A culi­nary jour­ney

Sunday Herald Life - - Food & Drink - By Su­mayya Us­mani 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 @SumayyaUs­mani

AS I bat­tle with the sea­son’s lurgy, I hope that it doesn’t ruin an im­por­tant week. Not only is it my birth­day week, but it also in­cludes a whirl­wind week­end trip to ap­pear at the La­hore Lit­er­ary Fes­ti­val in Pak­istan.

The fact that I will get to see my par­ents for even two days has kept me tak­ing ev­ery medicine known to man to make this ill­ness dis­ap­pear. I would do any­thing for a bowl of food made by my mother, but I have no time to pam­per my­self with any thoughts of feel­ing sorry for my­self.

For some rea­son this win­ter seems to have dragged more that the other two I have spent in Scot­land – whether it is be­cause we have seen a lot more snow than usual, or the fact that heat­ing a larger home seems to take longer than the smaller places I have lived in pre­vi­ously. Ei­ther way, I do see some hope as the snow­drops and daf­fodils peer over the grey brown beds and grass be­low.

To keep me go­ing, I dream of next spring when my raised boxes will be awash with spring greens and I’ll be tend­ing to them in the glo­ri­ous Scot­tish spring sun­shine. Gar­den­ing will be my go-to mid­dleaged pas­time.

As we hope­fully draw closer to warmer weather, I am re­minded of the ex­cite­ment of cook­ing hearty, com­fort­ing meals at the start of win­ter, and how that thought balms us through most of the colder months. But come March, we are so ready to ditch the stews and slow-cooked dishes and crave some fresh­ness on a plate.

Grow­ing up I never val­ued the sea­sons in a part of Pak­istan that merely knew two: sum­mer and win­ter. I did, how­ever, al­ways value the sea­son­al­ity of pro­duce, but in a coun­try where greens were avail­able all year around be­cause of the tem­per­ate cli­mate, the real chal­lenge was when I moved to the UK and spent months de­prived of any sign of sea­sonal greens. Slowly, how­ever, I learned how ex­cit­ing it was to see the first shoots spring up, how hope of warmer days comes with the first sight of fresh lime green leaves on plants.

But as I turn to the kitchen, some­thing about the warmth of steam­ing curry, blan­ket­ing me in com­fort, re­minds me I am not quite ready to let go of the re­as­sur­ing cud­dle win­ter forces you to­wards. So, in need of a quick fix, I search through my fridge and de­cide on a dish my mother used to make when I was sick. She al­ways made it with ground al­monds but, in­spired by those snow­drops in the gar­den, I use ground pis­ta­chios in­stead.

The light green hue brings with it a hope of warmth and longer days ahead. It’s my last push through to cook some­thing com­fort­ing, be­fore more spring fresh­ness hits my kitchen.

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