When I started working on Chefling tales, one person that truly inspired me was Sumayya, also known as Puka Paki (www.pukkapaki.com). I found her on twitter and it is inspirational to see her putting in so much effort every day to present Pakistani Cuisine to the world. She makes the Pakistani home cooked food look so fancy! She is one of my favorite people to follow on twitter as well as facebook.

I got a chance to do a quick interview with her and ask her few questions for ‘From Chefling to a Chef’ series. In this series, we will be interviewing some of the inspiring cheflings and how they took their passion for cooking food at home to a professional level.
Her fancy ‘Beetroot Halwa‘ recipe is also featured on Chefling Tales!

Who is Sumayya Jamil?

Sumayya is a freelance food writer and cookery teacher whose work can be seen in many British & Pakistani magazines as well as featuring on Madhur Jaffery’s Curry Nation, both her TV show and her cookbook. Her short cookery courses was runner up in UK Cookery School Award. She was a lawyer for 12 years but quit law to follow her foodie dream.

Her mission: “To Spread the love of Pakistani food – to introduce the haunting flavours of Pakistani cuisine and create an awareness of it’s authenticity, it’s difference from Indian food and to map a journey of my happy and safe memories of growing up in Pakistan. A country which gets too much negative publicity but here is my chance to highlight the beauty of our people, food and the simplicity of life through the love of food and the fond memories it leaves forever in your heart.”

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Tell us your chefling tale? First time cooking experience- what went wrong? how fun was it?
I have been cooking since I was a child, my first memory was making fudge with my mother, all this while I was growing up on a ship as my father was a master mariner in those days (he’s now a lawyer, so hence you can see finding your passion late in life runs in the blood!). I can’t remember much going wrong, but it was always fun cooking with my mother, she made it all about the art and science of creating a dish, no matter how simple. So I would have to say, the kitchen was my first class room.

What inspired you to leave your job as a lawyer and become a full time Pakistani Food Blogger and a teacher?
The inspiration was always my love for food, Pakistan and promoting our cuisine as a separate, identifiable one – since always confused with Indian, I thought it was time to place Pakistani food on a map. Starting to blog opened up a whole new world for me, a world of getting people to take notice, to listen, to understand. I then moved onto occasionally hosting Supperclubs, these are like underground restaurants – private ones in your home. Complete foodie strangers pay to eat in your home – it’s quite exhilarating when people give me a standing ovation declaring that they can taste the difference in our food being so different from any other South Asian cuisine. I then started teaching cookery as well, teaching always a passion too as I used to teach law when I was back in Pakistan. Teaching people cooking by estimation (Andaza) is a far cry from instruction on the rules of tort law – but I think you can guess which I prefer! I now also do recipe development for clients, pop-up events in restaurants across the UK and menu consultation as well but food writing and teaching is still my main passion.

Describe Pakistani Cuisine in three words?

Haunting, aromatic, unique

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Beetroot Halwa by Sumayya

Whats your favourite spices to work around with? Why ?
Star anise: Because I love it’s shape and it’s heady aroma, the way it brings depth to lamb, fragrance to chicken and sweetness to desserts
Rose petals: The pretty smell, the memories of my Nani’s garden, the sensual way it’s enriches whatever it touches
Cardamom: I adore the versatility of this spice the most – it’s use in both sweet and savoury – it’s floral body in desserts and it’s pungent effervescent nose in meaty dishes.
Where do you see taking your cooking passion to?

I think it’s a path that will find it’s own direction – I have my mission and my passion by my side and I firmly believe that the rest will flow organically. I hope to make Pakistani food understood, appreciated and recognised as a stand alone cuisine – I would love to dispel the misconception of Pakistan through an understanding of our fantastic history, traditions, culture and a generous loving people – Most of all I think people need to know Pakistan is one of the most foodie nations of the world!

Advice for cheflings: What three things one should consider in making one’s dish flavorful ?

Seasoning – people are always afraid to put salt in their food – sea salt is not as bad for you as people think, use that instead of synthetic types. Salt enhances the flavour of your food, no matter what spice you may have added to a dish, nothing tastes good unless it has salt in it!
Balance of flavours: Asian cuisine thrives on a balance of sweet, savory, hot, salty and umami – without a balance of these, most dishes don’t make sense. The best thing is to add a bit of everything and keep tasting until you reach a happy medium of all flavour sensations.
Taste everything: This rounds up the two points above, tasting is key! Never be afraid of tasting your dish and don’t serve it unless you are happy with the above, seasoning and balance of flavours!!

You can follow her on Twitter @pukapakki and learn her fancy pakistani dishes on www.pukapaki.com

Madiha Hamid

Chefling-in-Chief Founder Chefling Tales. A foodie that loves to travel and explore different flavors of Pakistan and the world. She loves to cook recipes that are different , yet simple. She wants people to know and understand the beauty of Pakistani Regional Cuisines @madihamid