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Travel the world from your kitchen

By Features Reporter

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Author of cookbook Jikoni, Ravinder Bhogal. Picture: Rahil Ahmad/PA
Author of cookbook Jikoni, Ravinder Bhogal. Picture: Rahil Ahmad/PA

Travel may be on hold at the moment but you can still explore the world through food!

“The idea of travelling through food is just such a wonderful one,” says cook, restaurateur and author of Jikoni cookbook, Ravinder Bhogal.

“It’s a wonderful way to travel without the air miles.

“Travelling is one of my greatest loves and passions. I live to travel – I’m one of those people.

"I’m really missing travel. I’m missing discovering new things and a lot of my ideas and inspirations come from my travels. I particularly love to go to Asia and to Italy a lot.”

However, the food writer, who was born in Kenya to Indian parents and moved to England aged seven, does have a manageable workaround: “Where there’s a lack of travel, there’s always food.”

During the pandemic, Bhogal and her team have been creating vegetarian and vegan meal boxes that will soon be available nationwide.

Adhering to the belief that provides the backbone of Bhogal’s food – cooking without borders, fusing and embracing the ingredients and culinary treasures of different places and traditions – the boxes feature dishes inspired by Thailand and India, East Africa, China, and more. Dishes like dhal dhokli, a sweet and sour dhal cooked with peanuts and hand rolled chickpea flour pasta; Kishmish pilau, a fragrant basmati rice cooked with plump sultanas, and crisp aubergine in Sichuan caramel.

Bhogal also finds escape through where she shops for ingredients, which the pandemic restrictions haven’t hampered: “We’re so lucky because [Britain’s] so densely diverse, and there’s always another culture to learn from,” she muses.

“I’m really inspired by a lot of Asian cookery just because a lot of my travel has happened there,” she explains, “but I think there are a lot of interesting mini-economies of immigrants in this country.” She loves discovering ingredients that she doesn’t know and learning how to cook with them.

"Often you can adapt those ingredients. You could take, for example, orange blossom water from a Middle Eastern shop and make an ice cream flavoured with it. So you take the idea of a basic vanilla ice cream and you just put orange blossom in instead of the vanilla, or you make a cream to fill doughnuts.

“I love that. I love making ingredients yours; taking something you’re familiar with and then simply transporting an ingredient into that, to make it surprising and wonderful and new.”

Jikoni: Proudly Inauthentic Recipes From An Immigrant Kitchen by Ravinder Bhogal, photography by Kristin Perers, is published by Bloomsbury, priced £26, Bloomsbury. Available now.

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