EVERY time I go to the Highlands, I come back feeling like I have left a small part of my heart behind. I blame the expansive beauty of the landscape and the sense of freedom from city life. There is no place I’d rather build my ultimate home, but most of all, that dream kitchen – my perfect reverie.

When I bought my place in Glasgow, I fell in love with the area and the house – but newer kitchens are smaller than those built in a bygone era, at a time when the kitchen was the heart of the home. Somewhere along the way of modernism and convenience, the kitchen became the smallest room of the home, and no longer was the centre of family life, where everyone cooked, ate and gathered. Slowly, kitchens became places to heat up tinned food or cook quick meals.

Now, however, there seems be a shift back to bigger family-style kitchens, many of which boast all the modern equipment known to humankind. I am happy with space and a simple kitchen, much like the ones I cooked in back in Pakistan. Growing up, my food memories began in the kitchen with my mother or grandmothers. My Dadi’s (paternal grandmother) kitchen boasted a simple concrete counter-top, basic working wooden cabinets, and an outside part which served as the spice grinding and blending area, and where vegetables were washed fresh from the garden. There was nothing extravagant about her kitchen. On entering it, you were always greeted with the jarring whistle of the pressure cooker, steam rising from a slow-cooked daal and the tawa (flat griddle) hot and ready for an assembly line of flat breads. This is my idea of a perfect working kitchen. It was special because of the collective love of all my aunts and grandmother, who would cook meals together, each with a job to do. We would then sit together as a family, eat and laugh. The kitchen is the place were you nurture your family with food cooked using your hands and precious time. So though I love my current kitchen, I know that one day I want that massive version, with high ceilings, a Highland view and a large cast iron range.

For inspiration, I visited Anja Baak, who lives in a converted farmhouse near Spean Bridge. She moved there from the Netherlands with her husband and six children several years ago, aiming to settle down and start a business. After many years of hard work their venison charcuterie venture, Great Glen Game, is an award-winning business. Anja and I have kept in touch over the years and it was lovely to catch up over a coffee in her kitchen. Clearly the heart of the home, the room has a large rustic farm-table on the side and simple wooden cabinets painted in my favourite shade of teal.

I love the way that Anja has brought a little of her homeland into their kitchen using traditional Dutch antique tiles on the walls. The farmhouse kitchen is much like the one she had in her family home growing up.

Filled with natural light, it’s a real celebration of produce and family and as I left, I realised that this is exactly the kind of kitchen I hope to have one day. A place close to transport links, so catching up with family is never an issue, but where I can write books away from the hustle of city life.

I can’t wait for the day I have this space, where my daughter can visit, friends can gather around that farm house table over pots filled with spice and home cooked comfort and a lot of laughter. But until then, I will enjoy city life and a smaller kitchen. It is perfect for now.

Classic Dutch Pea Soup

This is a traditional Dutch pea and ham soup. In the Netherlands they would use smoked sausage, but Anja adds their venison chorizo: my favourite Great Glen Game product. If you are vegetarian or don’t eat pork, you can omit all the meat parts, and try substituting a little smoked paprika for a smoky flavour.

500 grams dried split peas

200 grams carrot

200 grams onion

200 grams leek (white and light green part only)

200 grams potatoes

200 grams celeriac

500 grams pork ribs (or other pork with bones)

100 grams raw bacon

250 grams smoked venison chorizo

2-3 tbsp chopped celery leaves

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Soak the meat, remove any blood, then place in a large pot and add two litres of cold water. Bring to a boil and then turn down heat to simmer for an hour, uncovered.

Add the split peas and boil. Cook for just over an hour until peas are soft, stir and don't let them stick to the bottom of the pan.

Chop all the vegetables and take out meat from the pot. Remove all the bones and fatty bits and pop back into pot. Add vegetables and cook for 30 minutes, stirring.

Chop celery stalks and stir into the pot. Season. Take the soup off the hob, force-cool it over a sink filled with ice and cold water. This is important to prevent the soup from turning sour. Refrigerate overnight. To serve, reheat and serve topped with sliced venison chorizo.