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IN CONVERSATION WITH: A MasterChef champ

24th Nov 2017
IN CONVERSATION WITH:  A MasterChef champ

(Photo: Plank PR)

Six months ago more than six million viewers tuned in to watch junior doctor Saliha Mahmood Ahmed crowned the 13th MasterChef champion. 

Along the way, the mother-of-one had fought off 63 other amateur cooks over seven gruelling weeks of culinary challenges and an exhilarating final cook-off.

In a punishing final week, MasterChef fans  saw Saliha cook for the American Ambassador under one of Britain’s best chefs, Paul Ainsworth; embark on a culinary adventure to South Africa and take on three exceptional challenges – firstly mentored by one of South Africa’s most celebrated Reuben Riffel, then under British-born Luke Dale Roberts at the world-renowned The Test Kitchen restaurant and finally cooking for leading figures in Cape Town’s cultural and food community.

In the penultimate programme, she cooked for The Chef’s Table, overseen by one of the country’s most creative chefs, the two-Michelin starred, Sat Baines.

Saliha’s winning meal, which included a starter inspired by her grandmother in Pakistan, was awarded the Masterchef 2017 trophy by judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace.

Saliha’s winning menu started with a Venison shami kebab with cashew and coriander green chutney, chana daal and a kachumber salad – in memory of her grandmother’s in Pakistan. Saliha’s main course was a Kashmiri style sous-vide duck breast, with crispy duck skin, freekeh wheat grain, spiced with dried barberries, walnuts and coriander, a cherry chutney and a duck and cherry sauce.

The final dish in Saliha’s menu was a saffron rosewater and cardamom pannacotta served with a deconstructed baklava (inspired by her childhood love of baklava), including candied pistachios, pistachio honeycomb, filo pastry shards and kumquats.

The Muslim News caught up with 29-year-old earlier this month, to talk life post- MasterChef.

 

Why did you enter the show?
I had always been a fan of the show… But it was my husband who filled out the application form for me, without me even knowing about it. He was really confident in my cooking abilities and really was pivotal to my success

When did your passion for cooking start?
I come from a really food-obsessed family, so I was a natural foodie from a young age. I started cooking more seriously when I started food technology at secondary school- that is where I really developed my cooking skills.

How has your Pakistani heritage influenced your cooking style?
Hugely. My Pakistani heritage has allowed me to appreciate spicing and its nuances, and this was critical in my success on MasterChef.

Has your life changed since winning MasterChef?
Well, I am writing my own cookbook called Khazana- which has been a lifelong dream of mine. I have been able to do some amazing things e.g. Cookery demonstrations in front of large audiences, TV appearances on This Morning and Sunday Brunch- it really has been fun.

What would you say was the most difficult part of MasterChef?
Juggling a full-time job, practising cooking, and looking after a young family – a huge undertaking. Getting time to practise recipes was very difficult. I would cook early in the morning and late into the night to give myself the best chance in the competition.

How do you successfully juggle your busy life as a mother, Junior Doctor and new demands as a famous cook?
I have a lovely, supportive family, especially my husband who is a great source of inspiration and support for me. We manage to work out most things together.

What’s next for you?
I am working on my career as a cookery author, with my book on Indo Persian cooking called Khazana. I am working on my career as a Gastroenterologist and finally, striving to give my all to being a good mother.

And finally what advice would you give to next year’s MasterChef contestants?
I would advise being completely confident in your ability, to embrace the task and enjoy every minute of the life-changing experience.

Interview by Elham Asaad Buaras

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