Shared recipes – and food – are at the heart of many happy family memories for Naqiyah Mayat … and she gives us a taste of them in her new cookbook
Frequently compared to Nigella Lawson, Naqiyah Mayat is a self-made food personality who’s just released her debut cookbook, The Beginning: Indian Recipes from my Home, currently on sale in bookstores.
How did she do it? ‘I started sharing my recipes as one of the first food bloggers on Food24 more than 11 years ago,’ Naqiyah says. ‘My posts were a combination of what I cooked for dinner and work lunches. I later moved on to sharing recipes on my own website and on Instagram. It was a slow and steady process. I learned how to take better images, listened to what my readers appreciated and valued from what I shared, and translated this into a community of people who looked at what I shared for direction.’
It goes back even further. ‘As with any cook, in their childhood memory lies a kitchen, a simmering pot and at the stove, a mum. This book is rooted in pride and dedicated to my mother, who has served as my treasure trove of culinary instruction. I knew I wanted to compile and write a cookbook when I realised I would like to take my food memories and turn them into the inspiration for my culinary journey. I wanted to share the recipes I grew up with, allowing my readers a peek into my life.’
Family has always been at the core of Naqiyah’s cooking interests, and this was strengthened when she got married. ‘When I was growing up, my mum used powdered masala, but since I married into a Muslim family, I’ve had to learn about other spices like freshly ground wet masala. I was young when I got married and for my marriage, I had to adapt what I’d learned from watching my mum. I had to find common ground, and this became the ‘Naqiyah way’. It might not be your chicken curry, or my chicken curry, but now it’s our chicken curry – it’s a place we choose to meet in the middle.’ The Naqiyah way thus invites readers to add their cooking ideas into the mix when trying out her recipes, allowing inspiration to take the lead in producing food that’s made with love.
‘My relationship with, and connection to my husband, is largely centred around food and it helps us communicate in so many different ways. While our marriage has resulted in some incredible food, it’s also produced four very curious children, all with a voracious appetite for life. I’ve learnt about food through what excites them and allowed them an opportunity to taste and experience all types of food, so they now have a positive relationship towards it. I’m inspired by my food memories. For me, food has a magical way to connect and unify us. It’s the invisible thread that connects us all,’ Naqiyah says.
From the start, I wanted to publish a book that harnessed the power of my food memories
‘From the start, I wanted to publish a book that harnessed the power of my food memories – from growing up, to the new discoveries made when I got married, and later the shared experiences I had from cooking for my children. Along this journey, I’ve amassed an incredible amount of knowledge about food. I want my children to remember me for the contributions I’ve made towards this purpose. It’s a modest legacy, one which won’t necessarily change the world, but will be remembered by those who’ve been on this journey with me. The Beginning tells a story of my community, of family, friends, online supporters and mentors who’ve helped encourage me to become the person I was destined to be.’
It’s clear that support means everything to Naqiyah, an attitude she perpetuates in her social media interactions. ‘The best thing women can do for each other is to honour individuality and intuition by appreciating, not judging, each other’s choices. I want to change the narrative of how women talk to each other.’
This April, Naqiyah is heading to Dubai to launch her book to an international market. There are also developments already in place for two additional cookbooks which will delve further into her cooking style. It’s clear that her book is aptly titled. For Naqiyah, this is, indeed, only The Beginning.
Follow Naqiyah’s journey on Instagram @naqiyah_mayat.
Lamb kebabs are one of the best make-ahead family dishes – they’re simple, convenient and versatile.
Here are a few meal options:
• Kebab chutney: Cook cubed tomato with onion and spices. Gently fry your prepared kebabs and place into the sauce. Garnish with freshly chopped coriander and serve with roti.
• Kebab with seasoned chips and paratha: Fry the kebabs in butter with a final squeeze of lemon juice and freshly chopped coriander. Season French fries with lightly crushed cumin, salt, a squeeze of lemon and chopped coriander. Serve with paratha, (from page 105 of the cookbook).
• Kebab pasta: After completely frying the kebabs, make a pasta sauce (or use store bought pasta sauce). Mix the kebab into the sauce. Boil spaghetti and serve with a generous spoonful of kebab and pasta sauce.
Make sure to get your hands on a copy of Naqiyah’s new cookbook, The Beginning: Indian Recipes from my Home … we were lucky enough to try her bhajia paired with masala tea. Mmm, what a treat! Find recipe below.
Vegetarian • Bha-jee-ah
Preparation time – 20 minutes. Cooking time – 20 minutes
1 cup chana (chickpeas) flour; 1/2 cup flour; 1 onion, finely diced; 1 potato, peeled and cubed; 1/2 tin creamed corn; 1/4 tsp ground cumin; 1/4 tsp ground coriander; 1/2 tsp ground green chilli (can be increased if liked); 1 tsp red chilli slices; 1 tsp chilli powder; 1/2 tsp fennel seeds, lightly crushed; fresh coriander, chopped; sunflower oil; 2 tsps baking powder
Sift chana flour and flour into a bowl. Add onion, potato and corn. Mix together and leave to rest until ready to use. Fill non-stick pan with sunflower oil. Add cumin, coriander, green chilli, red chilli, chilli powder, fennel seeds and coriander to the mixture. Add baking powder (level tsps, NOT heaped, or the bhajias will crack and break). Add 2 Tblsps of hot oil to batter mix. Add water – start with a quarter cup and add a bit at a time as the onion and sweetcorn release liquid, so only add water to form the batter when ready to fry the bhajias. Drop spoonfuls of batter into the oil. Once they hit the oil and bounce to the surface, reduce temperature to ensure they are cooked through without burning on the outside. Keep turning them as they float in the oil until they are cooked through. Remove from oil with slotted spoon, drain on absorbent paper and serve immediately with lemon wedges, chilli sauce or green mint chutney.
Note: Bhajias are best served from pot to plate so they retain their crunchy outside and light, foamy inside.
* You can prepare batter in the morning and only add the baking powder a few minutes before the final mix and frying.
* Use a deep, non-stick pan as the wider the surface area, the easier it is to fry a few at a time and the faster the batter is used up.
* To know if you have the correct consistency, batter should be firm enough to hold in your hand before dropping into the oil. If it’s too runny, bhajias won’t hold together. Also, try to mix in the baking powder really well to give the batter an almost foamy texture. You can leave the baking powder in for 15 minutes to achieve this consistency.