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.