Macher Jhol. Kaali Daal. Aloo Bhaji. Senagapappu Kobarakaya. Ciabbotto. Chicken Curry. Bheja Fry. Chocolate Cake. Patol. Pizza. Mithi Dabroti. Bread Pudding. Dosa. Pork Chops. Halwa.
You would be hard pressed to find all these dishes on any single restaurant menu; but imagine a kitchen with no rules about concept or cuisine. A kitchen that guarantees childhood nostalgia and a warm hug with every mouthful. Imagine a kitchen run by mums!
This was the idea behind “Mummy’s Cooking” – a social enterprise that offers ethnic cuisines cooked by unemployed women from underprivileged backgrounds, who have mastered traditional recipes through years of cooking for their families. Mummy’s Cooking works with community groups and women’s organisations to reach out to these women and provide them with fully subsidised training and the necessary certification to work in a professional environment.
The team has supper clubs, market stalls, and home deliveries planned, and a cooking school and café are also in the offing. To help make the transition from home to professional kitchens, the mums are mentored by a professional chef. A chef like Asma Khan of Darjeeling Express.
A brief conversation with Nelson Sivalingam of Mummy’s Cooking was all the convincing Asma needed to get on board. She shares, “I used to work with Women’s Aid in Cambridge several years ago. It was a refuge for women escaping domestic violence and I remember the difficulty in getting them employment. The aim of Mummy’s Cooking is inspirational - a way to break down barriers and give women from deprived and difficult social backgrounds the confidence to take their first steps towards independence and joining the world of work.”
Like most young girls, Asma’s first memory of cooking was in her mummy’s kitchen. “I can actually date this memory!” she says. “It was my brother’s 3rd birthday and my mother was making Shahi Tukra for over 100 people. My sister and I were given the important task of making sure the freshly fried slices of bread were soaked in the saffron infused milk. I felt really important and walked the entire party proclaiming that “I” had made the dessert! I was given a bakshish (tip) by my grandfather for making the best dessert he had ever eaten!”
This is Asma’s Shahi Tukra recipe, the origins for which are often attributed to Awadhi cuisine. It is a traditional dessert served at Eid and weddings and an excellent dessert to make with children as the covering of khoya and slivered nuts covers any imperfections!
- 1 tsp saffron strands
- 300 ml whole milk
- 100 gms sugar
- 4 slices bread (medium sliced, cut in half diagonally)
- 100 gms of butter
- 50 gms khoya (reduced milk solids, available at Indian stores)
- 5-6 pistachio nuts, finely chopped
- 1 tsp flaked almonds or almond slivers
- Silver varaq (edible silver leaf) to decorate (optional)
- Soak the saffron strands in a couple of tablespoons of warm milk and let it infuse for 20 minutes.
- Heat the remaining milk on low to medium heat, add sugar and stir until dissolved.
- Add the saffron milk to the pan and keep the milk on low heat.
- Heat the butter in a frying pan and fry two slices of bread at a time. (Many recipes of Shahi Tukra suggest you cut the crusts. We never cut the crust in my family!)
- Dunk the fried bread into the milk making sure it absorbs the sweetened saffron milk.
- Carefully remove the slices with a slotted spoon and layer them into the serving dish. Do not overlap the bread.
- Once all the bread has been fried and layered. Pour the remaining milk on the layered bread.
- Refrigerate the dish for a few hours, or even the night before so that all the remaining milk is absorbed.
- Top with grated khoya, nuts and varaq before serving.
Asma will lead a team of mums at a Mummy’s Cooking fund raising supper club on 6th August in Shoreditch, London. On sale at the supper club will be Mummy Ella’s spicy tomato dipping sauce. Cooked with a hint of vinegar, onions and soya, this is Ella’s personal invention that came about when she was experimenting with sauces for Chinese spring rolls she was making for her kids. Book your spot for their Holy Cow Supper Club here.
Mummy’s Cooking is born out of a love for food and a passion for bringing the local community together. In a world enamoured by Michelin stars, concept cooking, and deconstructed cuisine, Mummy’s Cooking wafts in like a breath of fresh air, with a heavy dose of homemade magic.