I always say that I am very lucky to receive books. It’s what I do and may I add, what I love to do. As a book reviewer I am never obliged to write any reviews on this blog. However sometimes a publisher sends me a book which is so particular and so unique that it just has to make it on here. So a couple of days ago Mountain Berries & Desert Spice came through the post and I was immediately hooked. This book is no gimcrack – it is a gem. The recipes are full of flavour and so easy to replicate at home.
Sumayya Usmani’s debut book Summers Under the Tamarind Tree was a hit. It won the Best First Cookbook category in the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards, and also voted cookbook of the year in 2016 in publications such as The Guardian, Independent, Irish Times and Sunday Herald. Not bad for a first book at all.
Now, Sumayya Usmani, a former lawyer turned food writer and cookery teacher based in Glasgow, takes us once again to her native Pakistan, into the country’s geography and traditions. Out tomorrow (6th April) is Mountain Berries & Desert Spice gives the reader and cook everything that’s on the tin and more.
“Pakistan is not only a land of varied people – it is one of varied climate and terrain, and therefore produce. Icy soaring mountains and arid deserts meet fertile plains and deep valleys: dramatic and beautiful, this landscape is capable of supporting the cultivation of a broad natural larder from sweet berries to fiery spice.”
And I can immediately visualise all that, every time I open the book. The landscape and travel photos by Getty Images, the food photography by Joanna Yee, and Sarah Allberrey’s design, together with the recipes and writing of course, make this piece of work stand out. I trust you’ll feel the same.
It also helps what we have here is a recipe book all about desserts and sweets. 70 of them. These family recipes span from the mountains in the north, in the land of fruits and berries, to the Arabian Sea in the south, where there’s an abundance of aromatic spices. I don’t use sweet spices enough in my cooking, even though I just love the taste, so I’m looking forward to include it more. Cloves for one, are widely used in Maltese cooking and baking, and are readily available in my neck of the woods. The time has come to make the aromatics shine, as Usmani does so beautifully.
There are plenty of ideas here, ranging from dishes for an afternoon tea with family and friends, to lovely desserts fit for a wedding. A true feast for the senses.
Mountain Berries & Desert Spice is a love letter. It’s truly one of my favourite books to date.
The food photos included in this blog are the following:
- Kishmish Paneer – fresh curd cheese with raisins and sultanas
- Kashmiri phirin – ground rice pudding with saffron
- Rabri kulfi sticks, with honey, cardamom and bay leaf
Mountain Berries & Desert Spice: Sweet Inspiration from the Hunza Valley to the Arabian Sea by Sumayya Usmani, is published by Frances Lincoln, part of Quarto Publishing Group UK. Hardback, RRP £20.
All food photography by Joanna Yee. Images in this post are used by permission.
This book was sent by the publisher for review.
This is *not* a sponsored post.