"The greatest Indian cook in Britain"Jay Rayner "The Observer"
"Cook with love. Love your cooking" Gita Mistry

Friday, 27 April 2012

Me and English Food

When I was toute petite gosse at Bradford (or as we call it “Bratford”) I wer' a dinner monitor - that is to say, it was my job to dole out school lunches to the other kids on my table. Most kids hated school dinners. I loved them.

“Ugh! Gita!” I hear you say “What’s wrong wi’ya, lass?”

Learning the art of using a knife and fork my first lesson at the age of 4, impossible so I used my dessert spoon particularly for the peas rolling around my plate to be honest I really thought eating peas with a fork was load of nonsense until I discovered mash the perfect solution for peas being eaten more easily with a fork, my primary teacher Mrs Knight who was near to retirement taught me the skill of eating  with a knife and fork and would not let me leave the table until I had mastered it. I was scared off by putting fork in my mouth - it looked dangerous! More like a garden tool. But later they came in good use for eating our weekly portion of fish and chips and of course with introduction to parsley sauce which all the Indian children loved. 

Well if you come from a Gujarati home as I did where everything was cooked fresh and to perfection and beautifully spiced, you can have too much of a good thing. Spam fritters although forbidden at home  and good old cheese pie were as exotic to me as anything out of the Auberge de lIll would be to you.

 I particularly enjoyed the puddings. Spotted dick, jam roly poly, trifle, 
lemon meringue and rice pudding with Demerara sugar and jam and parkin. 
which I took to easily all sweet and tasty, as we got nothing of the sort at home bar fresh fruit and a glass of milk after dinner . My siblings and I introduced our mum to these delicacies and even today she says “હું custard પ્રેમ” (“I love custard”).
 When I was in middle school I started cooking lessons and learned to cook cheese soufflé (which was the most delicious food I had ever tasted) and Chelsea buns.I found I had a flair food creation which excited me more than following recipes
Along with roast dinners which my father would not touch unless the meat was spiced and the gravy pepped up, never of the beef kind being a Hindu but "who really makes good vegetarian gravy" I used to say.Flat caps and beer were taken on well by Dad and Guinness by many of the  Indian woman but not my mum who neither ate meat or drank alcohol and for me the pork pie was a delight from our local butctchers which had to be hidden well away from my Dad's keen nose around the house he as he would have gone barmy and sometimes did if he saw my delight at cutting into one. I remember it well , misjudging the timings of his return home; I jumped down from the red formica table in our kitchen, having saved all my pennies for my Saturday morning treat I wanted to enjoy it, as he caught me out and entered through our front door,  I was on watch of the back door, we very rarely used the front door reserved only for guests and visitors, if the HP sauce was out... a pork pie was not far behind, so I snatched the bottle and from his sight, in his opinion even the kitchen knifes were unusealble if it had been used for pork or beef let alone eating the meat(s) only if he really knew what was being eaten at school and yummy too!

And that’s when I started cooking for others at the age of 13. On a piece of A4 paper I wrote out multiple times “Have a Gita Mistry curry in the luxury of your own home.” My first customer had a lovely curry. But he did have to wait for it because it took me 4 hours to prepare. I think I served up at 23:00.  And was it spicy? It nearly blew the more man's head off.  You could have run your lurry on it.

I’ve cooked Gita Mistry dinners in Holland, Poland, Washington, Paris, Alsace and even India.. and love creating today with what ever ingredients I have rather than following recipes, although that would not exactly work for cooking cakes and desserts as that is simply a science/formula which I found out when I wasted my mothers whole weeks egg allowance... why because we did not own weighing scales as every thing she cooked was measured by eye and judgement which has been passed down to me.  

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