Nina – The Spice Yard - Chef & Spice SommelierThe Spice Yard
My early years up to the age of 11 were spent down South, London. Back then it was a very different place. I grew up feeling very aware that I shouldn’t belong here (in the UK).
My parents had come over from Kenya in the late 60’s. Whilst the rest of the world was listening to Abba; wearing Mary Quant miniskirts; or rocking the bohemian chic look, my parents were getting to grips with the colder climate; the enclosed urban living; understanding and speaking the queens English and the general nuances of everyday British life.
I never quite knew what they had left behind, all I knew was that I was born here, and Britain was my home.
My parents held onto their culture as best as they could. My brother and I grew up eating Indian food, speaking broken Gujarati, visiting a temple once a year and being made to celebrate key events that we didn’t really understand. For me school (in the main) was a happy place. Although I didn’t understand why I couldn’t play ‘Mary’ in the Christmas play; I didn’t understand why I was the only one in my year not to get offered a place at my chosen Middle school and I certainly didn’t understand why I was that child that no-one picked to be on their team, after all I was a fast runner!
This double life was simply normal. By day I would be the most “British” I could be and by night the perfect obedient little Indian girl. Little did I realise that shame, exclusion and embarrassment had entered my world.
Every-time we left the house I would spray air freshener all over me and my clothes, desperate not to smell of my mums cooking. I wish she could have made me shepherd’s pie, or fish and chips. It isn’t that I didn’t like her cooking, I loved it, but I wanted to invite friends for tea/dinner and they already thought I smelt funny!
Fast forward 10 years and the top 10 foods in the UK included a curry! Fast forward another 10 years and curry became no 1. It was during this national transition of flavours that I, not knowingly, had a transition of my own.
My love for spices had fused together with my need and want for British food. It wasn’t about the heat but how they complimented each other. A harmony of flavours and food had grown with me.
I no longer had to compromise on what I was eating and how. I simply used culture and heritage from India and East Africa and fused it together with great British classics, but I haven’t stopped there.
I take food I like from around the world and herbs and spices from around the world and combine to give you interesting ways of using spices. I don’t have a need to belong anymore, I can experience and be part of many things all at the same time.
The need for herbs and spices has never been so great, but I feel privileged to know how to balance them and want to teach you, how to get the best out of them too.
So those “spices “ at the back of your cupboard, get them out now! Bring them to the front and start using them. Whether you are looking for new ways to cook, exciting recipes, or have turned vegan/vegetarian/on a diet and simply want inspirational food that tastes good, let me take you on that culinary journey.