The other weekend, we made our way to Tobacco Dock in east London to film a few culinary superstars taking part in the annual Halal Food Festival.
While we were down at the dock, we were lucky enough to speak to Saliha Mahmood Ahmed , winner of Masterchef 2017, about her newfound status as a UK foodie elite. We peppered her with questions for the sake of a video, but seeing as she gave us more ten-out-of-ten stuff than we can commit to film, we thought we’d write up some of her answers in a blog. (Keep your eyes out for the vid, which will drop on our Facebook next month).
So get a read on, because Saliha dropped some expert knowledge on everything from the halal food scene and eating healthy, to buying British and growing your own veg. Everything below this sentence (except the stuff in bold) are Saliha’s words, they’ve only been edited for length and clarity.
On The Rise of the Halal Food Scene
‘It makes life a lot easier for me now that there’s much more halal produce available in our country. There’s lots of good halal butchers who are starting to serve rabbit, quail and venison, and not the frozen defrosted variety, but really good, well-cured venison. That’s pretty exciting.
‘Anybody who eats meat should know where it comes from – it’s very important. Halal food is there so we can respect the animal that has been slaughtered. And that’s something that eating halal and celebrating halal allows you to do in a very real way.’
Why British Food is Important
‘One thing that I’ve picked up on is that our fresh seafood gets shipped to other European cities where there’s a bigger market for it. That upsets me because I think that we have some of the best seafood in the world. That’s why what I’m making at the halal food festival is an example of how we can eat smoked fish in a nutritious way, while still enjoying the flavours of it in a south-eastern way. It helps promote healthy food and British food at the same time. We should celebrate what our land grows.
‘My mother in law grows spinach, mint and potatoes in her garden. As soon as I have a garden it’s all going be allotting things and growing things. Growing food is easy and if you can get access to an allotment via a local council I would definitely go for it.’
Eating Halal and Staying Healthy
‘I think in general terms, we complicate what a healthy diet is. In simple terms, people know what eating well is – plenty of fruit, plenty of vegetables, less carbs, less sugars. I think one of the problems is that good food can be very expensive. One positive quality that halal food has is that it’s usually fairly good value for money, which means you get a bit of bang for your buck. This is very important in this day and age, when we are striving to eat healthily but also on a budget.
‘I really believe that you are what you eat. If you love yourself, you eat well, and that doesn’t mean eating raw food all the time, it means moderation. It means understanding that unhealthy food can be delicious, and we can all enjoy it in small quantities once in a while.
‘As a doctor, I see patients with high-blood pressure, obesity and loads of other cardiovascular problems. What we’re eating now and what we’re feeding our children has a direct consequence on their health, 40, 50, 60 years later. So I think all health starts with your food. It’s really important to eat well.’