21 MAY 2020 9
The TV presenter on
meeting Kate Bush and
suffering for her body art
1Where are you? I’m sitting in my
kitchen with my rescue Staffie, Pig,
staring at me – she wants my porridge.
2Were you a keen crafter before
your new crafting show? As the
saying goes: the spirit is willing, but the flesh
is weak. I need to sit with someone and be
taught how to make something. I really enjoy
the learning and being able to ask questions.
3Who was your favourite celebrity
guest on the series? Martin Kemp is
a gent – he asked the crafters to create a
portrait of his dog, so that he could donate
it to supervet Noel Fitzpatrick, who saved
his pet’s life. That was a real ‘ahh’ moment.
4Any home-baking disasters during
lockdown? I tried to make crumpet
bread the other day, but forgot the yeast
and the salt. Just hot, white glue basically.
5Is it OK to watch your show
Naked Attraction with your mum?
Absolutely – and your gran too! It’s a funny,
brave, celebratory show – and we should
never be ashamed of the naked body.
6When were you last starstruck?
Sue partner Sue Perkins and I saw Kate
Bush at Hammersmith Apollo in 2014. It was
astonishing and moved me to tears. After, we
were invited to meet her. I’ve met countless
celebrities and stars, but when I came face to
face with Kate I became a stuttering mess.
7Do you have any tattoos? I have a
peacock feather on my lower back. If it
wasn’t so painful I’d have a whole plume –
I’d need a stiff drink first though!
The Fantastical Factory of Curious Craft
airs on Sundays at 8pm on Channel 4.
Interview: Nick Neads
“We’d sit there with the Argos catalogue
in the evening choosing the things we could
buy,” she recalls. “We felt rich!”
For Saliha, her husband and two boys
(aged two months and five years) both Eid
days begin with a special breakfast of toasted
vermicelli noodles cooked with evaporated
milk, ghee and cardamom sprinkled with
nuts and rose petals.
“What ends up on your table is
generational, but my table reflects my
mother’s and hers reflects my
grandmother’s,” adds Saliha.
When she was nine years old, the family
stayed with relatives in Pakistan for Eid
al-Adha. It’s a very meat-focused feast, with
families here in the UK receiving a whole
lamb on Eid day, which they divide into
thirds: one third for you and your family,
one third for your friends and one third for
those in need.
But in Pakistan, as in other countries, the
goat or lamb might live with the family for a
few days beforehand, meaning Saliha was far
less removed from the process than usual.
“It really centres you into understanding the
importance of the food that you’re eating and
where it comes from. You realise the value of
being able to eat meat.”
On Eid al-Adha her mother would begin
by flash-frying marinated lamb livers, then
she’d put together a pilau made with earthy
spices and more lamb cuts. It cooks down
to make a rich stock that the rice absorbs.
Later would come shorbas – loose curries
traditional in Pakistan.
The table at Eid al-Fitr is more ‘eclectic’,
she says, typically including raan musallum,
the aforementioned spiced leg of lamb,
which is made in stages with a cornucopia
of ingredients, from papaya purée to soaked
Ideas that translate into every day include
a silky-smooth homemade houmous that
could easily be scaled up to cater for family
lunches and snacks. Colourful fruit juices
would work nicely on hot summer days.
The book’s desserts chapter shows how
traditional Eid feasts are evolving. A
recipe for lemon-rose Eid cake includes
cardamom, cinnamon and ground almonds
finished with a lemony white chocolate
buttercream and rose petals.
“Cake wasn’t ever really a feature of the
Eid table,” says Saliha. “It tended to be tiny
biscuits, baklava and other very densely
sweet things, but cake with a Middle
Eastern angle is starting to feature as
baking becomes more part of our lives.”
Taking part in MasterChef reignited
Saliha’s passion for food – she works
as an NHS doctor specialising in
gastroenterology. Her debut cookbook
Khazana won Observer Food Monthly
Cookbook of the Year in 2019 and the next
will combine her career and love of food.
A Taste of Eid is, she explains, a chance
to partake in the meals of myriad Muslim
families: “The recipes are labours of love
– it’s not stuff you can put together in five
minutes. But it’s a celebration.”
A Taste of Eid (Brunchbooks, £25) is out now
al-Fitr on 23
May this year is
lots of flavourpacked
‘What ends up
on your table is
my table reflects
my mother’s and
hers reflects my
labour of love
Chammi dates with cream
cheese and chopped pistachio
(below left); Saliha Mahmood
Ahmed (centre); spices used in
Eid recipes (right)
sharing with others A traditional
lamb ghouzi dish from A Taste of Eid
Photography: Stuart Ovenden, Barry Morgan/Sharjah Book Authority, Shutterstock