pillow. in swift motion he lowers his hand into the tandoor and transfers the dough to the wall. the hollow furnace cooks the dough in under a minute. it gives the roti or naan angry blisters in some places. every order is wrapped in newspaper and the very tall stacks are topped with another piece for easier carriage. i could never resist the temptation of stealing a thick crust of hot roti on our way home. even now when i visit pakistan mama and i will get roghni naan from the tandoor and eat some on the way home. 

Thursday, 31 January 2013

vanilla notes + whole bean vanilla biscuits

butter stains on parchment and half a whole bean vanilla biscuit
have you ever looked up vanilla in the dictionary? its adjective element is described as ‘having no special or extra features; ordinary’. now consider this – a slim crème anglaise that softens a bittersweet terrine, crème patissière piped into profiteroles, a soft set custard gently flecked with an abundance of black vanilla seeds and classic desserts like crème brûlée and caramel custard. they would be bereft sans vanilla. 

Friday, 18 January 2013

a different version of ottolenghi's krantz cake

almond orange blossom krantz cake
the trouble with christmas is that it leaves an abundance of sweet things in its wake. there are boxes of chocolates tucked into drawers, biscuits languishing in the biscuit tin and homemade christmas cake. there was also leftover marzipan that needed to be dealt with. a little short of new years eve i had some friends coming over for tea so i decided to turn the left over marzipan into ottolenghi’s krantz cake. the recipe that appears in jerusalem is beautifully illustrated – a plait of dough that reveals an interior of chocolate and pecans. i reworked the recipe by replacing the chocolate and nut mixture with my homemade marzipan and plenty of orange peel. the sugar syrup was replaced with honey and orange blossom to give it a glossy finish. 

Thursday, 17 January 2013

buttermilk skillet chicken

buttermilk skillet chicken
there are some vegetables whose ‘keeping’ qualities make them residents of my vegetable drawer for longer than necessary. red cabbage is one of them. its outer coat may begin to loose its glossiness after a couple of days but one can always peel back the layers to a skin of firm shininess. i always have one of these ‘keepers’ in my drawer for mid-week suppers. most often they are the ones that inspire creativity.

Wednesday, 16 January 2013

a conversation on punitions (punishments) and pakistan

punitions, just out of the oven
late last year in writing about malala yousafzai, kamila shamsie used the words of pakistani writer nadeem aslam "pakistan produces people of extraordinary bravery. but no nation should ever require its citizens to be that brave." those words resounded in my head through out january tenth and after when a series of bombs in quetta targeting the shia community left ninety-three dead and many others injured.

it appears that mine is a nation where resilience is punished with brutality.

i wonder whether humanity has extinguished itself in pakistan. at the end of twenty-twelve i had only one wish that pakistan may begin to turn a chapter (for the better). but barely two weeks into the year and the killing continues unabated with a brazenness that defies humanity and imagination.

Friday, 11 January 2013

defining perfect and dorie greenspan's 'world peace cookies'

just out of the oven world peace cookies
perfect exists in plural. it can be yours, mine or ours. my husband would describe it as a gemini whose singular element is composed of many selves. it could be a perfect day, a moment, a taste or even a memory. the twenty twelve winter solstice was perfect. it was a warmer than usual day with sunshine so crisp and light so sharp the world appeared as a precise cut-out. the blue of the sky in transition from the longest night to day graduated from ink to cobalt to pale-silver blue. it was a friday and i started the day with bridget’s asana practice. breakfast was a fitzroy bun from honey and co. a clever combination of middle eastern flavours – mahleb (marzipan of cherry kernels), pistachios and sour cherries rolled into a brioche like dough that had been generously brushed with syrup. it was baklava-esque. i finished with a milky latte.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

edible gifts; homemade gianduja, red wine truffles et al.

edible gifts for my family
this past christmas was all about edible gifts. they were inspired by m and m’s gifts to us two years running. in twenty-eleven m gave us a bottle of rosemary infused olive oil from her grand father’s olive groves. it was grassy in colour with a strong aroma and sharp taste. along with it came a jar of homemade muffin mix. m had layered the ingredients and then added a christmas tag with handwritten instructions. on christmas twenty-twelve we got bee wilson’s consider the fork along with a bottle of homemade mulled wine syrup. these were such perfect ideas for food lovers that it got me inspired to make some of my own. some of these were for londoners and others were bubble wrapped for international carriage.

christmas eve dinner at babcia's and a recipe for christmas cake

the anatomy of a slice
it is christmas eve and we are gathered around babcia and daddy’s dining table in lahore. there is crisp linen on the table and the pretty china that is usually resident in the glass fronted cabinets has been laid out for dinner. our first course is always barszcz. this eastern european staple is a traditional polish first course for christmas eve dinner. babcia ladles the soup and passes it around the table. sometimes she will finish it with a squiggle of cream that is edged a vivid crimson where it meets the soup. warm dinner rolls in the shape of a knot are served on the side.

that chocolate cake

that chocolate cake for a's twenty-twelve
this last year i rediscovered my love for baking. it is something i grew up doing in mama’s kitchen. i have many happy childhood memories of measuring ingredients in cups, cracking eggs into mixing bowls and holding the beater to cream butter and sugar, whip cream and transform egg whites into stiff peaks for meringues. it was mama who taught me how to make my own buttermilk to add to scones and how to sift flour without making a mess. the action of tapping the sifter against the base of the palm never ceases to make me feel like i am seven and standing over a mixing bowl in mama’s kitchen.

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

a soup of simple constitution

because a good lentil soup begins with browning onions
the season of indulgence has come to an end. both o and i are suffering from the ill effects of excess. thirty-two is still heaving with chocolates, cake, marzipan and cheese but all i have been craving is a soup of simple constitution with some cleansing elements like astringent ginger and fresh chilli that flushes the skin and breathes openness into the nostrils. this recipe is culled from a combination of nigel slater’s but is deeply rooted in what i think is the most comforting pakistani food – dhal. it is a gentle yellow bolstered by turmeric and finished with a spoonful of crème fraiche with roughly chopped chilli and chive. i also included some olive oil croutons made from two languishing and very stale slices of poilâne country loaf. the oven crisped them to sharp crunch. large bowls of soup with a couple of episodes of modern family were the perfect way to end the festive season. and in o’s case it helped tide over a rather unforgiving hangover.

naamyaa café - bangkok street food in islington

naamyaa café, islington 
alan yau’s newest addition to london’s casual dining scene is a bangkok style café in islington. his signature style is evident in the modern and sleek dining space accentuated by terraced golden bodhisattva’s. the menu here is based on bangkok style street food and that element of the street is fashioned through an open plan kitchen and bar. the air is heady with spice and the cacophony of human conversation as it rises above the theatre of cooking sounds - hissing and sizzling.