I instantly grabbed this book when I spotted it on the shelf. Indian food is king here in the UK, but Pakistani food seemed non-existent -- until now. A must-have for me! A brief flip-through confirmed it to be sufficiently different from the mass of Indian cookbooks out there.
Sufficiently different, because:
...some of the recipes are akin to the food across the borders the country shares with the Indian states of Rajasthan and Gujarat. Others were imported from India by Muslims who left for Pakistan after 1947 and slightly adapted over time. This is the food of Summaya's home region of Sindh, which includes dishes such as Sindhi kari, aloo bharta, lasan ki chatni, gulab jamun, dahi bara, stuffed bitter gourd, to name a few.
...Punjab is shared between India and Pakistan, and so is the food. Punjabi food is most popular in Indian restaurants in the West: aloo gosht, namkeen gosht, fish and chicken tikka, butter chicken, kunna gosht, chicken korma.
Others are more typical for Pakistan. The country sits at the culinary crossroads of Central and West Asia and the Indian subcontinent and so gets culinary influences from all of them. Sajji, kat-a-kat, Hunter Beef, smoking and fermenting foods, the use of black cumin (bunium bulbocastanum, NOT the nigella, that spice is more widespread in use!), ghee and melted mutton fat, yogurt drinks and the famous naan give away Central Asian (Turkic) influence. Kashmiri food is Himalayan.
The most prevalent and varied culinary influence, however, is still that of the Persian conquerors. Having been under Persian rule several times since before the Middle Ages and most recently in the 1700s, Persian culinary roots are prominently displayed: biryani, pulao (polo), most Punjabi and Mughlai meat dishes (including those I mentioned above), sherbet, falooda, boranis, kababs, milky beverages, roses and other flowery additions...
More than a little Arabic influence also still holds up which originates in the spice trade and can be seen in dishes such as beef khichra (haleem), shami kabab ("shami" meaning Syrian), ladoo, and the use of poppy seeds and tamarind. More recently Afghan immigrants made some of their dishes popular: qabeli pulao and chapli kabab.
All this together makes for a unique culinary fusion of Western, Central, and Southern Asian styles and additions. Summaya clearly labeled her own versions of dishes (e.g. apple pakoras) and tried to "westernize" as little as possible: Kat-a-kat for example is a dish which very few people in the UK could or would have cooked in its original form mainly due to lack of availability of ingredients. I would still have liked to see the recipe for the Pakistani version, so for me that's a little minus. But wherever possible and that's most of the times, you get them as traditional as they come: slowly melt mutton fat in pan... (namkeen gosht)
The main reason I give this book only 4 stars is that some of the measurements in a (admittedly small) number of recipes are just unrealistic: Crispy bhindi serves 6 and uses 9 ounces besan for 50 grams of okra; the fish kofta kari divides 150 grams of fish among 6, that's 25 grams of fish per person so not enough to really flavor, let alone feed, this many people (!) to name two. The editor should have noticed that and no it's not the typesetting because the ounces match the grams. Beginners cooking these for the first time could trip up here...
But for me at least, the book is still a treasure, as Madhur Jaffrey is quoted on the cover!
I bought this book on the strength of it being featured in a best of 2016 list by a major UK newspaper. I have cooked several of the curries featured in the book with favourites being: chicken makhani; lamb with fennel and coriander; and, white chicken korma. It's very difficult if not impossible to make curries like those from British curry houses, but these are without doubt the next best thing. There are plenty of side dishes features as well as roasts - I tried the kashmiri leg of lamb recently and loved it. My only criticisms of the book are as follows: a) there are many typos; b) I disagree with some of the cooking techniques, for example it's actually rather difficult to brown a whole chicken or leg of lamb!; and, c) I've found a couple of recipes where the instructions are a bit vague or the quantity of an ingredient to be used is missing. Apart from that a fabulous book and highly recommended.
I would like to thank Sumayya for writing this book. My mother passed away, and with her passing I lost my encyclopedia of recipes. I have tried a few recipes in this book and so far all have tasted authentic, delicious and each dish is a triumph of flavour, spice and heat. My cooking was becoming a little too similar, but these recipes have cured that.