Food writer and cookery teacher Sumayya Usmani takes a trip down memory lane in Summers Under the Tamarind Tree (Frances Lincoln, out on 7th April), liberally spiced with a beautiful collection of recipes garnered from her family.
Among the memories of a childhood in Karachi and some charming photography, instructions for mouth-watering versions of both staple and festive Pakistani cuisine cover every meal of the day from simple breakfasts of fried puris, sweet halva (semolina), fluffy scrambled eggs or curried chickpeas, to veritable feasts of mutanjan Ã¢â‚¬â€œ rainbow sweet rice with candied fruits and saffron Ã¢â‚¬â€œ Singhi mutton biryani, beef shami kebabs, white chicken korma and Sheermal Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a semi-sweet saffron and cardamom-enriched bread.
Sumayya explores recipes for red meat, poultry, fish and seafood (Pakistan has over 1,000 km of coastline on the Arabian Sea), fresh vegetables, fruit and salad, snacks, desserts, drinks and even street food. She’s just as enthusiastic about piquant pickles and chutneys, which play a large part in Pakistani fare.
And she has a celebrated fan. Award-winning Indian actress and bestselling cookery author, Madhur Jaffrey, describes this book as Ã¢â‚¬Å“a treasureÃ¢â‚¬Â. And she’s not wrong.
There’s more to it than just recipes and anecdotes. Techniques are explained for spice blends to homemade ghee. Many recipes are surprisingly quick to cook too, especially in a’karhai’ Ã¢â‚¬â€œ a wok-like pan Ã¢â‚¬â€œ or on a barbecue. And while measurements are provided for ingredients in spoons, metric and imperial, throughout the author encourages you to experiment with spices and flavours Ã¢â‚¬â€œ there’s a great emphasis on’andaza’, which means estimation. In other words, add as much or as little as you like.
This book may be a personal journey for the author, but it doesn’t make it any less delicious for the rest of us.