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Ravinder Bhogal’s curry secrets

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Cookbook author, chef and owner of London’s Jikoni restaurant shares her insights about curry-making via the Good Food podcast.

The word 'curry' is a British word that came from a South Indian word, kari.

If you went to India, you wouldn’t find a curry, just lots of different regional dishes that make up what the British think of as a curry.


Jikoni means kitchen in Swahili, which is part of my heritage.

We try to cook the food of people who have the ache for what they’ve left behind, but also the wonder of their new landscape. I have East African influences, Indian and Persian influences – because my North Indian heritage, sort of, takes from Persia, too – and British influences. We just celebrate the diversity of what makes Britain great, which is great immigrant communities. It could be Polish perogies (dumplings) filled with freshly made paneer, an Indian cottage cheese. Or, I might go to Portugal or work with someone from Portugal, who then inspires our menu.

Spices in my cookery are the backbone of everything I do.

I often think that without spices, my food would be like elevator music, very one-tonal. Spices are what give food its layers. You have to really understand and respect each spice, and know its properties and how to use it. If you dry-roast something, if you grind it, if you use it whole, if you pop it in oil, it takes on a different personality.

I was born in Kenya and came to Britain when I was seven. As an immigrant, you’re supporting all the mini economies of immigrants around you. Whether you’re shopping in the Chinese, Turkish or Indian supermarket, you’re picking up ideas from everywhere. You’re preserving your own heritage
but overlaying it with all these wonderful things available to you.

I think people can get so hung up on ‘authentic’.

I’m not so interested in that. The question I ask is, ‘what makes it taste better?’. If adding a dash of soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce to something, or putting in a little secret ingredient accentuates the umami, I think that’s fine.

We have a Punjabi trick to thicken a sauce in the way the British use cornflour: we use polenta.

For example, we cook turnips in water and turmeric until they’re completely falling apart. The turnips have a lot of water in them, so we add them to a mixture of spices, then slowly add polenta, a handful at a time. We keep stirring and cooking, and the polenta thickens it up beautifully.

serving of channa bhatura a chickpea dish by Ravinder Bhogal

Find Ravinder’s channa bhatura recipe here


Get top tips from Tom Kerridge and the BBC Good Food cookery team with our Good Food Podcast. Available to listen to at bbcgoodfood. com/podcasts, or download from Acast, Spotify, iTunes and podcast streaming services.

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