Notification Settings

Subscribe to one or all notification sources from this one place.


Subscribe to our newsletter to get the day's top stories sent directly to you.

Real life: The real spice girl

Nitisha Patel is a chef who can’t live without her spices. For the 28-year-old they’re a necessity when it comes to whipping up her authentic Indian meals with a British twist.

She has already developed Tesco UK’s range of Indian ready meals and is the face of their campaign in store.

But she now has her own cookery book celebrating authentic Indian cooking inspired by her upbringing with her Gujarati parents and her siblings.

“From a young age, I’ve always been interested in food. Whether it was watching my mother cook her famous lamb curry on Sundays, helping her to make her special spice blends or watching my favourite chefs on TV, I was fascinated by the magic of cooking.

“I probably started cooking when I was six. I remember frying tomatoes and my mother asking ‘what are you doing?’ because I was just making a mess but I loved to experiment.

“Curiosity took over and I started to cook new and exciting dishes at home in my mother’s kitchen,” explains Nitisha, who says her biggest influences are her mother Ramiala and grandmother Valibenk, describing their food as ‘the best in the world’.

She says her style of cooking is a fusion of traditional Indian flavours, her classical training and British favourites such as her masala roasted leg of lamb and sagar’s masala fish pie.

“I’m a British girl so I love my roast dinners. The lamb recipe just evolved because I put a masala marinade on the meat. It’s a great centrepiece for a meal but at the same time, it’s also quite rustic,” says Nitisha, a former pupil of Highfields School in Wolverhampton.

“I couldn’t live without my spices – my collection is a necessity whenever I cook. I’m also a big lover of grilled meats and seafood. I love mixed grills.

“There is a great satisfaction in starting off with raw ingredients and turning them into something that can be both beautiful and delicious. I find cooking very therapeutic too and there’s a lot of satisfaction in feeding people and sharing good, healthy food. I also get to tap into my creative side,” she adds.

After studying for a degree in culinary arts management at University College Birmingham, she worked as a head chef for Midland Heart overseeing catering in their kitchen, restaurant and coffee shop before moving into food development to give herself a greater, creative challenge.

“It was the chance to experiment and try out my own ideas and recipes. If you go into the ready meal aisle in any Tesco my picture is there, which is still strange,” says Nitisha, who now works as an independent food consultant.

But her dream has always been to produce her own book to reflect both her love of food and her heritage.

It was a labour of love for three years while she created, practised and perfected her recipes before anxiously sending off a proposal to a variety of different publishers.

“I contacted 400 publishers and had 399 rejections but fortunately one liked the concept. I had to send in a manuscript with six recipes.


“I also included a chapter on myself and an index of spices where I walked the readers through the different spices and how to layer them which is something a lot of people may not understand,” she explains.

Nitisha went on to perfect more than 60 recipes for her book My Indian Kitchen, which includes ideas for street food and snacks, curries, feasts, vegetarian dishes as well lightly spiced, often fruity desserts.

They are a mouth-watering array foolproof dishes from tandoori spatchcock poussin and hariyali Salmon to sweet treats such as raspberry ripple and elderflower shrikand and pistachio and rose water ice cream.

Every recipe was taste-tested at her family home in Wolverhampton where her parents and siblings were more than happy to help.

“I had to trial every recipe three times to make sure it was just right – my family never went hungry. I sent all of my recipes to the publisher and all those piles of papers have been turned into this amazing book, It looks perfect and just how I wanted it to look.”

In her book, she talks about changing habits and a resurgence in home cooking. Nitisha says her recipes aim to guide people to produce ‘authentic meals, most of which won’t take as long as a curry to cook but will still deliver the same flavour punch’.

“In my opinion, long gone are the days where the average couple will order a curry and pilau rice takeaway on a Friday night. With so many celebrity chefs and foodie shows on TV, most people prefer to cook their own food,” says Nitisha.

Now she’s starting work on her second book which will focus on Indian superfoods. “The superfood industry is really big at the moment and I see it getting bigger and bigger as people want to eat healthier.

“Indian food is inherently healthy but some people think it’s not because they might have gone to a restaurant or had a takeaway where there is a lot of oil or cream used.

“I want to put Indian food on the culinary map for the right reasons,” she explains.

Following the success of her book launch in March, which has seen copies bought not just in the UK but also as far away as Canada and Australia, Nitisha has another reason to celebrate after being nominated in the Rising Star category of The Midlands Food, Drink and Hospitality Awards.

She is now keeping her fingers crossed ahead of the ceremony at Edgbaston Stadium in Birmingham on June 26.

“It’s very exciting and I’m so honoured to have been nominated. I’m so pleased with the support I’ve had from my family and friends and everyone who has bought the book so far, it’s been fantastic.”

l My Indian Kitchen, published by Ryland Peters & Small, is available from WHSmith, Waterstones and Amazon.

l Follow Nitisha’s culinary adventures on social media: Twitter: Chef_Nitisha Facebook: Mymodernindiankitchen

Heather Large

Most Read

Most Read

Top Stories

More from the Shropshire Star

UK & International News