Food & drink
Late summer comfort
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