The Sunshine Award – and the Indian foodies that brighten up my day

Sunshine Award

It’s snowing and the mercury is dipping faster than samosas into imli chutney at a Darjeeling Express supperclub. But I’m full of warm cheer, thanks in part to a tumbler of steaming masala chai, but mostly owing to Asma’s flattering nomination of me as worthy recipient of a Sunshine Award. Her rationale? My ‘enthusiasm for spreading the love of Indian food’, through the Culinary Adventures of The Spice Scribe and articles for The Spice Tailor, Kunda’s Kitchen, Chefs Top Table and Foodepedia.

So, in the spirit of this Award, I’m spreading the love further by recognising my own top 10 – a boutique collection of the Indian foodie folks who shine bright without fail, whatever the weather. I’m also required supply to some nuggets of personal trivia. If you’re hoping for gossip as juicy as gulab jamun, I’m afraid you’re out of luck. But nor should you find it drier than a Haldiram’s khasta samosa. With this super seven, I’ve aimed for a mixed bag of the spicy and sweet, the enlightening and entertaining – something to get your teeth into, much like the Maharashtran misal I’ve yet to try…

@TheSpiceScribe: seven super snippets:

  • I have no connection to India beyond a profound love for the food and a desire to find out what little I can about a vast cuisine in the little time I have to do so. And now, a growing network of Indian friends across the world, too.
  • I am front-of-house for Darjeeling Express supperclubs (and am occasionally allowed to perform simple tasks like spooning chutney, sprinkling sev, or cutting paneer, much to my delight).
  • You can sometimes find me dishing up dhokla or puncturing puchka with the incredible, inimitable Angus Denoon of Jhalmuri Express… And, yes, I can chat and serve chaat simultaneously.
  • I get a huge kick out of sharing foodie information and see myself as a bit of a ‘culinary cupid’. Through Twitter, I’ve hooked people up with products, restaurants, info… and sometimes just other like-minded people!
  • I love almost all mithai and have a gold glitter Tatty Devine necklace with the word on it. My favourites include pera, besan burfi, hapshi halwa, motichoor laddus, mishti doi, ghee pak and innumerable others (and I will take bribes).
  • Everytime I want to bring a little India into grey London life, I pop a Pan Pasand candy into my mouth. It tastes of temples and temptation. I often slip them into others’ possession. Check your pockets.

Kati roll

And here are my ten little rays of sunshine. Don’t come too close, you’ll get burned:

Eminent Mumbai food blogger Kalyan likes to speak of ‘Siamese twins’ who can originate from all corners of the world and don’t need to share parents. Strange circumstances and twists of fate have thrown us together. Minds have collided, and worlds are due to in just a few weeks. Suffice to say, I cannot wait until this clique clicks with a resonant and joyful sound.

Another meeting mental rather than physical. My name came up in conversation when well-travelled Marryam, food writer and critic for the Times of India, got talking to one of my editors on a press trip. It transpired she’d already encountered some of my musings and approved. I am flattered and inspired to have been (virtually) swept under this ebullient woman’s wing.

She’s already received the award, but I have to throw this one right back at her. How could I not? It’s thanks to Asma that I’m privy to the kitchen alchemy behind the scenes at Darjeeling Express. Working alongside her is inspiring, energising and always fun. Whenever I need, Asma is ready with open ears, an open heart, and open arms to give me a trademark ‘Big Hug’.

What a girl! The founder of diminutive Anglo-Indian bakery Pistachio Rose is a proper chatterbox with a ready smile… and an angel’s touch when it comes to pastry. Former Waitrose and Amazon buyer Rekha has made such a success of her business she’s just been named a Goverment ‘Start-up Entrepreneur in Residence’. The Bollywood Blondies are on her!

Pistachio Rose tart

Part of the Pataks family company so beloved to Brits, Anjali is a confirmed ‘spice queen’. She’s also a confirmed foodie and a certified wine-loving wonder-woman, and holder of a weighty WSET qualification – recognising her as an advanced oenophile. Bubbly, ever-busy, extremely fond of the colour pink; Anjali’s a real character – a character I’m really pleased to call a friend.

Meena and I are exchanging special birthday presents this year… Each other! We forged a happy friendship over Twitter and, after I missed out on her Diwali supperclub, Meena even mailed me some mithai from Edinburgh. Those cross-country comestibles cemented our companionship – as did a joint love for obscure Indian cookbooks and foodie memoirs.

Poornima is a woman after my own heart – or vice versa. Whichever is the case, we share a real relish of rice – particularly when transformed into brill biryani. With her blog, Poornima is on an edible mission; her ultimate goal to seek out the Holy Grail amongst London’s also-rans. And, in me, she’s found a willing accomplice and enthusiastic sleuth.

Jhalmuri Express Angus

The ‘Willie Wonka of Chaat’, Angus is as off-the-wall as his food is spot-on. A talented film maker, a skilled snack-wallah, and a lovely bloke to boot. Jhalmuri Express is his ‘Kolkata Street Food Experience’ – and it is every ounce what it says on the tin. From his Calcutta-commissioned signage to his sublime scoff, Angus rocks it out just the way they do in his sensational street food film.

Chrissie is the author of ‘Capital Spice‘ – a book that’s as much love note to the 21 Indian chefs she’s profiled as it is a great compendium of their London venues. When the ‘extended family’ at Cafe Spice Namaste called us ‘peas in a pod’, you could have knocked me down with a feather. Both generous and genuine, there are few peas I’d be happier to share my pod with.

The very definition of ‘sunshine’, so he’s a shoo-in for my shortlist. Arun positively exudes energy, and he boasts a Jedi-like power when it comes to transferring his positivity to all those who encounter him. His Cork-based spice company, Green Saffron, sources the finest Basmati known to mankind… and far more of mankind should make Arun’s awesome acquaintance.

And, to conclude on a bright note, a suitably sunny shot of the spectacular Neasden temple:

Neasden temple


7 responses to “The Sunshine Award – and the Indian foodies that brighten up my day

  1. Pingback: The Cinnamon Club pops to Calcutta on the Darjeeling Express | The Spice Scribe·

  2. Pingback: ‘The Bengali Five Spice Chronicles’ & the tale of the state that seduced me | The Spice Scribe·

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