Sunday, December 03, 2023


Title: Summers Under the Tamarind Tree  

Author: Sumayya Usmani

Publisher: White Lion Publishing

Pages: 223

My GoodReads Rating: ⭐⭐⭐




Summers Under the Tamarind Tree is a book that you need to get yourself, particularly if you like what is popularly known as ‘desi’ or Indian cooking.


The first thing that caught my eye were the pictures in this book. They captured vignettes of life in Pakistan in glorious colour. They were a reminder of how similar our two nations are and of the common roots we share. They included generic images of life in Pakistan as also family pictures.

Beginning with a bit of family history, the author quickly shifts to talking about the methods of cooking that elevate a dish, and then to sharing the recipes of the dishes that graced her own table.

The author talks about traditional methods of cooking like bhunai, tadka, dum, dhuri (smoking). The latter is guaranteed to raise the flavour of a dish by many notches. Andaza as a way to navigate cooking is commonplace across the Indian subcontinent.

The book is directed at a Western audience and reminds them to learn to play with spice, something cooks and aficionados of the cuisine of the Indian subcontinent know instinctively. Such readers have much to learn from the chapters on spice blends.

The dishes include cholay ka salan (chickpea curry with tomatoes), aloo ki bhujia (spicy potatoes with nigella seeds and fenugreek), khagina (spicy scrambled egg with tomatoes and coriander—in India we call this dish bhurji), sweet semolina halva (with pistachio and rose water) and sabudana kheer (tapioca pearls with coconut and pistachio dust). As far as I was concerned, it read like the description of our staples and favourites.

Then there was bhutta (barbecued corn with chilli and lime), Hyderabadi-style samosas (filled with red onion mint and green chilli), spiced lentil bun kebabs—dishes whose flavours I can endorse from my experience this side of the fence.

There were other delicious dishes that one could have as treats. These included apple pakoras spiced with chaat masala, dahi vadas, shakarkandi (baked sweet potato with chaat masala).

But some things were new to me. The onomatopoeic sounding kat-a-kat (stir-fried and steamed chicken liver and kidneys) and sweet potato and squash parathas.

The bread staples included tandoori roti, naan, puris and makkai ki roti.

The rice recipes included khichdi and mutton pulao, attock chana rijai (minus the chana, this is the brown rice made by our Parsi community), Afghani lamb pulao, saffron rice, meatball and beef pulao.

The meat dishes included coal-smoked Bihari beef kababs, Railway mutton curry, coal smoked lamb keema, Peshawari namkeen gosht, Punjabi aloo gosht, attock chapli kabab, lamb karahi with fennel and coriander, mutton chops. Rose garam masala and Hunter beef were new to me.

The chicken delicacies included Baluchi-style chicken sajji, masaledar batair (spicy stir-friend quail), karahi ginger chicken, Karachi-style chicken tikka, Lahori chargha, chicken makhni handi (with coconut milk and fenugreek), Lahori murgh chholey (chickpea and chicken curry).

I can only imagine how fantastic the flavours of all these dishes would be,

My only grouse was that the book should have been proofread better. Not that you’d notice.

This was one book whose photos alone should make your mouth water. It deserves a place on your kitchen bookshelf.


 (I read this book on NetGalley. Thank you to the author, the publisher and NetGalley.) 

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