A junior doctor has won the BBC’s Masterchef title, with a menu of “East meets West” dishes inspired by her Pakistani heritage.
Saliha Mahmood-Ahmed, 29, from Watford, beat off fellow-competitors Giovanna Ryan and Steve Kielty.
Saliha impressed judges John Torode and Gregg Wallace as a “class act”.
She said she wanted to combine her love of cooking with her medical career, by helping people with special dietary conditions find their ideal foods.
The junior doctor and mum-of-one, who battled from 64 amateur cooks to take the prize, swapped on-call shifts with colleagues to ensure she could take part in the contest.
In her career, she specialises in gastroenterology – but she also dreams of writing cookbooks and tackling obesity.
On her win, Saliha said: “To be the Masterchef champion is fantastic and wonderful. Adjectives are not sufficient. This is definitely the coolest thing I’ve ever done in my life!
“It involved a lot of hard work and early starts – late nights cooking after 13-hour long shifts, no holidays, no breaks, no sleep – but it was well worth it!”
Friday night’s final on BBC One saw the trio tasked with preparing a three-course meal in three hours for the judges to sample.
Saliha’s winning three-course menu
- Venison shami kebab, with cashew and coriander green chutney, chana dal and a kachumbar salad – in memory of her grandmother’s house in Pakistan
- Kashmiri-style sous-vide duck breast, with crispy duck skin, freekeh wheatgrain, spiced with dried barberries, walnuts and coriander, a cherry chutney and a duck and cherry sauce. The dish was “clean, crisp, refined and beautiful”, according to John Torode
- Saffron rosewater and cardamom panna cotta, served with a deconstructed baklava, including candied pistachios, pistachio honeycomb, filo pastry shards and kumquats – a dessert inspired by her childhood love of baklava
Saliha’s meal was praised by judge Gregg Wallace as: “East meets West” and “simply stunning – beautiful art on a plate”.
Fellow judge John Torode said: “She’s walked in here and taken her food culture apart and put it back together in a modern and very exciting way”.
Saliha’s love of cooking was influenced by her family and she was also encouraged by a teacher, who, at 15, entered her into the school Chef of the Year competition, which she won.
“I’m from a big Pakistani family and we use food as a way of bringing everyone together,” she said.
“I had very passionate grandmothers who cooked traditional Pakistani food and my mum is also an excellent cook. We love to feed people – it runs in our genes.”