Staying True to Pakistani Cuisine While Keeping it Modern
By Salima Jivraj
A series on food bloggers from around the globe bringing inspiration, information and how-to! This week we have a one-on-one chat with UK Foodie Sumayya Jamil!
Sumayya Jamil, Owner of Pukka Paki
Have you ever wanted to learn more about Pakistani food in a fun and modern setting? Then Sumayya Jamil has a website just for you dedicated to the art of Pakistani cooking called Pukka Pakki. Sumayya is true to her roots and injects tradition in her meals, but there is also something new and edgy as well, like her “ribbon” sandwiches (so yummy!) Many of her recipes also feature beautiful heartwarming stories of her dadijaan , nanimummy and her own mother. Her recipes become more than ingredients with a method to cook, they showcase a true labour of love and set the scene for Sumayya’s own food adventures.
Join Sumayya on her crusade to promote Pakistani cooking by checking in on her blog, and if you’re in the London area, booking with her next Supper Club!
What prompted you to start writing about food/cooking?
I had been a busy lawyer for over ten years and more recently, a mother of a little girl – I never had much time to do much else but there was one thing I always found time for, and that was thinking about and writing about food. However I never ‘published’ anything. One day my husband got after me and said that I should do something with all the ideas and knowledge I had gathered from the women in my family with regards to cooking. So I sat down and started blogging – always an internet buff, the
technicalities of blogging came naturally and slowly I found myself finding what I wanted to blog about (food) and how I wanted be heard. Soon food took over and I found it was time to pursue my passion, hence I quit practicing law and now do freelance food writing, teach cookery, hold supper clubs and blog as well as being a full time mummy. Food writing allows you to tell a story about your life through sharing your happiest memories – eating with the family and I enjoy doing just that.
Most blogs have concept(s) (organic, ethnic, entertaining, etc), what would you say yours is/are and why?
My blog would be best defined as a niche food blog and is ethnic in nature. I write about Pakistani food, nothing else – but in saying that I don’t find myself stifled by old fashioned recipes. Though I am very
traditional in my style of cooking and all the recipes I know are ones that have been in my family for generations and those my mom has developed, I find myself combining and twisting recipes to incorporate world flavours into my recipes. I write about Pakistani food because I adore it more than
any other, and it’s the cuisine that I know the best – it’s who I am and it defines my life completely, especially now that I live in the West. I love cooking all types of food but really believe that carrying on cooking and sharing old traditional recipes and adapting them to contemporary flavours is something I’d like to hand down to my daughter one day – just like my mom has done and her mom before that.
Who is your favourite chef or someone that inspires your cooking/writing?
I would say that two of my most favourite food writers are Nigel Slater and Madhur Jaffrey. Nigel for his effortless, descriptive, honest and personable food writing and Madhur for her deep historical knowledge of South Asian cuisine and her explorative love for traditional recipes. Having had the
honour of meeting her and appearing with her in her new TV show recently, I can tell you that she is what you’d expect – a cook who still has a real passion for cooking, who craves the stories behind a recipe and has an insatiable hunger to learn more about food. To top it off she is a down to earth and appreciativeperson – someone I would aspire to be.
Where do you see yourself in five years with your blog/website?
My immediate concern is to raise awareness of Pakistani food generally and I am on a bit of a mission to do just that. I hope that in time people see how to differentiate between Pakistani and Indian cuisine (as most people still don’t understand the differences) and make it comfortable for people to incorporate Pakistani flavours into every day cuisine. For someone who has grown up in Pakistan but now lives in London, I have some long term plans to educate people here by writing more about Pakistani food, it’s history, heritage, my memories growing up in Pakistan and the food that holds the fondest food memories for me. Most importantly I hope to create a positive image of Pakistan through an understanding of our culture, traditions and a look at new talent and ideas that Pakistani’s have and those that have not been exposed in the mainstream media. I think food is a light-hearted way of achieving a positive image of a nation ‘ s growing culture and history – one of the reasons I chose my blog’s name Pukka Paki (Pukka means real/solid and Paki means pure and is the colloquial phrase by which Pakistanis refer to themselves) was that the word Paki has had negative connotations in the West and I hope to re-appropriate the word back to its positive roots and I can find no lighter way to do that than through food ; something everyone loves.
Can you share a tip or recipe with us?
The one tip I will share with you is my belief that anyone can cook by estimation. In Pakistan, and in fact all over South Asia, all cooking is done by ‘andaza’ – estimation. I believe that cooking is a sensory experiment that is guided by the 6th sense – estimation – never be afraid to believe in what you can achieve without following a recipe to the letter(though maybe baking is an exception!) – throw in what you believe will work! Stay true to yourself and always follow your passion – that’s when you will excel.
Sumayya shares what she calls her ‘signature dessert’ with our masalamomma readers. It is an English-flavoured twist to a traditional Pakistani dessert – Earl grey infused Gulab Jamans with cardamom and saffron!
Earl Grey infused Gulab Jamans with Saffron and Cardamom
**For the gulab jaman balls:
2 tsp semolina (suji)
2 1/2 tbsp self-raising flour
3/4 cup milk powder
2-3 tsp ghee
2 tbsp whole milk
2-3 tbsp of the Earl Grey tea infusion (To make: soak about 3-4 teabags in
a cup boiling water and cool down and then refrigerate for 5 hrs or
ghee and oil mixed for deep frying the jamans
For the sugar syrup:
2 1/2 cups caster sugar
7-10 cardamom pods, seeds taken out
1 pints of water
1/2 cup Earl Grey tea infusion
1 large pinch of saffron
1 tbsp rose water
*Makes about 10 gulab jamans, depending on the size.*
**1. Make the syrup first: to do this place all the ingredients for the
syrup in a pan over medium heat and dissolve the contents until the syrup
boils and then turn down the heat and allow to form a thin sugar syrup –
will take about 5 minutes.
2. Next to make the gulab jamans: Mix all the powdered ingredients in a
bowl and then add the ghee and the milk and tea infusion bit by bit until
you form a crumbly dough but all the contents do stick together. At this
point take out the dough and knead until all cracks disappear. This is
quite important. Put the dough in a bowl and cover until ready to fry.
3. When ready to fry, heat the ghee and oil mixture up under a low flame.
The trick is to keep the heat low and the oil/ghee mixture not too hot.
This should be hot enough not too burn the outside, yet still allow it to
cook the inside completely.
4. Form small balls (I tend to make them small as they do double up and
also are easier and faster to cook) with the dough and pop into the hot
ghee/oil. Do not over crowd, you should let them free float and cook evenly
on all sides. Once they are a medium brown evenly and puffed up, take out
with a slotted spoon and pop immediately into the sugar syrup. Keep doing
this until all the jamans are ready.
5. When cut open these should be moist, gooey and cooked through. Serve
either hot or cold.
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