Dr Saliha Mahmood-Ahmed: Master of Gastronomy

Sunetra Senior Thursday 03rd February 2022 02:17 EST

Saliha is the winner of MasterChef 2017. She is also a respected gastroenterologist and the author of popular cookbooks such as Khazana, which was a best-seller, and Foodology: her gastronomical epic. “Gastroenterology and cooking seem to be two indirectly related professions but they’re very similar.” Indeed, Foodology, the Cuisinier’s first collection, is an ode to the bridge between culinary experimentation and scientific thought. “We all talk about tasting good food but what does it actually mean to taste: what is the mechanism of the sense; where are the taste buds located in the mouth and how can such overall understanding make you a better chef? There are also many foods that are healthy for us fundamentally e.g., probiotic foods that foster good microbes in the system. As a result, I call the recipes in the book a food lover’s guide to finding digestive health and happiness. A favourite dish of mine is the Probiotic Tabbouleh. This is a typically Middle-Eastern salad which is very tasty. There’s finely chopped parsley and mild spices and I’ve added a signature twist: shaved up broccoli and cauliflower. These are greens that are good for the gut. When the fibres are digested, beneficial molecules called short-chain fatty acids are produced which help in the function of the gut. The salad lasts for a long time in the fridge too. I sometimes add extra chunks of apples and seeds to fortify the healthiness further with a slice of poached chicken or salmon thrown in.” 

In short, Saliha’s speciality is wholesome Indo-Persian cuisine! Yum: “My goal is versatile deliciousness as well as promoting well-being. Also, it's important to enjoy the process. Food is inherently fun.” Indeed, there’s a reason Masterchef is beloved and done so internationally well itself! “After my time on the show, I continued to research the types of dishes I was creating, exploring the origin of my cooking. With my increasing seniority as a medical professional, I then became more adept at food! I do especially love uncovering heritage through a colourful medium. I have Kashmiri Pakistani roots as well as influence from the Middle-East: I lived in Saudi Arabia for some time. North-African cooking appeals to me too. I love the mix of fruity, spicy and salty that constitutes Moroccan flavour. My dishes are modern experimentation of Moghul, Persian and international cuisine. My mantra is Diversity of Diet and to do what I can to embrace and celebrate that. Many people, for example, assume eating healthy cannot be exciting but it’s the most unconventional experimental approach! Many of my dishes are plant-centric and organically creative. I use as many different compounds as possible from nuts and wholegrains to various vegetables and meat in moderation.” 

Here, Saliha is also the founder NHS Food Fighters; a philanthropic outfit that aims to bring high quality food to staff and patients within the vital establishment. “I work with lifestyle co-ordinators in different hospitals to improve canteen facilities as well as giving cookery demos to inspire. I definitely see myself collaborating on more campaigns in the future that elevate the lives of a national workforce who’ve done so much.” Indeed, the foodie doctor credits her job in the medical world for her success on Masterchef. “Of course, you must be talented and be able to cook great food but one must also stay cool under pressure, have patience and resilience and be able to work with others. Dealing with medical emergencies helps manage stress while prioritising essential work.” Social strength then is as important as talent and wit. Interestingly, Saliha practices at Watford General Hospital which is particularly big and bustling.

 “I always give my passions the full attention and these are medicine, family and recently dynamic food!” And so, together with niche cooking that is designed to lift, Saliha at once exhibits the formula for leading a vibrant life: having hearty soul! She concluded: “To do well, you must put yourself out there, taking pleasure along the way. You may fail but true confidence allows for that. You simply learn and do better next time. If you want to cook - just go for it. There’s so much room in the industry to flourish with unique approaches. The food industry is an exhilarating massive place. Only good can come of trying and sometimes really, really good things. I became a chef over the course of a few weeks which was not my day job. Fortune really does favour the brave as long as you accept obstacles as part of the journey. Social media is excellent in accelerating visibility too. You can develop a business from your own backyard and generate income from simple exposure!” Fortune finally has never been more on one’s side.'Khazana' won Best New Cookbook at the Observer Food Monthly Awards 2019. 

T: @salihacooks 

W: https://www.salihacooks.com/


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