Ivor Peters – aka the Urban Rajah – will be showcasing his cooking skills at a Bollywood-themed event in Wanstead this month. Here, the chef, food author and traveller explains how Indian food unites people
I was about five years old when I was captivated by a sight I’ll never forget. I sat on my grandparents’ kitchen step and watched them perform the chapatti shuffle; it’s a dextrous move. They would shimmy their shoulders and sway their heads in unison as they flick-flacked flatbread dough between their palms, sending cartoon-sized clouds of flour into the air. Then they’d slap the flattened dough onto the hot pan and shuffle it around until it ballooned and cooked through, finally slicking each piece with a pat of butter. It was foodie heaven. I fell in love with Indian cuisine right there and then.
Decades on, as a second-generation British Asian immigrant working as a development chef, I’ve been evangelistically spreading the word about the power of Indian food and how it unites people.
Indian cuisine has been present in the UK for over 250 years, and it’s a true reflection of the country’s cultural diversity. Each dish tells a unique story, carrying the heritage, history and traditions of its origins. As we dive into Indian food, we not only savour the flavours but also immerse ourselves in the stories behind the dishes. It’s one of the reasons I wrote my cookbook, Curry Memoirs, as it fuses family stories with family recipes. Food is what brings us together; it’s the great unifier.
Spices and Indian cuisine are baked into the culture of celebrating life in the Indian subcontinent. Whether it’s Diwali, Eid, Holi or Christmas, our households come alive with the scent of delicious dishes prepared with care for loved ones. Cooking food and serving guests is an act of love that puts the needs of others before our own. The concept of ‘Atithi Devo Bhava’ (Guest is God) is deeply ingrained in South Asian culture, where guests are treated with utmost respect and warmth.
When we cook for you, it’s an expression of love, it’s deeper than food, it’s sharing life and rescuing life. It’s why I founded my modern Indian street food brand Urban Rajah. Like me, our products are born in Britain, spiced by India! We believe that food can transform lives, and one way we do this is by spotlighting the impact of modern-day slavery by partnering with NGOs such as Justice & Care. It’s estimated there are 100,000 people trapped in slavery in the UK and over 50 million globally. Our aim is to free taste buds through our food whilst helping liberate lives.
It’s this passion for food and unity which has driven me to write about food and develop menus. So, join me at Chestnut Manor Care Home this month and sample our flavours and recipes. Who knows, we may end up doing a chapatti shuffle together!
Ivor will be taking part in the Chestnut Manor Care Home open day on 28 June from 12 noon to 5pm (63 Cambridge Park, Wanstead; free; booking required). For more information, call 020 3871 6070