My friend Mehrunnisa and I met through work – as in the day jobs – and I can’t quite remember how we discovered a mutual love of food as a medium for stories and histories. Suffice to say we have discussed a range of topics related to our shared interest, although now that we work in completely different departments, snatching a quick five minutes to talk cookbooks, politics and culture is a little more challenging. Mehrunnisa is the author of the lyrical blog come•con•ella, which explores her heritage through food. You can also find her on Twitter and her Instagram account showcases her love of (and eye for) food, light and shadow, and urban architecture.
Who do you cook for?
my husband and i
Do you have a cooking philosophy or approach of any kind?
i think of my cooking in terms of ease and practicality. it is only when i got married and had to cook several nights a week that i realised what mama meant about the drudgery and boredom of day to day to eating. this is especially true for those of us who are tasked with cooking. with that in mind, it has to be quick but have a mix of flavours and textures.
a combination of places. i do the bulk of my groceries on ocado. this means things like canned beans, grains and lentils. i buy fruit and vegetables at my local grocer and sometimes through farm drop or farm direct. meat and fish come from the latter as well. or from the local butcher depending on how organised i am.
Tell us a little bit about your kitchen (including fridge and cupboards). Is it minimal or cluttered?
my kitchen counters are home to a few gadgets, most of which were bought by my husband. so we have a kmix (which was a christmas present), a bread bin, a nespresso machine and a basic food processor that has an s-blade, a blender and grating attachments. other than that there are are jars for coffee, tea and sugar plus peanuts and assorted spice, oil and vinegar bottles. i have a small cupboard for tins and dried goods plus a small metal bin for grains. flours and nuts compete for space on a bar trolley that is also home to jars of home made jams and chutneys.
a block or two of hard cheeses, some condiments like sriracha, miso and mango chutney. milk. i always have yoghurt handy plus a tub or two of ricotta. the vegetable drawer usually holds onions, lemons, some soft herbs, ginger, garlic and chillies that make your eyes water.
What are the three most useful ingredients in your kitchen?
yoghurt, eggs and tinned pulses.
What three foods are always in your fridge?
Is anything currently missing from your fridge?
something is always missing…
What ‘treats’ do you keep in your fridge (or cupboards)?
some manner of dark or super milk chocolate. on days that i bake, there will be cookies or biscuits in a recycled biscuit tin.
What foods were always in the house when you were growing up?
bread. some manner of baked goods as mama was a prolific baker. large bars of cadbury’s fruit and nut chocolate. there was always a big dish of lentils and a meat based curry. whatever fruit was in season.
What three gadgets or tools are most important/helpful for you when cooking?
microplane grater, the s-blade attachment for the food processor and a mortar and pestle
If you had to make yourself a meal with the food in your fridge (and pantry) right now, without going to the shops, what would you make?
i would make a cumin spiced cous cous with chickpeas and caramelised onions. i would add plenty of chopped soft herbs and the flesh of preserved lemon. i would serve it with harissa yoghurt and some toasted almonds.
When there really is nothing in your fridge, where do you go out to eat?
we order in from a local chinese delivery. we will have chicken corn soup (because it tastes so very much like the one we used to have in pakistan) followed by ma po tofu for me and some sweet and sour dish for my husband. he will of course eat a fair share of my ma po tofu as well.