Farzana has been a volunteer with the Maxwell Centre for years, she has been great at helping out with our cooking groups and has now also got into learning how to grow her own vegetable at home. She has been the one behind making all your beautiful edible flower posies for the harvest boxes!
Manuela has interviewed Farzana to find out more about what brought her to Dundee, how she likes it and her love for growing and cooking.
I was born in Lahore, Pakistan but we moved to Manchester when I was 6, I had 2 brothers and 2 sisters. My father was amongst those who responded to the Queen’s request for people from the Commonwealth to come to England to work in the cotton and manufacturing industries. It was jobs galore back then, you could leave one job and walk into another!
My husband studied at Strathclyde University and was offered a job in Dundee in 1991, we’ve been here ever since. My early experiences here in Dundee were very different to Manchester. Your neighbours never talked to you there, they wouldn’t invite you in ever. We bought an old bungalow on Old Glamis Rd, my new neighbours were really nice, one invited us in for some coffee and cake when I needed to use a telephone, it turned out she was the mother of my 3 daughters school headteacher!
Our neighbour across the street kept asking me if I wanted any messages , that had me puzzled until I found out messages means shopping in Dundonian! That was really kind of him.
We really enjoy the better quality of life here, being close to the beach and the countryside as its all very close to the city, not like in Manchester.
THE MAXWELL CENTRE AND GARDEN
I worked for the Council for nearly 25 years and I knew of the Maxwell as I used to teach an ESOL group of Asian ladies inside. We had a plot in the garden and we really enjoyed it so after retiring Alison asked me if I’d like to volunteer. I’ve always been happy to do anything, from gardening to risk assessments, cooking or activities with children or crafts I enjoy it all. People are so friendly here, I feel very supported and there are plenty of things to do and very different, you never get bored!
My favourite place in the garden is the polytunnel, I love seeing all the different names, colours and shapes of tomatoes. I useI have a garden at home but I’ve just started to grow edibles. I didn’t have the confidence before. I have put in a few things to overwinter so hopefully things will be sprouting in spring. Before I only had shrubs and flowers.
GROWING FOR COOKING
My favourite edible plant is the nasturtium, the flowers and leaves are beautiful and edible, so are the seeds. I’m starting to grow these in my garden too now. I use many different plants from the garden to make curries, pakoras and other recipes. I love picking the fresh herbs like coriander, parsley, mint, onions, chives, potatoes, tomatoes…fenugreek (methi) is also a favourite. Fresh it is very nice for curries, quite mild and not so easy to find in the shops. Once it has been dried its very strong, overpowering so its a good plant to grow here.
When my grandchildren visit from Manchester I bring them to the garden, Sophia, Zaki and Leena enjoy the strawberry picking! My brother in law, Sarfraz, is blind and also loves the garden and has spent a lot of time here.
INGREDIENTS FOR PAKORAS:
1 cup of gram (chickpea) flour (You can get this from your local Asian shop or from the Asian section in Tesco’s for example)
2 medium sized onions
2 medium sized potatoes a few dry fenugreek leaves
1 large egg
1 cup of warm water “Crisp and dry” or any cooking oil for frying
1 tsp cumin seeds 2tps salt 1tsp chili powder
1tsp coriander powder
1 tsp cumin powder
Optional greens (they do make better pakoras!)
Chopped spring onions
Chopped fresh coriander
3-4 Chopped green chilies
INGREDIENTS FOR RED ONION DIP:
1 chopped red onion (leave to soak for a couple of hours in ice cold water and drain)
3-4 tbs of tomato sauce
2 tsp of tomato pure
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 tsp of mint sauce
1/2 tsp chili flakes
1/2 tsp salt
Chop the onions and potatoes. Add all the spices, fenugreek leaves, whisked egg, flour and warm water. Mix into a thick paste.
Heat the oil using a tablespoon to scoop the batter (one scoop per pakora). Fry until golden brown on a medium heat. Take out with a slotted spoon and drain. Put on plate with some kitchen paper to absorb the oil.