“Just add a bit of this, Lata, then add a bit of that.”
My mother never used a recipe.
One of my earliest memories is hopping up on the kitchen worktop to watch her as she cooked. She produced amazing food for us all from the vast recipe repository in her mind—to her, cooking was as instinctive as breathing. As I grew up, she would spend hours in the kitchen cooking for us all, and I was usually to be found perched on top of the kitchen table, watching what she was doing. One of the first dishes I made was paneer pakora, a type of Indian snack, and seeing the joy on everyone’s faces as they ate them is a memory I treasure.
My roots have strongly influenced what and how I cook. My upbringing has made me who I am today, and I’m eternally grateful to my parents for teaching me not only how to cook but also all about my heritage. On our regular visits to Nani and Nana in India, I fell in love with an Indian street food called pani puri, which we used to eat in the street outside the cinema before going to watch the latest Bollywood film. They’re still one of my favourite foods today. Visits to India took us all over the country, staying with relatives. I still have the notebook that contains many original family recipes in Hindi, which I carefully copied from my cousin’s cookery book over the course of a long hot summer.
Today, I cook for friends and family. I make an occasion out of every meal, carefully thinking about what dishes go together and considering how to serve each dish so it adds to the overall experience. It doesn’t always need to be complicated. Adding in new twists and flavours can be a game changer.
I hope you enjoy my recipes. They were created with love.