REVIEW: Mountain Berries and Desert Spice

Review by Lindsay Rendall

Front cover of the book Mountain Berries & Desert Spice

In her second book (the first being Summers Under the Tamarind Tree), Sumayya Usmani takes us on a sensory journey across her homeland of Pakistan, this time introducing us to the rich variety of desserts and sweets from areas such as the foothills of the Hindu Kush mountains in the north, to the Arabian sea in the south. Sumayya shares with the reader the rich culinary traditions which have developed across the differing communities within Pakistan; she introduces the dishes alongside the traditions and rituals associated with them, and includes her own personal memories of the dishes from when she was growing up.

Image taken from Mountain Berries & Desert Spice showing Nan-e Nokhochi

The book is stunningly photographed with mouth watering, colourful shots of the dishes, all exquisitely styled so that it is as much a treat for the eyes as the recipes are for the mouth and stomach! The recipes are also clearly explained and easy to follow.

Image taken from Mountain Berries & Desert Spice showing Rabri Kulfi Sticks

I must admit to being entirely unfamiliar with Pakistani cuisine, which made this book a real treat to read as it offers something really different from the usual baking books (of which, as my husband will attest to, I already have far too many). Though perhaps to compare this to a baking book is unfair at any rate, as this volume covers a much wider range of sweet dishes; from sweet pastries and biscuits, jewelled custards and rice puddings, sweetened curds and yoghurts to icy Rabri Kulfi Sticks flavoured with honey, cardamom and bay leaf. The recipes are fragrant with the scent of spices, something that appeals to my tastes as one who would choose gingerbread or spiced lebkuchen over a cream cake any day. There are some recipes which call for more unusual ingredients, but most can easily be found in the world foods section of the supermarket these days and in the case of the rarer ones, suggestions for substitutions are made. For some recipes such as the Bramble Gulgulay, she has adapted the recipe to incorporate the ingredients of her adopted home in Britain, in this case, blackberries.

Image taken from Mountain Berries & Desert Spice showing Karachi Halva


All in all this is a wonderful book that is full of tempting treats that will delight the senses.

Mountain Berries & Desert Spice by Sumayya Usmani
Photography by Joanna Yee

Published by Frances Lincoln
RRP: £20.00

ISBN-10: 0711238529
ISBN-13: 978-0711238527