Sumiré Meer Motala on creating the ultimate burfee

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Sumiré Meer Motala on creating the ultimate burfee

You might not know Sumiré by name, but we bet you know about her signature glazed burfee. She talks us about starting her business, why she focuses on burfee and how she came up with that famous glaze.

Let’s start with a little introduction. Can you tell us about yourself and where you grew up? Was food a big part of your childhood?

My name is Sumiré and I grew up with a very strong single mum who raised four kids. My family was originally from KZN but I grew up in Mayfair in Johannesburg, but most of my extended family weren’t in Joburg. So as a nuclear family we didn’t have the joy of the typical “Indian” extended family meetings where food extravaganzas were central. This is something I craved growing up, especially the Indian desserts. I definitely have a sweet tooth. I have always been a dessert queen and it was only after I had my kids that trying my hand at Indian desserts took centre-stage in my life. I wanted to give them that same joy that I loved as kid.

What led you into the food industry and to open your business, For the Love of Burfee?

A whole lifetime of experiences brought me to starting the burfee business. I turned 40 the year I started selling. Making burfee became a regular event for Eid. My brothers and I were chatting on Eid day about them devouring burfee and wanting to take most of it home, and the cost of burfee. I had said that I was going to start charging them all. This led to them asking “Who would possibly buy your kind of burfee?” My response was simple: “Let’s find out.” It was purely by coincidence and fuelled by the love of the sweet. Hence the name, which was made up in jest. “For the love of burfee, let’s find out!”

For those who might not be familiar, could you explain what burfee is? What do you love most about it?

Burfee is an Indian sweet or dessert. South African burfee has taken on a life of its own and the most popular one is milk burfee. It’s an explosion of flavour – milk, butter, milk powder, freshly ground cardamom and various sugars! And of course, the different flavours, a bit of coffee in one, pistachio, Turkish delight, coconut, the flavours have taken traditional burfee to new levels of enjoyment! I could go on: covered in white chocolate, dark chocolate, crushed almonds and the glaze. The glaze is spectacular to look at; you almost don’t want to eat it. But of course it tastes simply amazing so that’s never going to happen. It’s just been a revolution. Like burfee in a bottle, it’s like eating ice cream but only better – just grab a spoon and tuck in.

What do you think makes your burfee so special? Where do your recipes come from? Can you tell us about the different types you make? Which are your most popular products?

Every family has its own recipe and every Indian cookbook has a recipe handed down for generations. My aunt gave me the recipe she uses and I tried and failed a few times before I understood the ingredients and how they are best blended together. I adapted my recipe over time, trying different ways of cooking the ingredients. Like any dish, a little too much of any ingredient can change it completely – it’s a very sensitive dessert – too much heat, too little heat, cooking for too long. etc. can change the texture and flavour. Once I had the knack of it, it became centre stage at family events. I like to think of it as the queen of the Indian desserts.

Tell us a little more about your signature glazed burfee. How is it different to other burfee? How did you come up with this idea? What do you think people love most about it?

I take inspiration from pastry artists and wood-working professionals. I loved the glaze when it became popular and thought why not try it. It makes the burfee look classy and elegant and it really lifts a table at any event with the striking sheen in so many different colours. Simple is always better when is come to decoration of the glaze. It makes a statement and really shines as my signature burfee with the delicate butterfly lifting the presentation and appeal. My latest creation is the chocolate velvet effect, which is gorgeous on its own but when contrasted with the glaze it’s decadent and mouth-watering! Now I feel like having some!

Can you tell us how food plays a role in celebrations such as Eid? What do you normally prepare? Do you have any special dishes you always make?

Food in an Indian community is everything! From the sweet/savoury starters to the main course and the sweet/savoury desserts. After 30 days of fasting from sunrise to sunset, the body starts craving everything imaginable. By the time Eid comes, that’s all we want to do, make everything and eat everything! A huge breakfast with the whole family (about 22 people on my side) and then lunch. Briyani is a must, and a succulent leg roast is a staple, prawns, roast chicken, garlic bread and often a braai at night. I know that’s a lot but it’s been a long 30 days of fasting! And Eid is never Eid without burfee on the menu, she is the queen and you don’t have a celebration without the queen making an appearance!

Do you have anything else you’re working on that we should look out for?

The glaze was featured with its delectable counterpart, velvet. Those who ordered a surprise shape for Eid were the first to have it.

To keep up with Sumiré, follow her on Instagram.

Jess Spiro Article by: Jess Spiro

Jess Spiro is a freelance food writer, chef and restaurant critic based in Cape Town, who can often be found in search of the next great plate of food. Follow her on Instagram @jess_spiro to see what she's eating.

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