Behind the Scenes of a Pop-Up

Chef Priya & Chef James ; Photo credit by Jodie Humphies 

Behind the scenes of my pop-up events, there is lots that happens, and a lot of preparation is needed for a big event like this. As chef and host isn’t my trained profession it’s all still very new to me,  and while I still have so much to learn, I feel that it’s going in the right direction of the dream I had in mind.

It all starts with a date in the diary and then a well thought-out menu. I spend lots of time researching how to present and plate the food, I dig deep in to my life drawing from recipes that I have been brought up on. They are not dishes like rogan josh, baltis or jalfrezi. Those dishes have been developed to adapt for the western palate and vernacular. The recipes I do select, I am often hesitant about, as I don’t want to scare my guests by giving them something too unfamiliar. So to help my guests and patrons get used to these new flavours and textures, I introduce them slowly via the tasting menu which has a variety of eight dishes.

In between setting the date of the event; recipes are tested and presentation ideas are tried. The night only goes to plan if I have prepared and preparation is KEY which means I often start working up to three days in advance. Cooking for 35 people is never easy, so it helps if I cook the sauces and dips ahead of time, I can also cut vegetables and make the starters like samosas that take more than 6 hours to prepare.

My meats are always brought fresh on the day of the pop-up from a local supplier called Gorden stores in Maidenhead. They are an Asian food specialist store that supplies meat and a range of Asian goods to local restaurants. The meat I use is halal, that has been cut and cleaned, removing all the fats and unwanted bits. Once I get in the kitchen of the Pinkneys Arms, I have to settle in by arranging my spices and produce. If they’re not within arm’s reach, it will result in wasted time in the kitchen. I then set my god statue – Lord Ganesh on the side; he is my good fortune ‘The Remover of Obstacles, and The Deity of Good Fortune’. He looks over me and makes my night go well. Don’t get me wrong, as any cook knows –  things can go wrong in the kitchen, but having inner faith of god and spirit guides always helps.

 

It all gets under way from 3.30pm onward for the dishes to be ready on time for 7.30pm service. There’s lots pans on the hob and I’ve learnt over time, that multi-tasking is what a woman knows how to do best and has been ingrained in me since I was a child. The first thing I had to learn when I was a child from the age of 11, was how to make chapattis which may not have been a bad thing because now as an adult, as soon as I’m around food, I know what to do, and I’m in my comfort zone.

I have a chef who helps me in the kitchen; James Smith. He has years of experience in the culinary world and having him there to guide me toward service time, puts my nerves to ease. Serving 35 customers is never easy, one dish after another. This is when my adrenaline kicks in and I forget all the aches and pains in my body, the lack of sleep for the last three days and I get into the zone! Usually with a glass of Malbec in my hand.

 

From serving up amuse-bouche to desserts – time goes super-fast! Serving eight dishes is madness and every time I ask “why do I do this to myself?”  The answer is that I have a love of food and, truth be told,  I’m a feeder. I naturally love feeding my friends and family and an absolute love feeding my customers. It gives me a sense of belonging and value, and it showcases my heritage. Doing this opens me as a person. During the night I greet my guests and in between service and I love getting feedback on how I can make things better, but even more, I love hear the customers tell me how much they LOVED THE FOOD. One quote that still resonates with me is “It’s better than Sindu’s”  – which is owned by Chef Atul Kochhar. It’s wonderful to receive their appreciation and in the end it proves to be a terrifically satisfying experience every time.

Hearing the voices and laugher from the restaurant warms my heart and unbelievably they are all there to support my business. So here’s to YOU for supporting me in my culinary journey!

But my night doesn’t stop there, clearing up is not my favourite thing in the world. Nor is it for chef James. But we both get on and do it with the help of the pot washers and staff. After the kitchen is spotless, James and I can relax with another glass of Malbec and a beer – a drink well deserved! Thank you James You are my hero!

Thereafter I am a walking zombie until I finally get my energy back! I’m already dreaming about the next pop up – so stay tuned…

January Pop-Up Menu Revealed

 

The eight course menu for my January pop-up is inspired by looking deep into my heritage and picking out what reminds me of my childhood. The food I grew up on was mainly vegetarian and vegan, but some of theses dishes are not so well known in British culture and I didn’t want to frighten anyone away by preparing a feast of dishes that are completely new and unfamiliar.

The first dish on the menu is called ‘Khandvi. Khandvi is the Hindi name of the dish, but in Gujarat the dish is called ‘Patuli’ – which is guaranteed to tantalise your taste buds and leave you wanting more. It’s a traditional Gujarati snack prepared with gram flour and yogurt, seasoned with sautéed sesame seeds and spices including cumin, mustard, curry leaves, coriander and coconut. It comes served with my favourite dipping sauce – coriander chutney.

Within the menu, I will include some of my classic and most beloved takeaway dishes, but elevated with refined touches to exceed all expectations; such as chicken tikka, and lamb biryani & aubergine & pea curry and to bring a touch of elegance and luxury to the event, I will also present my king prawn dish and spiced scallops. The meal will end with the British classic Eaton mess with an Indian twist – of course!

The menu has a British slant to all the flavours and will be plated beautifully to ensure that all guests experience nothing short of pure culinary delight. The night will end on a high, talking with all my guests and making sure they are happy and full with a lovely class of Malbec in my hand!

 

January Pop-Up at Pinkney’s Arms

Miss out on a ticket for 2019’s first pop-up at the delightful Pinkney’s Arms? To be sure you don’t miss the boat again, sign up to my newsletter where you’ll be the first to find out about my next pop-up.

For those who did get tickets, I look forward to seeing you on January 29th for an 8-course feast of Indian specialities from the Gujarat region.

Keep your eyes peeled for the menu details which will follow soon, and if you missed out, don’t despair, you can always order a smaller feast for a party at home with my take-away service that operate twice a week. To order your take-away, sign up to the private group on my Facebook page.

Pinkney’s Arms Diwali Pop-Up

For the Diwali pop-up menu at The Pinkney’s Arms on November 7th, I have chosen my menu from a combination of ideas; going back to my roots, takeaway night favourites at Priya’s Kitchen and observing the Gujarati dishes that are popular around the nation. Pub manager Ian Norman insisted on pani puri for starters; an iconic street food and a great way to start a meal with a burst of flavours and a hint of what’s to come. These were followed by vegetable samosa chaat, served with crispy noodles and a selection of sauces.

 

 

 

For mains, mutton curry has that Sunday night feel, comfort-food for the soul and dhansak, ranks as one of the nations favourite dish, combined with some elements of Persian flavour we created something quite unique. The day after Diwali, Indian New Year’s Day is celebrated and most Indian houses will cook pan fried Masala fish. Sides included chilli paneer in a tomato-based sauce rich with Indian and Chinese spices, tarka daal, chapattis and steamed rice.

 

 

 

Mango Shrikhand is one of my favourite Indian desserts which is made with hung Greek yoghurt, mango puree, pistachios, saffron and almond. I loved working in the professional kitchen at Pinkney’s Arms and I couldn’t have done it without my mate (and professional chef) James Smith. I enjoy plating the dishes up and greeting all my guests. There was such a great buzz and I love that everyone loved it so much. Local business networking guru Amanda Ayres said “truly stunning food. Authentic, fresh and utterly delicious. It was exciting to wait for each of the eight courses to see what was coming next! Priya is an incredible and talented Chef who clearly has a passion for authentic Gujarati food.”

 

Lighting Up Pinkey’s Arm Pub

I will be lighting up the Pinkney’s Arms on Wednesday 7th November for a sold-out pop-up meal that coincides with Diwali. A bit like the Indian equivalent to Christmas, Diwali honours Rama – the seventh avatar (incarnation of the god Vishnu). It is believed that on this day Rama returned to his people after 14 years of exile during which he fought and won a battle against the demons and the demon king, Ravan.

Known as the festival of lights, the Hindu celebration occurs each autumn and is one of the most popular events of the Hindu calendar and probably the most well known in Britain. Diwali symbolises a spiritual victory of light and goodness over darkness and evil. To represent illumination over ignorance people celebrating Diwali light up their temples, homes, shops and office buildings with candles. The preparations, and rituals, for the festival typically last five days, with the biggest day of celebration occurring on the third day which coincides with the darkest night of the Hindu lunisolar month Kartika. In the Gregorian calendar, the festival generally falls between mid-October and mid-November.

In the lead-up to Diwali, homes and workplaces are cleaned, renovated, and decorated and on the third day, revellers adorn themselves in their finest clothes. Oil lamps and candles are lit, offerings are made to Lakshmi – the goddess of prosperity and wealth. Fireworks are set-off and families feast together in celebration.