THE past month and a half has passed by like a flash, a flurry of weekly travel, stacks of recipe and article writing interspersed with actually trying to run a home and cultivating a new business idea. I have realised I take on too much, happily and without question. Much of this has to do with playing catch-up with a profession that is ever-changing, and partly because when you begin your second career late in life, for passion rather than necessity, your desire to excel plummets you into a 24-hour, all-consuming work schedule.

However, there must be something that keeps you grounded. For some it is a home, family or a pet – for me it is always my daughter. Being a single parent has its obvious challenges but the one positive side of it is that I have someone who depends on me entirely, and as a result, she is the benchmark of keeping it real. Making memories that make her smile when she grows up, is my main focus – for me it was always linked with flavour. When I look back at my own childhood, I remember slow, lazy days and everlasting memories of dinner being prepared just as breakfast had ended. My mother ran the home like precision clockwork. She would go to the market, always buy produce that was fresh, local, seasonal and from a roadside greengrocer. I took this for granted, and never appreciated what a great blessing it was to eat this way. My mother cooked dishes from all our travels, and as a child my palate was exposed to a range of tastes, textures and flavours. She made complex dishes and simple ones but what always stood out for me were the ones she created by guessing ingredients in dishes she had eaten somewhere. One great trait I’ve inherited from my mother, is that I use my sense of smell and taste to decipher many a complex dish. Sometimes my mother would just gauge an ingredient by flavour and might substitute one that tasted similar – and it always worked. It is interesting to see how this sensory evaluation has carried over to my daughter. I see her picking up foods, smelling, touching and tasting and then telling me exactly what they resemble and usually always getting it right.

A few months ago we went out with friends to a restaurant – and to everyone’s surprise, she narrated a complete list of herbs in the steak sauce. I know now that I must be doing something right, as her memories are happy ones, interlinked closely to how I cook at home.

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Returning to those memories we make when we are children, it is always those that intertwine flavour and nurturing, that have a lasting impact, whether it is of a treat we had as a child or simple home-cooking kind that comes from the heart and is made with love.

Taking the time to cook for those we cherish is the greatest joy, and one we are slowly losing. As I sit in Ballymaloe House in East Cork, where I am hosting a supper club tonight, I am humbled by the fact that this a haven is built on those same sentiments that I grew up with – simple, local, seasonal and wholesome home-cooking and hospitality.

In a time of hectic lives and perpetual commitments, it is important to make memories based on real food that's in season. Those aren’t just buzz words – they are a real way of eating and keeping the connection simple. I remind myself of this, as I look ahead to another month of rushing, and decide that I will take the time to breathe and create everlasting memories based on flavour, for those I love.

Sumayya’s go-to ragû sauce

On a trip to Italy once, my mother insisted that one of the flavours she could taste in the dish she was eating wasn’t oregano or basil, but ajwain (carom seeds), which we use a lot of with fish, chicken or vegetables in the Indian sub-continent. So to this day, in every ragû or white sauce I make, I chuck in a sparing amount of this slightly oregano and anise-flavoured spice, known to have many health benefits, from curing tummy aches and making hair shine. This is my go-to sauce to serve with pasta or perhaps even just with some mash. Before a trip away I often put some in the freezer for my daughter, who loves it. And when my Italian au pair remarked that it was one of the best ragûs she'd tasted; well, I didn't require any further approval.

Pakistanis have a tendency of adding spices to things, and I am not an Italian cook, so this recipe isn’t very authentic – but as I always say, authenticity is in your own mind. I do use a tip I picked up from Italian-born cookery writer Marcella Hazan, which is to add milk to cut through the acidity of wine used. Even if you don't use wine, the milk helps accentuate the meatiness of the sauce, and I never leave it out.

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Knob of butter

1 large onion

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 fresh bay leaves

½ tsp ajwain (carom seeds) or ½ tsp dried oregano

300 g minced beef

50 ml white wine (optional)

150 ml whole milk

400 ml passata or tinned chopped plum tomatoes

Heat the oil and butter in a heavy based saucepan, once hot; add bay and ajwain then onions and garlic and soften for a few minutes – do not allow to brown.

Add the minced beef and seal. Allow all the moisture to dry. Add wine if using, allow to evaporate before adding milk.

Now add milk. Once the milk has been absorbed, add the tomatoes or passata, bring to a bubble, turn down heat, cover the pot lightly. Leave to cook until the tomatoes reduce and the oil rises to the top: about an hour or so.

Turn the heat off and allow to cool before freezing or enjoy hot with pasta or mash.