Sumayya Usmani

Sumayya Usmani

She is a writer and cookery teacher based in London, UK, specialising in the cuisine of Pakistan, where she was born and raised. She blogs at www.mytamarindkitchen.com/ and tweets as @MyTamarindKtchn (twitter.com/MyTamarindKtchn) She is also the author of a cookbook, Summers under the Tamarind Tree.

Eid lunch – For the love of family and food

Eid will always remind me of my childhood and growing up in Pakistan. I have a clear sensory memory of awakening to aromas of cloves and cardamom wafting from the kitchen into my bedroom. This is a day that revolves around family togetherness and a celebration of food, after a month of abstinence and contemplation. Though a global Muslim festival, Eid is celebrated differently in each country, highlighting the fact that this is not just a religious day, but a time to celebrate our culture and identity. But, the one unifying similarity is that Eid is a celebration of food, authentic flavours ...

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My family’s most treasured recipe, Tamatar Gosht

Pakistani meat dishes to me are a celebration of local produce. Combining fresh seasonal vegetables with tender meat is the ultimate in rejoicing my land. Tamatar Gosht, which literally means ‘Tomato Meat’, is my most treasured family recipe. My mother combines many cooking styles and this recipe speaks just that; meat cooked with vegetables – a Punjabi idiocyrancy – together with her adopted North Indian habit of ‘Bhuna’ or well-stewed meat with Sindhi nuances of the use of curry leaves and the use of Indian ‘Panch Puran’ mixed spices. This is just the kind of Pakistani cuisine I grew up eating. What I ...

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Rose sugar crème brulee with an eastern infusion

Roses remind me of summers in my grandmother’s intoxicating garden. As the sun sets, the sultry Karachi air shifts to a humid cool sea breeze, bringing with it the scent of her lovingly tended blossoms of motia (jasmine), roses, hibiscus, petunia and bougainvillea. As I made my way from the connecting door between my home and hers, her garden beckoned with captivating floral scents. As I strolled through while picking a few blossoms, it was the wafts of cardamom, milk and rice pudding from her kitchen that would make me find my way to her doorstep. I have a soft spot for Pakistani desserts; their combination of sweet ...

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Welcoming monsoon with assorted pakoras and spicy cardamom chai

With my eyes half open after a long afternoon siesta, I’d look above me to see the slow winding ceiling fan, hearing the monotonous humming of the air conditioner and lazily stretching as a loud crackle of thunder jolts me out of bed. Thinking back now, I can almost smell the dusty humidity outside, as I opened my bedroom window to be greeted by warm monsoon raindrops falling on my face, gracing the room with a breeze alive and the aroma rising from the kitchen below – of pakoras and sweet cardamom chai. It was that time of year again – when the Heavens’ descended ...

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The decadent and royal Shahi Tukra with a flavourful twist

Bread pudding is one of the most frugal yet comforting and heart-warming desserts ever created. Though most people choose simplicity with their addition of spice, it should be known that those creamy oozing layers of custard can do with and compliment any spice in the cabinet. Here I have used traditional saffron and cardamom. In my home in Pakistan, my nani (maternal grandmother) used to make Shahi Tukre every Sunday for lunch amongst the biryani and accompaniments. Even though it’s a heavy dessert, there are ways to make it more suitably lower in calories – use skimmed milk and less sugar – though ...

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A trio of daals: The rich and true taste of aromatic comfort

I could go on about my saviour, the simple daal. It is the ultimate non-stodgy comfort food that I reach out to each time I feel blue or homesick. I look back at the moments in my life where I sought out this humble bowlful of loving care and I don’t quite recall why I needed it. I just know that I felt better with the first mouthful. Possibly because nothing compares to the places this simple flavour and texture take me – one reminiscent of home, safety and smiles of loved ones. My clearest, most revisited memory would be ...

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Winter cravings? Have some banana samosas with a chai chocolate twist!

It is that time of the year when the breath of the crisp sandy cool sea breeze in the mornings confirms that our mild, desert winter is here. With it, it brings a gush of festivities, weddings, parties and many visitors – the return of old friends and family living abroad, to enjoy winter Karachi-style. I suppose it’s because the best weather comes around this time of the year and people choose winter holidays over the summer ones to plan their events and trips. Suddenly, Karachi comes alive during the morning, afternoon and evening, as opposed to just the evening like in the ...

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A Pakistani Christmas with a Kashmiri leg of lamb

A Pakistani Christmas is so different. With a large local Christian population and the concepts of Christmas firmly entrenched in our culture from the colonial times, it is no wonder that we, in Pakistan, celebrate this festive day with much excitement yet in such different ways – menus, traditions and styles. The fact that December 25th also marks the birthday of the founder of Pakistan, Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the public holiday is definitely welcome, not only for our Christian population (which would be given a day off regardless), but also for us to enjoy this wonderful time of year. I remember well, always being excited ...

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December 7, 2014
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Hara masala machchi: Devouring fish, the Parsi style!

I adore hara masala (green masala), as you might have noticed from a few of my earlier recipes. In this recipe, the marriage of green chilli, coriander and mint is sublime. The leafy pungency of the coriander, the sharp fragrance of the mint, coupled with the grassy heat from the green chilli, brings out the aquatic essence of the hake or haddock (use only a chunky, meaty white fish), together with the addition of coconut, which adds exotic nuttiness, and this will give you a match made in heaven. This recipe was passed on to my mother by a Parsi friend at university where my mother ...

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November 5, 2014
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Soggy rains and crunchy okra pakoras

We have had some rainy days in Karachi but, while I was there, they were always welcome and for some reason just very ‘happy’ – I call it ‘happy rain’. We would go out in our clothes and get drenched and love it. There was something liberating about the rain, maybe it was freedom from the constant 35 degree weather in the summer and the oppressive humidity. And that it washed the dusty hot city clean – though I can’t say the knee deep puddles and traffic jams as a result were enjoyable. Nevertheless, rainy, hot days laced with the ...

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