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Prashad proves variety is the spice of life...
When Kaushy Patel started cooking Indian snacks and sweets in her Great Horton deli, her world “started to sing”.
Based in an old launderette, the small family business, called Prashad, went on to become one of the UK’s culinary success stories.
Two years ago, when Gordon Ramsay launched a national search for exceptional restaurants, the Patels, who run Prashad, were the surprise stars of his Channel 4 show.
The vegetarian restaurant was runner-up in Ramsay’s Best Restaurant. The celebrity chef called Prashad “the smallest restaurant with the biggest heart”, declaring their food to be the best vegetarian cuisine he’d ever had.
At the heart of the family is Kaushy Patel, who established Prashad with husband Mohan 20 years ago. It soon developed into an award-winning restaurant offering traditional Gujarati and Punjabi vegetarian cuisine, and today the couple work alongside oldest son Bobby Patel and his wife Minal.
Last year, Prashad helped Bradford become the Curry Capital of Britain, and now Kaushy is one of the chefs supporting Bradford’s World Curry Festival. The event, in City Park from September 21 to 23, will feature pop-up restaurants and cookery demonstrations.
Prashad’s flavoursome Indian cuisine has won over many a carnivore. According to Kaushy’s family, she is “never happier than when feeding people” and now she has captured the Prashad experience in a lovely cookbook.
Called simply Prashad, it contains more than 100 recipes, from street food to family feasts. Mouth-watering treats include spicy peanut-marinated purple yam and potato, round aubergine satay, corn-on-the-cob and green cluster bean curry, and avocado and cardamom milkshake.
Kaushy learned to cook at her grandmother’s knee, while staying on her farm in northern India. She dedicates her book to “my grandma, Prem Ma”, and pays tribute to “her amazing food...and the gentle, encouraging way she taught her skills to me”.
Kaushy puts Prashad’s success largely down to good-quality ingredients and fresh produce; “the magic” combination she learned from Prem Ma.
“She would get up at the crack of dawn to pick vegetables and prepare ingredients for the ‘big cook’ – making enormous pots of food for the hundred-or-so workers” Kaushy recalls.
“I was fascinated, quickly got involved and found I loved to cook. At the age of seven, I took over cooking for the family while she cooked for the workers.”
Aged 14, Kaushy become engaged to her “soul mate” Mohan, the son of her mother’s friend, and moved to England to start a new life.
“So it was that I landed at Manchester Airport in October 1966, not speaking a word of English, still tearful,” she says. “I couldn’t believe how cold and dark England was, and how early the sun set!”
Kaushy landed work in a Midlands needle factory, then in 1968 she and Mohan moved to Bradford. “The Indian community was just developing and we got together with other young couples, each cooking our favourite meals,” she recalls.
“I loved cooking for my growing family and special occasions. There was scarcely a weekend when we didn’t have guests to feed, my kitchen was fast becoming my world.”
Mohan ran a garage business but wanted to try something different. In 1992, the couple bought a friend’s launderette and adjoining deli which they called Prashad, meaning ‘blessed food’.
Each page of Kaushy’s lovingly-compiled book is filled with Prashad’s flavours and fragrances, rich and delicate. She includes recipes for soups, rice and breads – from sweet and buttery lentil-filled flatbread to Gujurati jaggery bread – and pickles, chutneys and side dishes, including fenugreek, chilli and apple relish and mustard seed, curry leaf and coconut dip.
Desserts are featured, including cardamom, almond and pistachio rice pudding and coconut fudge. “We Gujuratis are known throughout India for our sweet tooth”, says Kaushy, who also offers practical tips, from washing dhals with fingertips to dry-roasting cumin seeds.
Traditional Gujurat meals involve all dishes placed on the table at once. “Crispy bhajis and pethis sit side-by-side with aromatic curries, fluffy rice and steaming flatbreads and sweet dishes, pickles and cooling raitu. Everyone helps themselves to a bit of everything, creating their own flavour combinations with each mouthful,” says Kaushy.
Her “starter” recipes include lemon and coriander potato balls, fenugreek leaf and banana bhajis, and mashed pea and cauliflower kebabs.
Many of the main dishes have their origins in traditional home cooking from Gujurat and Punjab, with “a little Kaushy twist”.
“Some were taught to me as a child by my grandmother, others were created by me here in northern England,” she says.
“Most of these recipes have one or two vegetables as their stars. Some are familiar, like aubergines, potatoes, cauliflower and mushrooms, others are the vegetables of my childhood: sweet purple yams, green cluster beans, bottle and ivy gourds, even green bananas.”
Curry recipes include aubergine and Indian broad bean, cinnamon-spice chickpea and stuffed ivy goard.
Kaushy pays tribute to Prashad’s roots with a chapter on street snacks, or nasto, found on “nearly every street corner in India”. Recipes include savoury lentil porridge, lentil dumplings with cumin yoghurt and potato and cauliflower-stuffed flatbread.
Whether inspired by a street corner of India or a family banquet, Prashad’s recipes celebrate the fresh, flavoursome food that makes Kaushy’s world sing.
Prashad is published by Saltyard Books, priced £25.