Once upon a time the idea of deviating from any traditional British dish with the addition of chillies, cumin or coriander would have been completely unheard of. Spices were something that Brits feared, associating spice purely with heat and not understanding the depth of flavour that could be created by adding a few to a dish.
This has changed drastically over the last decade with Brits now far more eager to try new things, experiment with their cooking and create dishes from across the globe. Our new found love for exotic spices can be seen everywhere, from the huge increase in cookery books from all around the world, to the variety of exotic herbs and spices becoming readily available in mainstream supermarkets.
In addition to this, there’s been a wealth of new, independent spice producers setting up online shops and turning a decent profit.
It is also thanks to this new demand for exotic dishes that I have been able to set up both my restaurants, Mr Todiwala’s Kitchen and Café Spice Namaste to meet the demands of my own customers, hungry for a taste of our innovative Indian cuisine.
In my role as a professional chef I often find myself working at various food festivals across the nation and cooking on TV shows like Saturday Kitchen. It is here that I find a large majority of the questions asked, by both the guests and those who call in to the show, are to do with spices and how to incorporate them into their cooking. As a nation, we’ve become curious about spice – but why the sudden shift?
For me, I think a lot of it comes from inspiration. Britain has become more multicultural than ever with so many different communities existing close to one another. This is how recipes are shared and adapted into exciting new dishes to try. We have so much cooking inspiration right at our fingertips that we can use to make delicious dishes from all over the world. Whether taking inspiration from various TV chefs like fellow spice man Tony Singh, Atul Kochar and Vivek Singh or looking at cookery books, listening to podcasts, reading online blogs and browsing social media, everywhere you go there is inspiration.
Previously, people were scared to use spices in their cooking, assuming that spicy meant heat. Now, Brits are understanding the depth of flavour that cooking with herbs and spices gives a dish that doesn’t necessarily mean heat. For example, coriander, cumin, garam masala and cinnamon all help bring vibrancy to a recipe without making them hot. From research and experimenting, people are trying new things, finding what they like and then sharing it with one another. This is what cooking is all about.
I for one am thrilled to see the UK moving towards becoming more exotic in the kitchen. This is a prominent theme in Quality Meat Scotland’s recent Go Places with Pork campaign which encourages Scots to be more adventurous with their midweek meals by providing a variety of delicious and exotic recipes, from across the world.
Just as with spices, a lot of people are apprehensive to cook with pork as they’re unsure what to do with it. This is a huge waste as in the UK we have some of the best pork in the world, and some amazing breeds which we need to support and nurture, particularly Specially Selected Pork which comes from quality assured farms that guarantee traceability and incredible flavour.
Some of the most loved dishes on our menu at Cafe Spice Namaste are Specially Selected Pork dishes, like our pork vindaloo, which is a hit with customers looking to balance spice with flavour. This just goes to show that people do love to eat pork- they just don’t always know how to cook it properly. Fortunately, Go Places with Pork has some fantastically simple recipes to get consumers into the kitchen to make some of their favourite dishes from around the world at home.
For more information about Go Places with Pork visit www.qmscotland.co.uk and for recipe videos and inspiration visit www.scotchkitchen.com
Cyrus Todiwala OBE DL, Mr Todiwala’s Kitchen and Cafe Spice Namaste London.