A fresh outlook:

I am taking a new direction with this column and to map a new journey with the way I now eat; one I never envisioned. Growing up in a country where my whole food ethos was defined by the consumption of meat, I find myself now in a bit of a predicament. This is not another ‘road to vegetarianism’, but rather this places me in a dichotomy as I see my cooking and eating habits are changing. For someone whose meals would be incomplete without a spiced slow cooked meat dish, I find the very thought of not wanting to eat meat means much more to me than fuel for my ethical conscience but in fact a fear that I maybe losing who I am. Growing up we always had seasonal vegetables in Pakistan, as there is no culture of eternal unseasonal produce, but vegetables would merely form a side dish. In my home though my mother was practically vegetarian and it was more for choice than moral reasons. However, being exposed to cooking vegetables well using spice came naturally to me, even though I never really experimented too much with vegetables as my focus was always how to cook meat well. When I moved to Britain, I had to find ways to substitute many dishes with new ingredients. A challenge of course, but meat was always my comfort ingredient. As I found my transition from lawyer to food writer, the niche I had was exposing Pakistani food, and naturally our cuisine is meat heavy, so this was my focus. As once told by Madhur Jaffrey when I worked with her, that “Pakistani cooks know how to cook meat best”, it always remained what distinguished me from other South Asian food writers. So as I now find myself moving on to a more vegetarian diet, I fear that maybe in some odd way, I am losing touch with my roots, my identity and most importantly, my niche. I haven’t just awoken to the realization of the provenance of meat, I grew up in a country where this link remains strong. The understanding of the environmental impacts of meat production and unethical animal practice has been always a part of my life. So I do not approach this change as one triggered by watching an uncomfortable video on YouTube or a lecture I attended about veganism, but more so a conscious decision to eat differently. But the journey I am now on begins with how I incorporate all I learnt cooking meat, with vegetables, using the ethos of my cooking techniques and apply them to the ingredients I have now chosen. So does this mean I lose identity, an unfaithful to my heritage, or is it merely that I have evolved? To me this journey is going to be an on-going and profound understanding of myself and how food defines who we are and where we are from, but most importantly, how we retain our distinctiveness as we grow.

Curry leaf avocado chutney on sourdough

A really quick Sunday lunch – Everyone loves avocadoes and even if you don’t I promise this will help persuade you.

Serves: 4

Prep time: 15 mins

Cooking time: 5-10 mins


2 medium ripe avocados, peeled, stoned and mashed

½ tsp Maldon salt flakes

Squeeze of half a lemon

1 tbsp raw organic coconut oil

½ tsp brown mustard seeds

½ tsp whole cumin seeds

3-4 fresh curry leaves, you can find these in an Asian shop, freeze excess

1 garlic clove, sliced thinly

¼ red onion, chopped finely

¼ tsp turmeric

Handful dill and coriander leaves, chopped finely

¼ red chilli, chopped finely (optional)

Pinch Maldon salt

2-4 slices of toasted and buttered sourdough bread


Begin by mashing the avocado, adding salt and lemon, cover with a plate and set aside.

Heat the coconut oil once hot, add cumin and mustard seeds, allow to splutter and add curry leaves, be careful as these splutter – cook only for a couple of seconds. Add the garlic and onion and cook for 2-3 minutes until light brown, on low heat. Add the turmeric and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Turn off heat and add all the chopped herbs, and smear over the toasted butter sourdough bread. Garnish with more salt if desired and red chilli. Serve room warm or room temperature.