Mountain Berries & Desert Spice

Mountain Berries and Desert Spice: Sweet Inspiration from the Hunza Valley to the Arabian Sea by Sumayya Usmani is the eagerly awaited follow up to the award winning Summers Under the Tamarind Tree which I reviewed in detail last year. The talented food writer and cookery teacher takes a sweet detour while continuing her journey of discovery through the exotic cuisine of her native Pakistan. 

This beautiful title introduces home cooks to Pakistani desserts and explores their unique significance in the country's culture and traditions. The 70 authentic and family recipes travel from the fruit-rich foothills of the Hindu Kush mountains in the north, via the fertile Punjab known for its rice and grain based desserts to the Arabian sea in the south, where saffron and cardamom flavored sweet recipes are a favourite.

The Bakar khani (sweet puff pastry biscuits) can be whipped up in 20 minutes or spend a little more time making the Balushahi (festive glazed curd doughnuts) - both of which look amazing. There are Afghani Gosh-e-fil (elephant ear-shaped fried pastry with ground pistachio and cardamom), Sweet Parathas filled with date, walnut and milk fudge, and Memon Lappi (crunchy oats with jaggery, cinnamon and fennel seeds marked to be tried in my treasured copy along with the samosas we are sharing with you here today.  

As with Summers Under the Tamarind Tree, Sumayya has spirited me away to her beloved Pakistan with her words and photographs and I am happy to experience this beautiful land through her recipes and stories. Special thanks to Frances Lincoln, for sharing the Spiced Apple Samosas with our members today. Be sure you enter our giveaway for a chance to win a copy of this book to delve into the sweetness that Pakistan has to offer.

Spiced Apple Samosas

These sweet samosas are inspired by the bountiful supply of apples in the north. They are gently spiced with cinnamon, cardamom and mace, which offer a warm comfort with each mouthful. Apples are also made into murraba and then eaten through the year.
Preparation 25 minutes | Cooking 20 minutes | Makes 6-8
For the pastry
150g/5½ oz/1 cup plus 2 tbsp plain (all-purpose) flour, plus extra for dusting
a pinch of salt
1 tbsp fine semolina
water, as needed
vegetable oil, for oiling and deep-frying

For the filling

6 Royal Gala apples, peeled, cored and cut into bite-sized pieces
100g/3½ oz/½ cup golden caster (superfine) sugar
¼ tsp ground cinnamon
3-4 cardamom pods, seeds removed and ground
a pinch of ground mace
To serve

150ml/5 fl oz/2⁄3 cup cream, whipped with 1 tsp rose water
1 tsp dried rose petals

Begin by making the pastry. Combine the flour, salt and semolina in a bowl, then slowly add enough water to bring all the ingredients together into a dough. Knead the dough on a clean floured work surface and form into a soft dough. Lightly grease your hands with oil, pat the dough down, cover with a damp cloth and allow to rest at room temperature.

Meanwhile, make the filling. Heat a saucepan, add the apples, sugar and spices and cook over a medium-low heat for about 10 minutes, or until the apples are soft, glistening and the sugar is dissolved and shiny. Take off the heat and allow to cool.

Knead the dough on a floured surface, then roll it out to 5mm/¼ inch thick. Using a 5-cm/2-inch diameter round pastry cutter, cut out 6-8 circles. To fill the samosas, place about 1 teaspoon of the filling for each samosa, on one half of the circle, then fold the dough into half moons and press the corners with a fork to close.

When all the samosas are made heat the oil for deep-frying in a large deep frying pan to 180°C/350°F, or until a cube of bread browns in 30 seconds.
Drop the samosas into the hot oil in batches. Deep-fry each samosa for 2-3 minutes on each side, then remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Serve immediately with whipped cream decorated with rose petals.

Photograph by Joanna Yee. 

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  • Kristjudy  on  5/12/2017 at 8:12 AM

    What a beautifully written review!

  • sipa  on  5/12/2017 at 10:58 AM

    This cookbook interests me very much. I am fascinated by the baked goods of the world and this is a country whose baked goods are not well represented in my cookbook collection.

  • lgroom  on  5/12/2017 at 11:57 AM

    I have not tried Pakistani desserts.

  • Titch  on  5/12/2017 at 12:51 PM

    No I have not tried any Pakistani desserts before but would love to try

  • sgump  on  5/12/2017 at 3:30 PM

    Have I ever tried any Pakistani desserts? I used to get these flan-like pudding/custard mixes in a South Asian market: I liked that they were never too sweet.

  • t.t  on  5/13/2017 at 12:02 AM

    I've never tried any Pakistani desserts before, but I'd love to learn more about them.

  • JenJoLa  on  5/13/2017 at 6:35 AM

    I don't believe I've ever tried any Pakistani desserts, but now my interest is piqued.

  • bdmltm  on  5/13/2017 at 8:44 AM

    I've tried kheer at an Indian restaurant and loved it. Definitely want to try other recipes.

  • atansey  on  5/13/2017 at 10:50 PM

    The Samosas sound absolutely delicious but i would love to try the blackberry doughnuts

  • Purplepeepers  on  5/14/2017 at 10:26 AM

    I have never tried any Pakistani desserts?

  • Siegal  on  5/14/2017 at 8:39 PM

    I have never tried Pakistani desserts just Indian

  • artmarcia  on  5/19/2017 at 9:15 PM

    I have made a similar American version of this, so would like to try this and compare.

  • hc_bailey  on  5/20/2017 at 5:03 PM

    I have tried kulfi before but there are so many different desserts in this book I'd like to try out.

  • kitchenclimbers  on  5/20/2017 at 5:49 PM

    not sure- I have tried Indian desserts and may have tried something Pakistani

  • rashaye  on  5/21/2017 at 12:21 AM

    I have tried phirni, milky thick rice pudding. Delicious!

  • Mrs.Soule  on  5/26/2017 at 9:33 AM

    I've had Indian desserts like Gulab Jamun and Gajar Halva, but nothing specifically Pakistani.

  • PennyG  on  5/26/2017 at 5:02 PM

    I don't know that I've tried any Pakistani desserts.

  • RSW  on  5/30/2017 at 11:17 AM

    Yes. A friend made me dinner. But I don't recall the name. It was delicious.

  • meggan  on  5/30/2017 at 1:47 PM

    I am not sure but I would like to!

  • echilt5  on  6/6/2017 at 1:58 PM

    I have never tried any Pakistani desserts but would like to.

  • Uhmandanicole  on  6/11/2017 at 10:39 PM

    I'm not sure if I've tried any Pakistani desserts

  • tarae1204  on  6/15/2017 at 1:37 PM

    I've tried desserts in restaurants described as Indian, that served North Indian food. Were they Pakistani? Were they authentic? Not sure.

  • fionajk42  on  6/16/2017 at 3:25 PM

    My mother-in-law was born in Lahore, which is now in Pakistan, although she moved to India during partition. She makes a type of rice pudding (kheer) from Lahore, with spices, raisins, pistachios and rosewater, which is delicious.

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