“In the childhood memory of every home cook lies a kitchen, a simmering pot, and at the stove: a mum.

This book is rooted in pride for and dedicated to my mother who has served as my trove of culinary instruction.”

These are the beautiful words which you are presented with as you open Naqiyah Mayat’s gorgeous debut cookbook – The Beginning. Indian recipes from my home.

From cover to cover, Naqiyah shares her recipes and the story of her family with her readers and she took some time to tell us more about her culinary story.

 

Where did your food journey begin?

Definitely with my mum. As such, The Beginning is a book dedicated to my mum. In essence, it is dedicated to all mums, because in the childhood memory of most home cooks lies a kitchen, a simmering pot, and at the stove, a mum.

I was raised on the counter in the kitchen of my mum, watching her smear rotis with ghee, and then flip them while hot onto my plate. There was always a dish of butter nearby. I would lather it onto the roti and to my mums’ dismay, yet pleasing glance, she’d say every single time, “…so much butter!”. Her making roti always occupied a central part in all my food memories and we have kept that same connection with my own children.

 

What gets your creative juices flowing?

My food memories! For me, food has a magical way to connect and unify us. It’s the invisible thread that connects us all. From the start, I wanted to publish a book that harnessed the power of my food memories – from growing up, to the new discoveries that had made when I got married; and later the shared experiences I had from cooking for my children. Along this journey, I have amassed an incredible amount of knowledge of food – through observations of it, experience, interactions and self-study.

 

Who is your foodie inspiration and why?

My mum has served as my trove of culinary instruction, and even though I have never cooked or helped her in her kitchen, I spent my childhood perched up on her countertop, watching her cook and feed our family. She has taught me, though my subconscious, about cooking which has formed the inspiration for my culinary journey.

My relationship and connection with my husband are also largely centered around food and it helps us to communicate in so many different ways. Mohamed and I retreat to bed every evening with a quiet moment and a cup of Masala tea (recipe on page 230). And while our marriage has resulted in some incredible food, it has also produced four very curious children, all with a voracious appetite for life.

I have learnt about food through what excites them and allowed them an opportunity to taste and experience all types of food, and they now have a positive relationship towards it too.

 

What is the best advice you’ve been given about cooking?

I think I share more advice than I take! Learning how to cook, I’ve always cooked from heart. After having to create a manuscript for The Beginning, I’ve had to begin to note measurements and in this way it is a way to prepare myself for the planning that is required for my second book.

 

Your cookbook was 12 years in the making. Tell us about its evolution.

I knew I wanted to compile and write a cookbook when I realised that I wanted to take my food memories and turn them into the inspiration for my culinary journey. As with any cook, in their childhood memory lies a kitchen, a simmering pot, and at the stove, a mum. This book is rooted with pride and dedicated to my mother for who has served as my trove of culinary instruction.

To accomplish this, the timing was everything. It has taken me 12 years to get to this very moment. I wanted the book to be a personal representation of my life and its story. I wanted to share the recipes that I grew up with and allow my readers a peek into the life that I come from. I want to give readers an honest and easy approach to cooking thereby giving them confidence in their own cooking.

The first phase of my book began in June 2018 and I have been documenting and collecting my recipes since then. But the book has really taken shape over the last year – I found a creative brand and strategic team in That Food Guy Publishing, defined the process and content, sourced a printer and we started creating content and testing recipes.

Once the content was finalised, the creative process of defining the brand and ultimately, the look and feel of the book, started. It’s now printed, bound and available across the country – what a magical moment!

 

In working towards publishing a cookbook, I can recommend three things you need to have in place before even considering embarking on a project of this scale:

Faith: that you are in the place where you are meant to be, and no amount of distraction, time or circumstance can deter you from that goal;

A team: of industry experts to guide, mentor and deliver on realistic expectations; and

A support structure, or hype-team.

Without all three of these things, this book would not have seen fruition.

 

Tell us your most delicious story from your career so far.

I think it has definitely been building my and sharing the food that I grew up with has always been a part of my tapestry.

I started off sharing my recipes as one of the first food bloggers on Food24 over 11 years ago. My posts were a combination of what I cooked for Mohamed and I for dinner and his work lunches. I later moved on to sharing recipes on my own website and on to Instagram. It was a slow and steady process. I learned how to take better images, listen to what my readers appreciated and valued from what I shared, and translate this into a community of people who looked at what I shared for direction.

 

 

Along the way, I made connections and I learnt from people who shared similar interests and formed valuable associations. I also knew when to take a step back and help people find their own light. I am privileged to have been a part in assisting people in creating their own businesses and teaching them the value of staying professional.

I think people admire me for many different reasons; including being able to share recipes and travel and life tips, as I learnt it, and for being approachable and relatable. I’m uncomfortable with the idea of being admired personally as I feel as if I am still learning about being a wife, a mother and a home maker myself. But I do hope that whatever I share is a means to inspire and motivate people to see themselves in their brightest light.

I prefer to use social media to change the dialogue, and to support other women. Often, it can be difficult to find our voice in a world full of double standards. The best thing that women can do 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, and I am using Instagram as a method to build authentic ‘relationships’ with my readers. It has become the go-to network for me to discover content and to passively expand my professional network.

Along the way, I made connections and I learnt from people who shared similar interests and formed valuable associations. I also knew when to take a step back and help people find their own light. I am privileged to have been a part in assisting people in creating their own businesses and teaching them the value of staying professional.

My brand has evolved over this time – to one that embodies the creativity, entrepreneurship, family, fashion and love of food I try to bring to life every day. The Beginning tells a story of my community of friends, online supporters and mentors who have helped encourage me to become the person I was destined to be. I immersed myself into a community that gave me a chance to learn and to mine their wisdom and, from this, a rich exchange of the ideas has been cultivated. I constantly challenge myself to think creatively and to reconsider what I already know.

 

What are the three ingredients you always have in your pantry?

In my fridge: ground garlic, ground ginger, and red ginger and garlic masala. In my freezer: a pack of Woolworths puff pastry, and in my pantry; a tin of broad beans. Together, those can make a meal.

 

What is your favourite dish to cook for your family and why?

If I had to choose, I would go for one of the mid-week, make-ahead meals. These are time-savers menus that can take the hassle out of cooking midweek. For me, one of the best make-ahead and freezer-friendly family dishes that is simple, convenient and versatile are Lamb Kebabs.

Here are a few meal options using a standard quantity of Lamb Kebabs:

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 parata: 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 parata, from page 105 in The Beginning.

Kebab with 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 over.

 

Tip: Prepare your Lamb Kebabs using the recipe on page 207. Lay them onto an oven-safe tray lined with baking paper. Baste them with a light drizzle of butter. Allow them to bake for five minutes – which is just long enough for them to firm up. Remove and allow the Kebabs to cool down. Lay them onto a tray that is lined with plastic wrap. Freeze them for a few hours. Remove and place them into a container. The kebabs can now be frozen and defrosted when you are ready to prepare them.

 

 

Which South African chefs do you admire or follow?

I follow a number of chefs for many reasons, not necessarily just the food. For me, food is an extension of so many other things in one’s life. Take Chef David Higgs for example; I find his ambition remarkable. Not only as a published author but as a restauranteur. And, Chef Nti for her curated and cheeky images and for her inimitable fashion sense.

 

 

 

Which local or international chefs would you most like to meet or work with and why?

I’d love to meet and work with Nigella Lawson. She has positioned herself as a home cook and as a person who cooks for pleasure rather than ego. She writes about food, and recipes as if she is telling a story.

Nigella’s attitude has remained constant in her career; the idea that “food should be a joy as much for the cook as for the eater, that recipes are malleable, that status anxiety and guilt and stress are enemies of one of life’s greatest gifts: appetite.”

 

If you were to create a dish inspired by our country at present, what would it be and what would you call it?

I think my Chicken Ginger soup speaks perfectly to the current situation. Its warm and rich, and gull of ginger which is great to boost the immune system. It’s also comforting, and perfect to eat at home while practicing social distancing!

 

Your debut cookbook is just The Beginning. What is next for Naqiyah?

I am currently busy developing two additional cookbooks which delve further into my cooking style.