Doha: Virsa, a Culinary Journey from Agra to Karachi – a Gourmand Award-winning recipe book by a Qatar-based Pakistani author sponsors 100 cataract surgeries annually.
Shot and written by Pakistani blogger and photographer Shehar Bano Rizvi, Virsa recently won the Best in the World Cookbook Award at the prestigious Gourmand Awards in Paris in November 2021. This book is a collection of recipes by author Shehar Bano family heritage and hence the name “Virsa” which means “heritage” in Urdu language. Virsa has some recipes and memories from a big fat family of foodies.
Compiling, recreating and photographing these recipes, this project was a labor of love for the author – a dedication to her mother, an amazing cook. After losing her father to cancer, she and her siblings did something in his memory and it got them thinking. She says: “I always felt my father would have been so happy to see what we did for him after he left. And it made me want to do something for my mother while she was alive – hence this book.”
Shehar Bano donated 100% of the profits from the sale of to the LRBT Free Eye Hospital in Pakistan in memory of her father who was an ophthalmologist and philanthropist at heart. With the sale of the book, she set up an endowment fund that sponsors 100 cataract surgeries annually.
Shehar Bano claims these family recipes never let her down, although she never enjoyed cooking before she left her parents’ house. Your journey in the kitchen with zero experience to running a successful blog with hugely popular recipe sections is all thanks to these simple and thoughtful recipes.
“The secret of this success for a beginner like me was the recipe book I scribbled in a notebook, full of recipes from my mother’s ancestors. 18 years later I still can’t cook without this book and would be lost without it.
So here I am, finally compiling my mom’s no-fail recipes that have never failed me for my audience, whether they’re a total novice in the kitchen or a pro,” said Shehar Bano. “My family is originally from Agra, India. My paternal and maternal grandfather both immigrated to Karachi, Pakistan after partition in 1948. The grave of my maternal grandfather, Syed Haider Raza Rizvi’s great-grandfather, Mir Zamin Ali Rizvi, still stands tall in the Shahganj area of Agra.” These family recipes have traveled from Agra to Karachi and beyond, and anyone with a palette for Indian or Pakistani food will enjoy these recipes.
Shehar Bano is a certified Project Management Professional (PMP) and a software engineer by trade. A Pakistani expat living in Qatar since 2004 whose maternal instincts took over her career aspirations and she decided to abandon her high profile banking career to become a hands-on mom. She is now a mother to 3 wonderful children.
Rediscovering herself and now a speaker, author, blogger and professional photographer – a multitasking mom who shares her passion via her blog Diary of a PMP Mom. She has been identified as one of Qatar’s 30 most influential people to have impacted her community in 2019. The book is available in Qatar at Alif Bookstore, Amazon and others virsacookbook.com.