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Everyone has a right to learn how to cook: Kaleyard Community Kitchen

"Everyone has a right to learn how to cook” says Sumayya Usmani, the founder of Kaleyard Cook School and Kitchen, Glasgow’s first non-profit social enterprise cook school. Sumayya is a cook and writer who made Glasgow her home in 2015, having changed career from the law and moved up from London. She writes about the food of Pakistan, she grew up in Karachi, and has published two books (full of her memories of sitting under the tamarind tree in her Grandmother’s garden, and of the flavours and recipes she remembered from her childhood.

She wanted to open a cook school to help people cook from instinct – the andaza of Pakistani cookery, where all the senses are involved in creating a dish – with flavour being sensed and felt rather than exact measurements being followed.

But she wanted it to be more than just teaching people recipes, she wanted it to be about community and gathering around food. She wanted it to be about the power of food to heal, unite and inspire. As someone who had felt the pull of Pakistani food more once she had left Pakistan she understood the importance of food as a centre to culture, identity and a feeling of belonging. Cooking, eating, sharing.

So the Kaleyard Cook School and Kitchen was set up in 2018 as a community interest company – first as a pop up, and then when it became clear that the idea needed a physical space, in the Toryglen

Community Base in Prospecthill Circus, two miles south of Glasgow’s City Centre. There Sumayya and others host a range of masterclasses – teaching a wide range of cuisines, from Indonesian to Middle Eastern alongside Pakistani – which in turn fund community classes, cookery teaching in schools and special events.

It is a positive circle – the way food brings people together, combats social isolation, can help combat food poverty and health inequalities by giving people the skills to cook cost effective, seasonal, nutritious food.

When I spoke to Sumayya for this piece we were in the middle of the first lockdown – she was trying to raise money for the rent, to keep some income coming in, by cooking takeaway meals in her home kitchen and delivering them locally.

You can find out about all Kaleyard’s future cookery classes, meals and events by following the link here. If you'd like to try Sumayya's recipe for Attock Chana Rijai, click here.

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