Flavour Profile Q&A: Sumayya Usmani - the author and recipient of the Scottish Books Trust's New Chapter Award, tell us about her favourite things

The Glasgow based author of Summers Under the Tamarind Tree tells us about her life in food.

Summayya Usmani

What’s your favourite ingredient?

Garlic – by far. You can do so much with it – eat it raw, fermented, pickled, roasted. It carries spices to a height, creating layers of flavour and depth. I love black garlic too, with its sweet, almost maple like flavour. Just divine.

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Do you have a guilty food pleasure?

Lots of dark chocolate with a hint of salt.

Tell us about your first food memory?

My mother cooking using a single electric frying pan, on a ship (my father was a captain on merchant ships for some years) and the vessel was rolling and pitching. My mother was determined to cook for me, and nothing stopped her. This laid the foundation in my mind that that food was more than sustenance. It was a way of expressing love, generosity and creating a home – even in the most unhomely of places.

What’s your favourite Scottish restaurant, deli or café?

The Oyster Shed, Skye

I live in Glasgow and if I want a fine meal, I know Cail Bruich would never fail to disappoint. However, I am not a fine dining sort of person. I live for big, hearty meals in the most rustic of places. The Oyster Shed in Skye blew me away. I’m sure I will discover more, as I continue to explore this beautiful country.

What would be your last supper?

My mother’s mutton pullao with mint, pomegranate and black salt raita, then barbequed saffron prawns from the Arabian Sea served with a spicy tamarind chutney.

Pudding would be my Nani’s (maternal grandmother) cardamom kheer rice pudding. We’d also have dark chocolate – lots and lots and lots of it, from all over the world, in every possible flavour, and chai (not the Western version but doothpati, which is traditional cooked Pakistani chai).

Black garlic

Starter or pudding?

Neither – I love a hearty, home-cooked main.

Do you have any food hates?

Parsnips, I just need to find a way to like them – until I do, I am not partial to them. I don’t really hate any food; I am open to trying everything once.

What starters, main and dessert would be served at your dream dinner party and who would you invite?

I’m not really very fond of three course meals. In my culture meals are about sharing, and that’s why my dream dinner party would always be a celebration of flavours from all over the world, served family-style. My ideal invitation list would include my parents, daughter, partner and a handful of very close friends. For me, my dream dinner party must feel intimate and effortless.

What's your favourite geographical foodie destination?

I love Italy - the culture, art, music, food and people. I also want to explore Mexico and Hawaii, as there’s something about these two places that calls to me. My plan (and hope) is to explore both destinations for my 50th birthday, which is in two years’ time.

For more information on the Scottish Book Trust’s New Chapter Award, see www.scottishbooktrust.com

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