Asma Khan, proprietor of Darjeeling Express restaurant in London’s Kingly Court in Soho, arrived in the UK from Kolkata in 1991.
She found cooking the cuisine from her homeland the only way to allay homesickness, a passion she now shares through the food of her restaurant, which opened last year.
Asma’s Indian Kitchen is the latest way Khan is sharing her family recipes – culinary traditions from the royal Mughal courts of her ancestors – and preserving the dishes that were passed down orally through the families who cooked for India’s royalty.
Dishes are simple and intended for the home cook, but can provide a window into a specific type of Indian cuisine that British chefs may never have encountered before and may enjoy exploring, particularly considering the increasing awareness of and demand for spice and globally influenced dishes. The section on family feasts, as it suggests, could easily be scaled up to cater for more covers, and there are plenty of vegetarian options for chefs seeking to increase their meat-free menu options.
The book has just three other sections: feasts for two, feasting with friends, and celebratory feasts. “There is no reason why each and every meal should not be a feast fit for royalty,” writes Khan in the introduction of the book, which is peppered with personal anecdotes and illustrated with beautiful photographs of Kolkata taken by Ming Tang-Evans.
Recipes include Bengali fish curries and kali dal with black lentils, keema sua palao (mince with dill and rice), a carrot halwa dessert, and drinks such as gulab lassi with rose essence.
Fans of the restaurant will be pleased to know a few of the sides from the menu feature, including Darjeeling Express’ bestselling puris, aloo dam, matter pulao and kachumber salad.
Darjeeling Express started life as a supper club in Khan’s home, an ambience that she looks to recreate in her restaurant, and Asma’s Indian Kitchen is a natural extension of that: of her love of food and how it can bring people together, something that many chefs aspire to.
Asma’s Indian Kitchen, By Asma Khan (Pavilion Books, £20)
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