Summers Under the Tamarind Tree – I know that summer is now just a memory, but I wanted to share with you a fabulous cookbook that is so evocative that you can almost smell those exciting scents and hear the sounds of author Sumayya Usmani’s childhood in Pakistan.
In this new edition of her award-winning memoir-cookbook, Summers Under The Tamarind Tree she celebrates the varied, exciting and oft-overlooked cuisine of her beautiful birthplace, honouring its heritage and traditions through more than 100 family recipes and evocative food memories. “When people think of Pakistan, they probably picture a simple land plagued by troubles.” She says, “But having grown up in Karachi, my memories of my childhood in Pakistan are filled with exciting scents, sounds and rich flavours. Food is the spirit of Pakistani people, and the cuisine has been hundreds of years in the making. When I moved to the UK, I was struck by the fact that despite a large Pakistani diaspora, our cuisine never found its individual voice. My patriotic spirit and passion for the food I grew up cooking and eating sowed the seeds for this book. I hope that the flavour of my heritage comes through in each recipe I share.”
With food photography by Joanna Yee and published by White Lion Publishing at £20 SUMMERS UNDER THE TAMARIND TREE: Recipes & Memories from Pakistan is a fabulous book. Here are a few of its recipes to whet your appetite.
“On the days I was greeted with the hot citrus tang of fresh ginger from my grandmother’s garden as it was sliced artfully into julienne pieces, I knew I was getting Pakistani-style ginger chicken for supper. This is a dish that is found in every restaurant and home in Pakistan and is simple and quick to make, with bursts of raw ginger added at the end for a fresh finish. Serve with daal and rice – and you can substitute chicken with boneless duck or turkey for a fuller flavour.”
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp each of garlic purée and grated ginger
200g/7oz chicken breast cut into 5cm/2-inch chunks.
2 large tomatoes finely chopped.
1 tbsp tomato purée
2 tbsp plain yogurt
½ tsp red chilli powder
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
¼ tsp ground turmeric
salt, to taste
1 tbsp unsalted butter
5cm/2-inch piece of ginger peeled and cut into julienne.
handful of coriander (cilantro) leaves, chopped.
2 green chillies finely chopped.
10 mint leaves, chopped.
Heat the oil in a wok-style pan over a medium heat. When hot, add the cumin and allow it to splutter for 30 seconds. Add the garlic purée and grated ginger and fry for a further 30 seconds, or until the raw smell of garlic disappears.
Add the chicken to the pan and fry until it is sealed all over. Add the tomatoes and cook for 5–7 minutes until softened, then add the tomato purée and the yogurt and cook for 8–10 minutes, or until the oil starts to separate. Add the red chilli powder, black pepper, turmeric, and salt and cook for a further 5–7 minutes until the chicken is done. Add the butter before turning off the heat and letting the butter melt.
Before serving, add the julienned ginger, coriander, green chillies, and mint, and stir through.
“This popular South Asian salad is made from uniformly diced pieces of fresh vegetables, lots of lemon and dry-roasted cumin. It’s a great accompaniment to barbecue dishes and biryanis. Inspired by Italian Panzanella, I’ve added crispy leftover chapati (or use paratha) for texture.”
2 large tomatoes deseeded and finely chopped.
1 large red onion finely chopped.
1 cucumber deseeded and finely chopped.
1–2 thin green chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
“Walnuts grow in abundance in northern Pakistan, and this is a traditional dessert making use of the bounty.”
2 tbsp ghee
3 green cardamom pods, seeds finely ground
250g/9oz/2½ cups shelled walnuts, finely ground.
150–200ml/5–7 fl oz/2⁄3–scant 1 cup condensed milk
3 tbsp desiccated (dry unsweetened) coconut.
Heat the ghee in a heavy-based saucepan over medium heat. When hot, add the ground cardamom and stir for 2–3 minutes until the ghee is fragrant. Add the ground walnuts and stir for about 2 minutes until the walnuts smell slightly roasted.
Pour in the condensed milk and stir vigorously for about 10 minutes or so, or until the mixture comes together like a ball. Once you reach this stage, turn off the heat and allow the walnut mixture to cool for about 3–4 minutes. Spread the desiccated coconut out on a plate.
Using your hands, form about 1 tablespoon of the mixture into golf ball-sized balls then roll in the desiccated coconut. Place on a plate and allow to cool completely. Cover and store in a cool, dry place and eat within 3–4 days.