Food travels in Pakistan

Posted: December 28, 2016

Warning: there will be no curry on this page.

I visit Pakistan regularly, so that my children can see their family there, and this trip I was very excited as a new restaurant is opening in Islamabad serving recipes from the longevity hot spot, Hunza, which I wrote about in my book 50 Secrets. The longevity hot spots are places of record-breaking health and life expectancy, and include some of the so-called ‘Blue Zones’.

I met the four charming Hunzakut chefs there and sampled some of their delicious food, including buckwheat triangles in a walnut and coriander sauce, thyme omelette, and a fruit tart which I can only describe as ‘made with a lot of love’ and which surpassed all expectations.

It is a true tragedy that the traditions of Hunza are being lost, and that this pristine, spectacular idyll of health and happiness is set to be spoiled by the new China-Pakistan trade route, which means there will be lorries thundering through the valley, polluting it and bringing in modern, disease-giving foods. If only there could be a Standing Rock-style protest, and the road could be detoured to a few miles away.

Sultancoq

This sausage-shaped thing may look innocuous, but to me it’s a small miracle, being the Hunza classic, sultancoq – you might call this the original Energy Bar. It’s made with walnuts, apricot kernels, and mulberries, bashed between rocks to a delicious marzipan-y, slightly oily (in all the right ways) sausage-shaped delight.

Hunza corn bread

This corn bread is served with walnut paste and/or apricot purée, both Hunza staples and a great source of omega-3 fats and beta-carotene respectively. So much better than the white bread stick and butter that is the usual restaurant fare.

Healthful food outside of Hunza is in short supply in Pakistan, as there is a heavy emphasis on oils, meat, salt, and white rice. I usually end up making quite a lot of my own stuff to fill the hungry corners.  Here are my almond pancakes, courgette and banana loaf, energy balls, and kimchi – these are all to be featured in the Islamabad what’s on magazine, Urban Hive, soon and you can also find the recipes elsewhere on this blog.

Almond pancakes

Courgette and banana loaf

Energy balls

Kimchi

This is great for Montezuma’s revenge/Delhi belly/whatever you want to call it. I used this recipe which is nice and clear: http://www.makesauerkraut.com/kimchi/ 

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Since it's so hot, it's a good time to eat as much of this riDICulously delicious raspberry ripple ice cream as possible. I had to eat two bowls full just now as it kept melting whilst I took the photo. It's easy and fun to make - it's best if you have an ice cream maker (you can get a simple one for about £40).

INGREDIENTS: cashews, soya milk, coconut oil or manna, 1 lemon, vanilla, sea salt, maple syrup/agave syrup, 1 tin creamy coconut milk, 1 small tin coconut cream (optional), berries, cornflour.

- soak 1 cup cashews for a minimum of 2 hours (overnight is good)
- bring to a simmer 1/2 cup soya milk + 1 tin coconut milk + 2 tbsp coconut cream (optional - if your coconut milk is really creamy you may not need it) + a squirt or two of agave/maple syrup
- take a little out and mix it with 1 level tbsp corn flour to a paste, add it back, and simmer gently for 5 mins
- put the soaked cashews in a nutribullet or vitamix type blender with the rest of the ingredients + 2 tbsp coconut oil or coconut manna + the juice of 1 lemon + a pinch of salt + 1/2 tsp vanilla and blend until smooth. Cool for an hour.
- put it an ice cream maker and churn for 20-25 minutes
- just before the end add raspberries or any other berries - you can squash them up with a fork and add a squirt of agave or maple syrup if you want it sweeter.

You can get the full recipe (this is a simpler version) from Health Nut Nutrition's blog - it's called 'strawberry cheesecake icecream with a graham cracker crumble'.
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