Mountain Berries & Desert Spice

Sunday 28 May 2017

Today I want to tell you about a beautifully evocative book that focuses exclusively on sweet inspirations from the Hunza Valley to the Arabian Sea, written by food writer and cookery teacher, Sumayya Usmani, author of ‘Summers Under the Tamarind Tree.’  This is the first book of Asian types of recipes that I have ever seen that it devoted to sweet delights, coming from Sumayya's homeland of Pakistan! What a refreshing look at all that is sweet about the exotic cuisine of this incredible country!

The book itself is divided in 10 chapters containing recipes for childhood delights, celebratory sweets, morning eye openers, etc. beginning with a beautiful introduction and everything you need to know about key ingredients and techiques which you will want a knowledge of in preparing the many beautiful recipes included in this book.

Stories of her childhood and memories are interwoven through the book with beautiful photographs of the region and recipes that really tempt you to try making for yourself at home. Its a book which is as delightful to read as it is to cook from. She demystifies how to make all manner of sweet delights with family recipes from the foothills of the Hundu Kush mountains in the north, where berries and fruits grow in abundance, via the fertile Punjab, where rice and grain based desserts are prevalent . . .  to the Arabian sea in the south, where saffron and cardamon laced sweet recipes are a favourite.

Many of the recipes look very inviting . . . ‘Sohan saffron honey caramels with rose water, pistachio and almonds to Bakar khani (sweet puff pastry biscuits), Mulberry and cherry fruit leather, Nan-e nokhochi (chickpea flour shortbread with cloves).

 Rose water, rose petals, saffron threads and pistachio are used frequently in the recipes so it may well be worth stocking up on these. (I think I will be drying my own rose petals this summer and making my own rosewater.) The ‘mango, thyme and pink salt with rose water clotted cream’ sounds positively delightful encompassing both a sweet and a salty aspect.


Pakistan’s food culture is as diverse and varied as its land, terrain and people, and this cookbook brings together a collection of 70 recipes from Sumayya's culinary journey. Each recipe is introduced briefly with her own personal experiences and anecdotes about it. This is food storytelling at its finest.

Interspersed between the recipes are beautiful photographs. They are quite simply visually appealing, and taste tempting visions which tingle the tastebuds and inspire a desire in the keen cook to want to recreate them in the home.

From snacks shared with friends over tea, to sumptuous desserts fit for lavish weddings, Sumayya tempts the reader with beautiful, accessible and easily achieved recipes so that anyone can create an authentic and fresh repertoire of aromatic sweetness in the comforts of their own home.

*Mulberry & Blackberry Stew*
Serves 5 - 6
A simple dish of stewed fruit infused with honey and ginger.  Serve with walnuts and whipped cream. 

200g (7 ounces ) dried black mulberries
300g (2 1/4 cups) fresh blackberries
150g (3/4 cup) cherries, pitted
1/2 tsp ground ginger
about 250ml (generous cup) water
3 TBS honey
To serve:
handful of walnuts, coarsely chopped
200ml (7 ounces, scant cup) thick double (heavy) cream
whipped and flavoured with ginger and rosewater

Bring the fruit, ginger and water to the boil in a saucepan.  Reduce to a simmer and cook, for 20 minutes, adding water as you need to keep the berries covered.  After about 20 minutes, add th ehoney, stir and remove the pan from the heat.  Allow to cool in the pan. Serve with the chopped walnuts and the flavoured whipped cream, either at room temperature or chill in the refrigerator until later.

In my opinion,  this is a well researched and very well put together book. The recipes are authentic Pakistani dishes with an interesting twist. Its a delight from its very colourful and beautifully embossed cover to the beautiful photography, stories and recipes contained on its pages!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sumayya Usmani grew up in Karachi, Pakistan and moved to London over ten years ago, but has found home in Glasgow, Scotland. A food writer and cookery teacher, Sumayya is passionate about sharing the flavours of her homeland with a view to highlighting Pakistani cuisine as a distinct one. Sumayya advocates cooking by "andaza", (sensory and estimation cooking), which is how she learnt to cook from her mother and grandmothers from a very young age. She appears frequently in many online and print publications, on television, and co-presents BBC Kitchen Cafe weekly on BBC Radio Scotland.

  • Hardcover: 192 pages
  • Publisher: Frances Lincoln (6 April 2017)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0711238529
  • ISBN-13: 978-0711238527 
Note - I was sent a copy of this book by Frances Lincoln free of charge for review. I was not required to write a positive review. Any opinions are entirely my own. Many thanks to Frances Lincoln for sending me what I think is a beautiful book.

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