When I was contacted by Zulfi Karim, a passionate Curry advocate, founder of the World Curry Festival and Bradford boy, who requested me to appear at the World Curry Festival, I was rather intrigued by a festival celebrating curry – I wasn’t too sure whether I wanted to be involved until the first time I spoke to Zulfi. Once I heard of his endearing mission to dispel misconceptions and generalisation about curry, I just had to accept to attend and be a part of a panel of celebrated Asian food personalities. Anyone on a mission to clear up misconceptions has my vote and support. Zulfi is a humble man who is involved in many non-profit endeavours, this Festival being one of them promoting Youth and homeless projects.
With an opportunity to represent my heritage Pakistani cuisine in a fesitval that celebrates a dish that not only defines my cuisine but also is part of the culinary fabric of this country. This was a chance to meet other curry, spice and comfort food lovers who believe that bringing family and friends togther to bread is a human connection that should never be lost, as other traditions melt away in this modern world. Curry celebrates togetherness, family values and culture and heritage and is an integral part of those societies that consume this hearty dish.
Bradford was one of those cities I had always heard to be a city home to many British Asian and booming with authentic curry culture, namely that of Punjab – I was interested to be here and meet and savour the flavours on offer. The Festival was in Centenary Square and upon my arrival I was greeted with smoky aromas reminicent of a Lahori food street, the heart pumping Dhool sounds from the concert by Panjabi MC and the sweet essence of Falooda, a Pakistani ice cream float, that lured me away from the music to a quiet corner where I relished this pink cold mush which took me home to hot summers under the mango trees, slurping up every spoonful of the Kulfi mixed with rice flour noodles, Thukh Malanga (soaked Sweet Basil seeds) and Rooh Afza, bringing back memories of the rosy drink that stained our lips a poppy red and filled our tummy with sugary delight. I found I was there for a second….
The Festival’s greatest highlight was of course the appearance chef Hemant Oberoi, the Grand Master Chef of the Taj Group of Hotels, Mumbai – A man who has cooked for Heads of State, Hollywood and Bollywood stars and heads up all the Groups culinary operations worldwide – though never have I met a man more humble, inpiring and authentic in his words, ideals and food philosophy. It it men like him that make you believe that the road to success in the food world is not always reached by sycophancy and unoriginal ideas. Chef Oberoi gives one like myself hope – he believes in never losing heritage recipes, always staying true to one’s authentic cuisine no matter how much you modernise concepts and most of all bringing back lost traditions. (See YouTube video below for a snippet of my appearance with Chef Oberoi on stage)
My demo appearance was on Saturday where I presented a live cooking demo to an audience of about 80 people, cooking my Rose Petal Garam Masala Lamb Chops and speaking of my passion for Pakistani cuisine – how it’s different from other South Asian ones, and how it has developed in the past 70 years. I also spoke of my soon to be launched Masala Monsoon Floral Garam Masala brand and used my Rose Petal Garam Masala in the recipe. However, the greatest highlight of my festival appearance was my impromptu co-presentation on Sunday with Chef Oberoi, as he cooked two quick curry dishes while we had a casual banter about Pakistani and Indian cuisine, cricket and staying true to authenticity in recipes. An honour and a privilege – this weekend was definitely one to remember, with fantastic food, produce and kitchen help from The Cooking School, Halifax . There is talk for the World Curry Festival 2014 to maybe appear in Glasgow, Scotland, the ‘real‘ curry capital of the U.K.! I hope to be involved again too…hint hint Zulfi!
Some exibitors worthy of mention are Mr. Solly’s and Hasan’s Resturant – who contributed beautiful fresh produce and real Lahore chicken tikka in naans repsectively. I returned home to London armed with Chef Oberoi’s beautiful cookbook called The Masala Art, signed with inspirational and kind words and a fervour for curry that I didn’t realise exisited within me!