TV chef realises her dream at 53…

Indian food is one of the most popular cuisines here in the UK, but what do we actually really know about its origins and heritage? Many of us enjoy these spicy dishes that stem from the subcontinent of India, but how many people can claim to make their favourite Indian dish from scratch? If you have always wanted to learn how to cook Indian food but thought it was too difficult, then think again. To shed some light on how to cook healthy, flavoursome Indian food, we spoke to Parveen, known as The Spice Queen, whose brand-new ITV show aired in January this year. We asked her about her inspiration and why she never gave up on her dream of being a TV chef.

Where did your relationship with food and cooking begin?
My relationship with food began in my childhood. I am a child from a very large family and mealtimes were the only real chance we got to sit down after a busy day and connect with one another. There were seven of us, plus mum and dad, we were like the Asian Waltons! I now realise that my mother was an extremely passionate cook and everything she made just tasted amazing… even if it was a simple roti and daal! To mum, cooking wasn’t a chore, it was a pleasure. Even though my mum would use her own freshly roasted and ground spice mix, she would always tell me that there is one essential key ingredient that one needs to add on every dish – love. I seem to have inherited my mum’s passion for cooking and every time I cook, I can hear my mum saying, ‘now Parveen, have you added a little love?’

Tell us about your cookbook and what it means to you?
I actually wrote my very first recipe for my son when he went to university. Even though he lived a stone’s throw away from Manchester’s ‘Curry Mile’, he was missing a taste of home and missing my chicken masala. So, I wrote him a recipe and posted it to him, along with a little sachet of freshly ground spice mix. He rang me a few days later and said that it worked and tasted just like mine. Fast forward several years and after writing many more, I collated them into my first book. Many of the recipes are based on my mum’s recipes and I had personalised each one with a humorous little anecdote as an introduction. As well as personal stories, I also cooked and styled each dish, some of the styling maybe a little unconventional, but it’s very personal to me. There are so many aspects of the book that pay homage to my mum. For example, the styling of my carrot’s dessert was done on my mum’s shawl, and the mint in the mint dip recipe is from my garden, which was planted the last time we (mum and I) were at my house. My mum was so supportive when I was writing the book, but she never saw her recipes in print as she sadly passed away before I got the book deal. However, the book is dedicated to my late mum and I am sure she would have loved it – I can see her licking her henna-painted finger and turning the pages as she admired the beautiful photography, which was done with love.

What do your husband and children think of you being on national television?

I feel that my husband and my three adult children are my biggest critics but are also my biggest fans! I was quite nervous of what they thought andof how the show was going to be perceived by the public. I was quite confident about the recipes as I have been teaching on camera for 10 years, but would me and my recipes stand up to national scrutiny?

Well, my fears were unfounded as on the morning of the show, my husband and children watched the beginning of it while I nervously made breakfast in the kitchen and cleaned already clean worktops. My daughter shoutedover, ‘Mum, its brilliant, it’s just you but a slightly posh TV version of you’. I was so relieved, I then brought breakfast into the living room and sat and watched my own show with my family. It was quite surreal but at the same time, quite special. I felt really blessed to share my recipes with a TV audience and mum would have been thrilled.

PAN-FRIED TANDOORI CHICKEN

These spicy, tender tasting medallions of chicken are quick and easy to make. They are a firm favourite in my home. The best thing about this dish is that it’s ‘marination to mouth’ in just 10 minutes!

  

Cooking time: 10 minutes

Makes between 18 to 20 pieces

 

INGREDIENTS

2 chicken breasts

1 tbsp plain yoghurt

1 tsp of chilli powder

1 tsp of tandoori powder

½ tsp of coriander seed powder

2 tsp lemon juice

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp salt

METHOD

  1. Cut chicken into medallions (1cm thick), the pieces should be roughly the same size.

  1. In a large bowl, add the yoghurt, salt, lemon juice, chilli powder, coriander powder and tandoori powder and mix together – this is the marinade. Now, add chicken pieces and coat thoroughly.

  1. Heat 1 tsp of oil in a non-stick frying pan and add the chicken pieces into the pan. Add 5 or 6 pieces to the pan at one time.

  1. Cook on high heat for about 1 min on each side to seal the chicken, then a further 2 minutes on each side to make sure the chicken is cooked through.

  1. Clean the frying pan with kitchen paper between each batch of chicken and continue to cook all the chicken.

  1. Best served in warm pitta bread with a mint dip or in a wrap with a shredded lettuce and a little mayo.