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Dina cooking

Kitchen Quiz: With Dina Begum (Brick Lane Cookbook)

Food writer and chef Dina Begum, author of Brick Lane Cookbook, is a woman who lives and breathes what she cooks and writes about. 

Portrait Of Dina Begum

As a child she would visit the Brick Lane market with her Dad and purchase lamb kofta rolls at the Sweet & Spicy Cafe

Pic of Brick Lane

She was absolutely the perfect person to author Brick Lane Cookbook, her debut book which paid tribute to the multicultural essence of the East of London.

Brick Lane Cookbook Cover

Brick Lane has served a role for many, many years now as a hub for newly established immigrant communities – Huguenot, Bangladeshi, Jewish – arriving in the capital city making their home there, establishing communities and businesses, while expressing themselves and their cultural traditions via food. 

Brick Lane Beigel shop

An area packed full of city boys, art students, curry house touts, models and tourists, the story of Brick Lane is truly a snapshot of London at its authentic, multi-cultural best.

Restaurant sign in Brick Lane.

We caught up with Dina recently in London for our latest episode of Kitchen Quiz.

Pic of Dina Begum

Q: Hi Dina, we hope you are doing fine. So tell us was there a cookbook that really inspired you?

A: Cookbooks that have inspired me are classic ones, such as books by Siddika Kabir – Bangladeshi author, television personality and nutritionist. My favourite cookbook of hers is the Bangladeshi Curry Cookbook, which focuses on traditional recipes and home cooking. I also love Delia Smith’s writing and recipes – especially her baking books. 

Delia Smith
Bangladeshi Curry Cook Book cover.

Q: What is your favourite item in your kitchen that you simply couldn’t do without?

A: I can’t live without my kitchen scales. I’m an avid baker and this is essential for baking cakes, pastries etc. 

Dina's scales

Q: Do you have a favourite song, type of music or podcast you like to cook to?

I usually listen to Nina Simone, The Eagles, Paolo Nutini or Classical music – both Eastern and Western.

Q: If you could cook anywhere in the world in any location then where would you choose?

A: I would love the adventure element of cooking in the Sundarbans – the mangrove forest which lies in the Bay of Bengal – across Bangladesh and West Bengal. Perhaps on a boat with freshly caught fish!

Pic of the Sundarbans, Bay of Bengal.

Q: If you had to give one single piece of advice about cooking to someone then what would that be?

A: I would say cook what you love to eat and try and cook by instinct instead of focusing on recipes by the letter. This is great when you’re baking – as precision is required but general cooking should be joyful. It’s the best (and tastiest) life skill. 

Pic of Dina cooking

Massive thanks to Dina for sharing her thoughts with us. 

And if you haven’t done so already, then don’t forget to check out her cookbook for an amazing snapshot of multi-cultural East London at its finest and tastiest.

You can order the book direct from us right here.

illustrated recipe for scottishstani spiced paratha by sumayya usmani

Recipe by

Sumayya Usmani

From

Tomorrow’s Kitchen – A Graphic Novel Cookbook

cartoon recipe for Scottishstani Spiced Winter Squash and Tattic Scone Paratha by Sumayya Usmani
Illustration by Shuangshuang Hao

Sumayya says about this lovely recipe for Scottishstani Paratha: ‘This recipe I share with you now has to be the one that gives me the most comfort. As a child, I would wake up on a Sunday morning to be greeted by the smokey scent of fresh parathas being made on the tawa (flat griddle pan), my mouth watering in anticipation of breakfast. My mother made these by mixing leftover mashed potato bhujia into flour to make thick breads with generous amounts of fresh coriander, green chilli, cumin and ghee. When I moved to Glasgow, I was amazed at how similar parathas were to tattie scones – leftover mash mixed with flour and butter, best cooked on a cast iron ‘girdle’. For me, this is my go-to breakfast now.’

Ingredients

  • 60g butternut squash, roasted until soft
  • 1 medium potato, peeled, chopped, boiled and mashed
  • 100g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted
  • 2 tsp coriander, finely chopped
  • 6 mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 green chilli, finely chopped or 1/2 tsp red chilli flakes
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  • juice of 1/2 lime
  • 3-4 tbsp ghee or coconut oil

How to make your Scottishstani Paratha

Mix all the ingredients except the ghee in a large bowl. Stir in the melted ghee, a little at a time, until the mixture reaches a dough-like consistency.

Turn out onto a floured work surface and knead until smooth. Divide the dough into tennis ball-sized pieces. Cover with a damp cloth.

Heat a griddle pan, tawa or frying pan over a high heat. When hot, add a little ghee, then reduce the heat to medium.

On a floured surface, roll each dough ball into a 6mm-thick patty. Place in the hot ghee and cook gently, pressing down the corners with a clean tea towel or kitchen paper, to ensure it browns evenly. When one side is cooked – about 3-4 minutes – turn over and cook the other side. Repeat with the remaining dough and enjoy your Scottishstani Paratha!!!