Kids Corner


For The Love of Punjabi Food:
Manjit's Kitchen





Manjit Kaur grew up in Leeds, England, part of a large Sikh-Briton family for which cooking and eating were at the heart of every gathering.

From the age of six she was taught to cook Punjabi food by her grandmother Pritam Kaur, starting with rotis and a lentil daal.

‘She taught me to cook when she looked after us while my parents worked,’ Manjit, 33, now a chef and the founder of Manjit’s Kitchen, says. ‘I was playing with aatta -- roti dough -- before I could walk.’

She had the idea for Manjit’s Kitchen when she was made redundant from her customer services job at a lens-manufacturing company.

‘I thought, “Why don’t I do something I love?” and the obvious thing was cooking. I’m vegetarian, and when we went out to eat as a family there was never much on the menu that I could eat. I believed vegetarian food could be done better.’

As a single mother to Sanjay, now 16, she had no money to spare, so she decided to cook dishes for home delivery from her own kitchen every Friday and Saturday night.

She launched the business in October 2010.

‘I asked on Twitter, “Who would like home-cooked Punjabi-style food delivered to their door?” The response was encouraging.’ Customers ordered a day in advance from a short menu and were given half-hour time slots for deliveries, which Manjit did with help from friends. She took about 20 big orders per night, making ‘more than a part-time wage’.

In 2011 Manjit was invited to cook at an event, the local Oakwood farmers’ market, and shortly afterwards she was asked to her first festival, Small Nations, in Wales, which prompted her to focus on street food. By the end of the year she had cooked at 15 festivals and stopped the home deliveries.

In 2012 she was a finalist in the British Street Food awards for her Bunny Chow, a hollowed-out bread roll filled with chickpea curry, and her Masala Chai, spiced tea sweetened with palm sugar. Last year she was ‘highly recommended’ at the Young British Foodies awards.

Now she cooks at two events per month (one every weekend in the summer). ‘Good days bring us over £1,000,’ she says. She recently finished a six-week stint at Trinity Kitchen, a series of food-van residencies in Leeds, where she made more than 700 rotis a week.

Manjit’s signature dish is a chilli-paneer wrap.

‘I add ginger, garlic and spices to the paneer and serve it in a roti with a tamarind sauce, mint chutney and a squirt of lime.’

She buys vegetables from Leeds market, and gets other ingredients from her uncle’s grocer shop in Harehills. ‘My grandmother taught us to make the most out of not much; we wasted little. I still have that instinct.’

Manjit stands out from the street-food crowd by often pairing her Punjabi flavours with reggae music at Stir It Up nights (her husband, Michael Jameson, whom she met at the end of 2010, is known as DJ Emjay).

In April she is organising her second two-day Amazing Graze festival with Left Bank Leeds, combining live music and street food in a former church. The first was a success and Manjit aims to take it to other British cities.

‘It comes back to bringing everyone together. With food and music you get a great atmosphere; it’s the whole package.’

[Courtesy: The Telegraph. Edited for]
March 22, 2014

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Manjit's Kitchen"

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