Asif’s story – a fusion of cultures

Asif’s story – a fusion of cultures

Easton resident Asif Khan grew in Dundee, speaking English and Punjabi

“My father (who is from Pakistan) taught my Scottish mother how to make curry…..I used to love looking at all the spices being lined up. My mum’s cooking was like a ritual, it was almost a mindfulness technique. It would often take up to an hour to prepare a meal, but because it was part of a routine it was also a way of relaxing. It was amazing to come home to these wonderful colours, smells and textures after a bland school lunch.

“We lived on the top level of a tenement block and when you were coming up the stairs you could smell the food being prepared and cooked. Looking back, all the neighbours must have been salivating!”

Asif grew up on a general mixture of traditional Scottish and South Asian Food. Beans and tatties and stovies(a type of stew), soups and broths as well as traditional curries were the main features at the dinner table.

Asif said: “You’d always know what you were having for tea that night when you were at the bottom of the tenement stairs!”

“Like my mum, I enjoy the preparation of food. It’s almost like being still; you can forget whatever has been worrying you or stressing you throughout the day when you’re cooking. When I was younger, cooking was just a thing to get through quickly so that I could get on with other things, now it is a full part of the day.”

“My sister’s a dab-hand at cooking curries and she learnt that from our aunties and grandmother etc. I didn’t learn any particular recipes apart from how to cook porridge properly! Instead of stirring the pot you have to do a figure of eight for about five minutes – you can’t just let it rest. My mother always used to use just milk instead of half milk and water, and so it was really creamy. When I’d try it elsewhere I always thought the taste had disappeared. To serve, I only ever add salt.”

My most memorable meal was when “I spent some time in Jamaica with work and one day I had a buffet breakfast with ackee and saltfish and all these other things including cornmeal porridge. I’d never tasted cornmeal porridge before, I’d only ever heard of it in a Bob Marley song. I thought ‘this will never be as good as Scotch porridge’, and I started eating it and it was even better! It was so delicious with the fresh nutmeg and cinnamon.”

“Food is all about mind, body and spirit – you’ve got to start by thinking about what you’re putting in your body. I try and buy food that is ethically sourced and where possible, hasn’t got a big carbon footprint. I shop locally (for example The Sweet Mart in Easton) and I buy food that’s seasonal – I’m not too keen on buying fruit and vegetables that have been grown abroad and flown in just for the sake of having a fancy meal.”