Food & drink

Late sum­mer com­fort

The Herald on Sunday - Sunday Herald Life - - Food & Drink - By Su­mayya Us­mani

THE weather has turned, and as most of us yearn to soak in the warmth of the sun, we need to brave the cooler breeze. This was a time of year I loved in South­ern Pak­istan. Au­tum­nal winds bought with them the aro­mas of smoky, spiced com­fort food. This recipe – which orig­i­nates in Afghani kitchens – re­minds me most of my home­town, Karachi, a city that cel­e­brates its multi-eth­nic­ity through its cui­sine. Whole­some and fra­grant, this un­usual chicken dish steams away in your kitchen, en­velop­ing your home with the de­lec­ta­ble aroma of whole garam masala and the sooth­ing and nur­tur­ing earthy smell of rice, while the sweet yet sour crunchy car­rots and tangy black cur­rants will add a unique flavour to this dish. This recipe is one of my mum’s, and for me it con­jures up re­lax­ing sum­mery lunches on the pa­tio un­der the big para­sol, sip­ping iced nimbu pani (fresh Pak­istani lemon­ade).

While the flavours are sim­ple, the trick that takes time to master is the art of cook­ing rice un­der steam, or “dam” as it’s is known in Urdu. This is a con­cept of cook­ing that is bor­rowed from the Mughals, and it is used in cook­ing birya­nis and many rich meat and veg­etable dishes in the sub-con­ti­nent. The method in­volves al­low­ing the steam within the pot to cook the food, cov­ered over very low heat. The idea is to main­tain the heat to such a de­gree that the rice does not burn at the bot­tom of the pan, which is why I do give it a few stirs now and then. Re­mem­ber, though, that too much stir­ring tends to break up the grains of rice. You need to dis­cover the art of cook­ing the rice so that it is nei­ther over­cooked nor un­der-cooked. Un­der­cook­ing is still fix­able but over­cook­ing is not! I am afraid trial and er­ror is the only path to suc­cess with this tech­nique.

A recipe bor­rowed from an Afghani neigh­bour, it was of­ten made by my mother, and as she cooked, the kitchen would come alive with the as­trin­gent aroma of car­damom, which I am told is the most used spiced in Afghani cui­sine. This dish is pop­u­lar in Pak­istan and, over the years, has found its way into our cui­sine via the bor­der thanks to the in­flu­ence of many refugees over the years. As such, it’s be­come as much a part of our reper­toire as theirs. The rich­ness that im­mi­grants and refugees bring in terms of cui­sine to new lands is un­de­ni­able and must be cel­e­brated; this world is no longer for the one-di­men­sional palate.

Su­mayya Us­mani co-presents BBC Ra­dio Scot­land’s Kitchen Cafe. Her books, Sum­mers Un­der The Ta­marind Tree and Moun­tain Berries And Desert Spice are out now, pub­lished by Frances Lin­coln Visit sumayyaus­mani.com Twit­ter @Su­mayyaUs­man­iSu­mayya Us­mani co-presents

BBC Ra­dio Scot­land’s Kitchen Cafe. Her books, Sum­mers Un­der The Ta­marind Tree and Moun­tain Berries And Desert Spice are out now, pub­lished by Frances Lin­coln Visit sumayyaus­mani.com Twit­ter @SumayyaUs­mani

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