Peter Gor­don in Last Bites

The Ur­ban Ra­jah on the power of beet­root and giv­ing in to your sweet tooth

The Guardian - Cook - - Front Page - Ur­ban Ra­jah’s Spice Academy Mas­ter­class will run on 27 March at School of Wok, Covent Gar­den, Lon­don; ur­ban­ra­

My kitchen is … in­cred­i­bly tidy. Spices, knives – ev­ery­thing is or­dered. I need to know where ev­ery­thing is, and there are cer­tain things I’ll al­ways have to hand – co­rian­der, fen­nel and car­damom seeds.

My favourite kitchen tool is … My tawa – a kind of rim­less fry­ing pan that I use to toast cha­p­atis, wraps and pitta. There’s noth­ing like a hot cha­p­ati.

My store­cup­board sta­ple is … gram flour. I’m never with­out it. And car­damom pow­der. I’ll of­ten make my young son a lassi with al­monds, pis­ta­chios, milk and car­damom pow­der. But he never gets close to it – I’ve al­ways fin­ished it be­fore he sees it.

When I’m starv­ing I … head for my own sea­sonal hum­mus. I al­ways have chick­peas in the house.

My culi­nary in­spi­ra­tion is … my fam­ily. I grew up around fab­u­lous food. Travel is also a big in­flu­ence. Re­cently, I’ve been de­vel­op­ing recipes in­spired by South African game I sam­pled last year. I’ve been play­ing around with os­trich fil­lets paired with In­dian spices – lime, cumin seeds, co­rian­der seeds...

My best-kept kitchen se­cret is … the power of beet­root. Most of the time, the red hue of a tan­doori mari­nade is achieved through food colour­ing. I’ve taken to us­ing beet­root pow­der in­stead, which gives the right colour, and lends a nat­u­ral earthy sweet­ness to the mix. I also use it in my mango lassi – it takes on a peach melba ap­pear­ance.

My cur­rent ob­ses­sion is … chaat masala, a spice blend made with black salt, which has this pun­gency and is so ver­sa­tile. It works well as a rub or when mak­ing fries, but also naked – scat­tered on a salad with a squeeze of lemon.

Ev­ery­thing tastes bet­ter with … sto­ries. Food is al­ways best when it’s shared, and the story of the dish, the recipe, where the in­gre­di­ents have come from or the story of the per­son who’s cooked it is shared.

When I go shop­ping I … pre­fer eth­nic or in­de­pen­dent gro­cers to the su­per­mar­ket. I’ve just come across Pak­istani car­rots, which are bright crim­son in colour. I’m al­ways ex­cited by the po­ten­tial of try­ing some­thing dif­fer­ent.

For din­ner tonight … I’m mak­ing a mango and car­damom-essence par­fait. My lit­tle boy adores ice-cream, and so do I. My tooth gets sweeter the older I get, and I’ve given in.

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