India and Pakistan
I have been inspired by the recipes taught to me by my mum. Recipes that have travelled with her from her childhood in a huge Indian haveli (grand mansion), to Pakistan for her wedding in the late1950s and then to England as a young bride in the 1960s.
I grew up on so many classic dishes; Reshmi kebabs, chicken tandoori, koftas, lamb biriyani, pakoras, samosas, bhuna, korma, karahi, nihari, haleem, cholay, dahi bharey, fruit chaat, kache kebabs, daals, roast lamb chops, keema, aloo gosht, mirch ki chutni, pilau, paratha, poori, shahi tukrey, gaajar ka halwa, ras malai, kheer, mangoes – a veritable banquet every weekend!
Don’t worry if any of the above needs translating – over the coming weeks I will be putting up recipes and explaining what all these dishes are!
My parents first moved to Yorkshire in the UK where I was born. My father was the first Asian businessman in Yorkshire to import and sell spices to a growing new Asian community. In those cold grey days his shop was a beacon of colour and light, attracting customers from miles around. Being the 1960s, it was almost certainly the first Asian corner shop in England! And the whole of Huddersfield was introduced to my mum’s curries as the local ladies with beehives admired her beauty and exotic saris.
My mother Seema as a young woman in India
My parents' wedding in Pakistan
My mum in Yorkshire as a new bride
Me at 5 months with my mother
In the 1970s the family moved to London. My mum very quickly became a celebrated cook, as Asian and English families alike would flock to our family home to enjoy dinner parties. Nobody knew how she did it, but my mum had a wonderful way with curries, and she told me that it was not just the secret recipes, it was all in the technique and natural intuition. A great deal of care and attention went into the blending and slow cooking of the sauces, with time given to every stage to ensure that flavours were well developed.
Friends and family would talk about the unforgettable taste of the food, and I have very fond memories of a home full of family friends, with tables laden with every kind of curry and rice you could dream of – no fancy terms, no gimmicks, just great food cooked simply and expertly.
They all asked my mum what her secret was. It was said that she had the ‘zaika’ (taste) in her hands, which she has inherited from her mother and generations before her. I am lucky as she has passed the zaika on to me and I am honoured to continue the heritage.
My mother and grandmother in London
Surrey - The light bulb moment!
It was when I moved to Surrey seven years ago that I started to realize just how special my mum’s curries and sauces were. I could not find food like it anywhere, and certainly not in a convenient, ready to use form. I have been cooking all my life, but it was in Surrey, as I began cooking for friends, that I realised what it meant to have inherited my mum’s special instincts and intuition. And it wasn’t just my mum, in fact both my parents were real foodies and my dad made a mean dessert!
My 2nd birthday in Yorkshire
Friends have pestered me to start a food business, and after several years of development, I have said goodbye to my former career as a journalist and corporate director, to start The Art of Curry. I have done so because I want to share those wonderful traditional tastes with you, and relive those fantastic memories of amazing food cooked in the true style of the Nawabs and Moghuls across India.