For as long as I can remember my mother and I have shared one great tradition, even when we didn’t get along very well this one thing kept us together and it was cooking shows on the BBC and Channel 4. Deliah Smith, Rick Stein, Gary Rhodes, Masterchef, Jamie Oliver, Two Fat Ladies, Ainsley Harriot, Food and Drink.. I can go on and on listing shows. But we would always come together with a snack and watch. There was always excitement when a new cooking program had been announced and we had our favorite chefs for sure (hello Nigel Slater). I have watched cooking programs with my mother in our house in Ilford for over 30 years but until 4 years ago I never really cooked.
Just before I moved to Chicago I started to make ramen, mostly thanks to some friends on Twitter and the three minute noodle fam hashtag. I love making ramen. There is something so amazing satisfying about it all. You have this complex, layered, delicious bowl of food which honestly isn’t very hard to prepare if you’re going for a quick method. I’d heat up some stock, my mum had vege stock bouillon in the cupboard, and add a little miso. Then I’d add some basic, super cheap ramen noodles that had been boiled. My go-to choice of easy toppings were sweetcorn, spring onions and a miso egg or two. I learnt how to cook miso eggs from David Chang (via the internet) and to this day I usually have at least one or two made in the fridge to snack on. Ramen gave me a cooking bug and I’ve done ramen with my own homemade stock, fresh noodles and homemade chicken katsu. I’ve perfected a curry broth after months of trial and error testing and I’ve loved doing this.
I can cook most cuisines. Give me a recipe and I’ll glance at it before using the basic method only and making it my own. Years of watching cooking shows means I have all this weird cooking knowledge lodged into my subconscious and I am way more happy cooking and creating freeform than following a recipe. At an iftar party I had this past Ramadan I went to the store, saw courgette, spinach, mushrooms, and asparagus and decided there and then I would make a pie using ricotta to bind them all and lots of fresh herbs. I can look at a pile of ingredients and know what I want to make. But the cuisine that gives me the most trouble is Pakistani and Indian.
Going home to visit my family one Christmas, probably the first one since I’d moved, I bounded into my grandmothers house ready to learn all of her cooking secrets. My maternal grandmother makes the best Pakistani food I have ever tasted. As a child I was obsessed with her saag. I would heap it onto white rice, mix it all up, flatten it out and then scoop it into my mouth in heapfulls. I wanted to be her padawan learner of salaan. But when I got there ready to absorb all this information she said she never wrote down her recipes, she just cooked from memory. My mum, when I asked her the same question told me I had YouTube to teach me now. There was I with this silly belief that in our culture we handed down all this cooking wisdom.
So I decided I was going to record my families culinary history. I would have all my grandmothers recipes recorded, and my mums, and my aunties and uncles and cousins. I would put my own into the book too and then everyone in the family can add to it or print it out and we’d have a book that will hopefully go through generations of our family. In the spirit of this and as I begin to test out recipes that I get sent, I am going to start posting some recipes and cooking posts. I don’t want different blogs for different things, I barely remember to update this one, so there will be a tag and you can follow my adventures on Instagram.
Maryam Hassan is a 32 year old Photographer, Montessori Teacher, Wearer of Yellow from London who transplanted herself to Chicago in 2015. She likes punk music, hash browns, animal facts and mangoes.
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