Apart from easy, delicious recipes and stunning food photographs, each beautiful in its own right, Sahr Haya’ts The Daily Stir (@thedailystir) is an established cooking blog that gives its readers heartwarming and very relatable stories behind each dish.
Chef Sahr Hayat, lives in Toronto and runs her blog from home. While on holiday to her hometown in Islamabad, Pakistan, she opened up a formidable 4 Week Pop Up Kitchen. The response was incredible.
View this post on Instagram
In just one week, she created from scratch and sold these marvelous treats:
75 chocolate eclairs
7 whole cheesecakes
14 slices of cheesecakes
20 carrot cakes
18 lotus mini cakes
15 chocolate orange tarts
12 chicken pot pies
From grocery to delivery, this one-woman show does it all!
View this post on Instagram
BrownGirl writer Anum chatted with Chef Sahr Hayat. Here’s a bit of their discussion:
1. What are two ingredients you can’t possibly live without.
Picking out a favorite ingredient is like picking a favorite child, it’s difficult to pick just one but you always kind of know what it is.
I’m a little garlic obsessed. My savory cooking is deeply influenced by my South Asian and Middle Eastern roots . I can never get enough of garlic. In my opinion, the scent on freshly chopped garlic in hot oil is one of the most beautiful smells in the world. It’s got the strongest and most robust flavor and it only intensifies the more finely chopped it is. They’re good as dips, on bread, in literally any meat based dishes. It is one of those ingredients that elevates the flavor of anything it touches.
I cannot live without unsalted European fine butter in my life. (I’d feel like I’m cheating it if I didn’t mention it here). I always have a big stack of really nice butter in my fridge. Finely churned butter is so deep in its flavor, you can immediately tell the difference in your dishes. In my everyday kitchen, butter is a must-have power player. I use it to grease baking pans, create heavenly croissants, bake a pound cake, or fine cook a roast chicken. My latest obsession is to brown the butter first for a nutty and deeper flavor.
Sahr initially spent a lot of time thinking of new ideas and creating dishes that would feel authentic enough to put in front of an audience. Her mission was to build a space and an aesthetic that was unique enough to be recognized on its own. Sahr decided to start choosing ingredients that had significance in her life and began to pen down experiences of how particular dishes or ingredients had inspired her to recreate previous meals but this time through Sahr’s own creative lens.
Her go-to meal is a very popular one on her blog. It also happens to be one of Sahr’s favorite meals, inspired by her loving Nani’s (grandmother’s) recipe. Sahr’s Chicken Stroganoff is a deliciously savory dish that I have personally tried my hand at in the kitchen as well.
View this post on Instagram
2. Is there any process that you follow when creating and posting recipes? Do you plan out recipes beforehand or are they spontaneously decided upon? Quick runs to the grocery store or do you buy ingredients in bulk?
My process for creating recipes is fairly simple. I usually have certain ingredients I get obsessed with and plan my recipes according to those ingredients.
I am a pre-planner and list maker and have my recipes planned out in a weekly schedule, months in advance. I usually am a huge fan on seasonal produce and seeing what is freshly available in the supermarket. However, there are certain days where I have bursts of inspiration (could be a new song I’ve listened to or something I’ve seen on the internet, etc) and just let my creativity take over.
Grocery shopping is one of my most favorite things in the world. I look forward to going to the grocery store, looking for interesting ingredients to work with, checking out the fresh produce and thinking of prospective dishes. Grocery stores get me beyond excited because I see endless possibilities to what I can create.
There are certain items (i.e. flour, sugar, butter) that are staples in my cooking that I buy in bulk. But mostly I end up doing a weekly grocery trip to pick up fresh fruits and vegetables, or a specific meat that I plan to prepare.
3. Many of your dishes, especially cakes, are styled with flowers. Flowers are naturally beautiful, with different colours, shapes, sizes and textures to choose from. What is your favourite flower for styling and how do you go about the styling procedure for photographs?
Styling has become my favorite part of the process of creating content for my blog! And flowers have become a huge part of my aesthetic for the page and how I like to present my food.
I think it’s impossible to pick only one kind of flower that I love working with (although in my opinion babys breath can make anything look beautiful) because its truly dependent on the type of dish, the color scheme and many more aspects that help me decide what I am aiming to create.
What usually tends to happen is that after my dish is prepared, I end up going on a search for the perfect greens and florals to style it. Sometimes I find interesting textures or colors just walking around, other times I have to go to multiple flower shops to find exactly what I’m looking for. If I’m creating something for an order or to take somewhere I make sure I use edible flowers.
Usually once I have the greens and florals I need and have collected all the props I need, I plate my dish, and start playing around with different size plates, different color cutlery, different angles, etc until I feel like I’ve taken the perfect picture. Once I have a few different versions to choose from and I’m fully satisfied (which usually takes days!) I decide to share it with everyone. I always find it so funny when I’m done because the pictures look so perfect and effortless, but the mess outside the frame is another story. What I always end up doing is taking a couple of behind the scenes pictures which I want to share with my followers someday to show them the struggles behind the camera.
View this post on Instagram
4. What is the most difficult recipe that you have ever tried? We would love to know the messy tale and the blood, sweat and tears behind a daunting task!
One of my most difficult challenges in the kitchen was making the perfect croissant. It was an ordeal for days! I couldn’t seem to get it just right. Sometimes I would put in too much butter and other times it was not enough. The consistency of the dough was either too thin or too thick. I just couldn’t find the perfect middle. To create the perfect croissant, you need to fold it as many times as possible while adding butter in every single fold. The folded dough is supposed to be placed in a temperature controlled cool place and has to be taken out for a last butter glaze before it meets its fate in the oven. If the butter heats up too much, it will melt into the dough and the flaky layers will disappear. Literally everything that could go wrong went wrong during my trial. Until Day 5, when I had lost all hope, had no tears left to cry, and had continuous sleepless nights; is when the baking Gods decided to bless me and helped me create the perfect croissant. What I learned through this process was that consistency is key and those 5 days of struggle taught me way more than if I had made it right the first time around.
5. What’s a good, simple piece of advice for foodies who want to try out a new recipe?
My advice is very simple when it comes to trying out something new in the kitchen. I believe that before starting out your experiment, you should read your recipes thoroughly and understand the process. This will help you stay focused and enjoy the time you spend in the kitchen rather than having to look at your phone or recipe book time and time again. You should also give yourself enough time to easily get through the process without feeling overwhelmed or too stressed out. Obviously, you should always start out with easier to make recipes as well, as that’ll help you gain confidence and try harder things later.
But the best advice I could give you is to just not be afraid or overwhelmed by the task. Enjoy the process and be ready to experiment (it works out sometimes and doesn’t at others). But if you allow yourself to let go of the pressure you feel, you’ll automatically relax and be daring. So put on your favorite music, take out all those ingredients and let your mind take over.
Sahr Hayat’s The Daily Stir has definitely stirred up some magic with its comforting and uncomplicated recipes. If a simple yet delicious home cooked meal is what you crave, pots and pans out. Go for it!