Parveen The Spice Queen: A little help from my friends

Parveen and friends at the show
Parveen and friends at the show

I was lucky enough to be asked to do a cooking demonstration for the Autumn Food & Country Fair at the East of England Arena at the weekend. It was fabulous . . . giant vegetables, vintage tractors, Paw Patrol, crafting and me making a curry - what’s not to love?

Lucky for us the sun was shining, which I think is amazing considering we are almost in mid-October. The sunshine meant visitors were able to enjoy a great fun day out with their whole families, including their dogs! This was my first time at the show and I didn’t realise that people could bring their dogs - that’s OK with me as many of my closest friends have dogs. Speaking of friends,I had to call on my friends to help me out on the day. I couldn’t have done it without them, bless them.

Lindsay and Michelle helped to set up, give out free spice bags, sell my cook books and chat to people as I was busy doing my thing on stage. I am so grateful to them and they both have dogs, so my new mantra is “Love Your Friends, Love their dogs.”

You will be pleased to know that even though I am a cat lover, I have now made good friends with their dogs, Doodles and Todd. Anyway, I know I am digressing but what’s new, I tend to - so back to what I usually write about - FOOD!

I ended up doing two cooking slots - so had to come up with different ideas for my show. That was the easy bit, and the hardest bit was competing with the announcements from the dog & giant vegetable competition... but I managed it. I had my super dooper Britney Spears headset on - quite cool really. OK, so what could I demo in half an hour. For the first demo, I decided to make my pan fried tandoori chicken, which usually takes 10 minutes, but I managed it in 7 (I actually got my friend Cetti to time me). I then made my famous gluten-free onion and potato bhajis and a quick mint dip which surprised the audience as it only took 20 seconds.

For my second demo I made my light and garlicy tarka daal and the ever popular peshwari naan. The demos went really well, mostly because the team from Circus Of Food demo kitchen were brilliant. They were there to help and support. Best of all they had a huge six ring gas cooker and I love cooking on gas. Pun intended!

Even though I work on TV, there is nothing like a real audience, they can smell the food, ask questions, get involved and, best of all, taste the food after the demo. I got the chance to speak to a few people in the audience after my show and I was surprised to find how far people had travelled. There were people there from Cambridge, Nottingham and as far as London. However, what did not surprise me was the questions that people asked. Doesn’t matter where people are from, when it comes to Indian food they usually ask the same questions.

So here are a few for you to read - I hope they help.

Q: My husband is allergic to garlic, what can I substitute instead?

A: You can leave out the garlic and my recipes will still work but it will obviously change the flavour.

Q: What is the difference between a bhaji and a pakora?

A: Read last week’s column (sorry, just joking - it’s the name in a different language).

Q: Why are bhajis gluten-free and can someone with celiac disease eat them?

A: Bhajis are made from gram flour which is actually chick pea flour.

Q: What if I am allergic to nuts, can I make peshwari naan?

A: Just leave out the almonds, only use the coconut and sultanas (coconut is not a nut, it’s a seed)

Q: How long can I keep the tandoori chicken once it is cooked?

A: Once the chicken is cooked, it will happily sit in the fridge for 3 days, when in an airtight container.

For Parveen’s recipes, you can purchase her cook book or email her via www.parveenthespicequeen.com To watch Parveen Tune into Hochanda, on Saturday at 4pm on Sky663, Freeview 85 and Freesat 817 or on-line.