Patak’s reveal the secrets from their Indian family kitchen in new cookbook

Anjali and Meena Pathak

Anjali and Meena Pathak - Credit: not Archant

Anjali Pathak learned to cook in Bolton, now she’s hoping to teach what she knows in Mumbai

Anjali and mum

Anjali and mum - Credit: not Archant

The Pathak family have done more than most to introduce quality Indian food to Britain and now Anjali Pathak is planning to open a cookery school in India.

Her grandparents arrived in Britain in the 1950s and began selling Indian sweets and snacks from their small London home before opening a grocery store near Euston Station. They eventually moved into making the products the brand is known for today and in 1984 the business moved to Lancashire, first to Haydock and then to Abram near Leigh where the Patak factory is still based (the H was dropped in the 1960s to make the name easier for British consumers to pronounce).

The brand is among the most recognisable on British supermarket shelves and their products are now stocked around the world. Now Anjali wants to enhance that international reputation by launching an academy in Mumbai, but she’s quick to add: ‘I wouldn’t dream of trying to teach how to cook my style of Indian cookery in India. I want to try my hand at teaching how to cook international food, the kinds of thing I loved learning – pasta, baking skills and other things that were so different to the food of my childhood.’

Much of that childhood was spent in the kitchen of the family’s home in Bolton learning from her grandmother Shantagaury and mum, Meena. Now Anjali, 33, wants to teach others to create impressive meals in their own homes. ‘There seems to be a lot of interest in learning to cook at home,’ she said. ‘People tend to eat out a lot in India because it is quite cheap but in recent years a lot of more expensive restaurants have opened and people are now wanting to know how to create that quality food at home.

Secrets from My Indian Family Kitchen

Secrets from My Indian Family Kitchen - Credit: not Archant

‘I’m planning somewhere in Mumbai where people could go, have fun and learn recipes. My mum is from Mumbai and it is very much a hub for good food, in the way that London, New York or Hong Kong are. They all share that passion for good food, good cooks and restaurant quality food and there are so many different cuisines to choose from.

‘It’s a difficult place to do business unless you’re based there so I will have to spend a lot of the year out there, so this is going to be a busy year for me and a very exciting one.’

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Before she sets off though, Anjali has another launch to oversee – her new cookery book which will be out in shops this month. She and Meena wrote a book in 2007 to mark the 50th anniversary of the company which contained traditional family recipes and Anjali’s latest book is similarly personal.

‘I have wanted to do a cook book for quite some, to share childhood recipes and food I knew when I was growing up in the kitchen,’ she said. ‘I loved doing the book I did with my mum. That won a Gourmand World award and that gave me the motivation to write another and the confidence that my food writing skills were good enough.

‘I’ve used pictures of me as a child and pictures of my parents as children to bring the book to life and to show how my food life has developed, and that is all down to my family. Everything in the book is spice-related, but not necessarily Indian. My style of cooking is different to my mum’s, my spice level is not as Indian as my mum’s.

‘I have used spices and techniques from all round the world. In one recipe I have used an ancient Chinese technique of steaming a whole fish over tea, and there’s an American dish [recipe over the page] for chicken cooked with beer. I have picked ideas up along the way and I wanted to use them in the book.

‘A few ideas changed along the way where I thought of better ways of doing things and there are some things in the book I would do differently if I were starting it again, just little tweaks here and there.

‘A lot of the ideas have been churning away in my mind for some time so then I spent a couple of months writing recipes and testing them on friends and family. I took all their comments on board but although I did alter a few things, most of it is how I originally planned. Food is very subjective and what tastes good to one person won’t to another, so I trusted my palate.’

The book will be launched at a supper club in Covent Garden on February 24 where Anjali will cooking recipes from the book and she is already planning her next book which will contain lighter, more summery recipes.

Anjali has clearly lost none of that entrepreneurial spirit her grandparents showed and she is thinking two or three moves ahead – once this book is launched, the Mumbai cookery school is up and running and the next book is written, she has no plans to put her feet up.

‘There are so many different avenues food and wine can take you along but I don’t think I want to go towards a restaurant, not at the moment at least, maybe later. I would love to have a television series sharing my love of cooking with the rest of the world.

‘I think most people have ten or so go-to recipes and they only branch out and do something different if they are trying to impress. I want to help broaden their horizons.’

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