Spice girl of the west
A former city lawyer turned cook and writer is bringing her modern Pakistani food to Dublin. MARIE-CLAIRE DIGBYmeets the Pukka Paki, Sumayya Jamil
‘It’s meant to be provocative.” Sumayya Jamil is aware that Pukka Paki, the name she has given her London food business, is controversial. “People may be uncomfortable using it – it has been used in derogatory terms, sadly – but I want to bring the name Paki back to its roots because it has a good meaning, Paki means pure, and of course pukka has become part of the dictionary here.”
Jamil, an erudite and eloquent woman, was a lawyer working in the City before embarking on a new career teaching classes in Pakistani cooking, running supper clubs, and writing about her native cuisine for magazines, newspapers and in her popular blog, pukkapaki.com.
She is bringing her interpretation of Pakistani cooking, which is modern and vibrant while respecting tradition, to Dublin restaurant Kinara Kitchen in Ranelagh, for an event next Friday night, February 1st. Her 15-course menu of regional Pakistani dishes will be served with cocktails created to compliment the food by bar manager Paul Lambert.
“It was interesting working with a restaurant chef ,” Jamil says. She worked in the Kinara kitchen with head chef Rajendra Mohite as they adapted her home kitchen recipes to a restaurant setting. “There’s been good banter and I’ve learned a lot from it.”
The €80 a head banquet (cocktails included), at which Jamil will talk about the origins of her dishes, is being billed as a Girls’ Night. “I’ve seen a growing trend in girls eating out in groups,” says Kinara Kitchen co-owner Sean Collender who is confident that it will be a success despite the restriction.
The menu will begin with a selection of street food snacks, before seven regional meat, fish and vegetable dishes are served, family style, with nutty biryani, sweet nan, paratha and beetroot and jaggery raita on the side. The raita is one of three of Jamil’s recipes which were included in Madhur Jaffrey’s most recent book, Curry Nation.
Desserts will be a highlight of the night. “They’re one of my favourite things to make, not so much to eat, but to make definitely,” Jamil says. “I love feeding people, I am more of a feeder than an eater. People think that Pakistani desserts are heavy. My idea is to dispel that idea by bringing the flavours of Pakistani desserts into something more western, and bringing a few western flavours into Pakistani dishes.”
Combining ingredients and cooking techniques from global influences is something Jamil says she picked up from her mother. Her father was a captain in the merchant navy (he is now a lawyer in Pakistan) and the family often travelled with him. Long stints at sea – “seven, eight, nine months at a stretch”, meant that as a child Jamil’s formal education at that stage was done by correspondence course, while her culinary knowledge was cultivated by watching her mother cook things she had discovered on her travels.