I have always been amazed at the power that great food has to bring friends and family together, to eat, laugh and enjoy each other’s company.
As a little girl, there was nothing like the incredible nutty aroma of butter and the amazing waft of spices drifting in through my window on a winter morning. Even though it was cold, I used to open my small bedroom window, just so that I could hear my Dad singing the Tom Jones hit ‘Green Green Grass of Home’.
Dad would wake up before everyone else on a Sunday. He used to start his day by preparing all the brunch ingredients. He would boil the potatoes, heat the warming spices, grate the ginger, chop the pickled green chillies, and have the Indian pickling spices and ginger to hand.
My Mum used to have loads of home-made Indian pickles stacked across the pantry shelf, which my Dad had especially put up for her. The jars that held the pickles were old sweet jars from Mr Mahi's, our local newsagent in Southall. My favourite was always carrot and green chilli pickle.
The paratha is a famous Indian food, commonly eaten for brunch or breakfast. There are all kinds of filling permutations for a stuffed paratha. My favourites have always been either aloo paratha or a paratha stuffed with fresh fenugreek and cauliflower.
Dad would start the cooking process at about 9.30am. There were 8 siblings in our house. So by the time we all sat around the table, it was usually well after 11am. Everyone in the house would get their allocated jobs, which had to be completed before our big brunch.
Our Sunday morning brunch table always used to feature a huge pot of creamy homemade yogurt, and a choice of the many pickles that my Mum made. I can still remember really clearly how much we all used to love this family Sunday brunch, and the sheer chaos and laughter around our table.
My Dad also made aloo parathas for the Queen’s Silver Jubilee street party in 1977. I was sceptical when he unveiled his grand plan for the street party, with the parathas to be cooked fresh in the front garden using a huge tawa (large flat Indian frying pan). Everyone else on the street was serving traditional fare - cheese and cucumber sandwiches, bowls of Hula Hoops and iced gems.
Within an hour we had a long, winding queue for Dad’s aloo parathas, which people used to remind me of for years afterwards, as their highlight of the street party.
I still make aloo parathas on Sundays for my family. I first introduced them to Andy, my husband, when we first met, and he is a huge fan. They are at their most delicious smothered in butter and served straight off the hot tawa. They are popular across the Punjab, and are easily prepared at home as the recipe uses ingredients that are found in every Indian kitchen.
I have founded my own traditional Indian food company – Anjula Devi. I am constantly amazed at the response I get when we make parathas of any kind in my Indian cooking lessons. Also, whenever I cater for small and large events, and people are looking for something different, I often have aloo parathas on the menu. They always taste great, so everyone loves them.