It took a decade - and James Martin - to make Peterborough chef’s television dream come true

Parveen cooking for the James Martin TV show which was shown on ITV in September
Parveen cooking for the James Martin TV show which was shown on ITV in September

I am often called ‘tenacious’ but I am not sure if I am, writes columnist Parven “The Spice Queen” Ashraf.

I am definitely not in my personal life, but that’s probably as I am a mother and I usually give in to my children. For me, their happiness is more important than my own.

However, in business it’s a different story. I suppose I am ‘tenacious’, I had a dream and didn’t give up. My dream of being a TV chef began 10 years ago when I filmed ‘Come Dine With Me’. I really enjoyed cooking on TV and realised that this a job that I wanted to do.

Easier said than done though...I had lots of disappointments, more than I care to remember, but luckily for me we have not one, but two shopping channels in Peterborough. I worked at both Ideal World and then Hochanda. I spent 10 years developing and perfecting my presentation skills. I had some wonderful producers who gave me invaluable advice, but one piece of advice that stuck with me was “be yourself - as everyone else is taken!”

I finally got the break I was looking for when I filmed some recipes for James Martin’s Saturday Morning show. It was a surreal experience. There I was, little old me, being produced and directed by the best in the business. I was a tad nervous and was waiting for some real pearls of wisdom. The camera starting rolling and my producer said, “OK Parveen, just be yourself.”

The first recipe I filmed was for onion bhajis and aired a few weeks ago. I decided to make an onion bhaji butty for James, well you can take the girl out of Yorkshire but you can’t take Yorkshire out of the girl...

Speaking of Yorkshire, I was there last weekend visiting family. I decided to go to the Sunday market in Bradford. It is a market I used to visit with my mum years ago. I loved it – there was more than 100 stalls selling all manner of ethnic goods from fabric and jewellery to crockery, but my favourite stalls were the food ones, closely followed by the stall selling diamante encrusted shoes!

After a morning of shopping I had worked up quite an appetite, so I settled down in a little café. While I was ordering my samosa and chai, I heard a lady trying to order some food but she was speaking French. The cafe owner could not understand a word she was saying; Parveen to the rescue. Using all the knowledge I could muster from ‘O’ level French, I helped the lady place her food order.

Several minutes later her son came over to thank me and said that his mother thought she knew me from somewhere. After several minutes of discussion, she remembered that she had seen me on ITV.

I thought making a Bhaji butty for James Martin was surreal, but there I am sitting in a little Kashmiri café in the middle of Bradford, in a Sunday market, drinking my chai and speaking French with a lady who saw me on ITV in France - now that’s surreal.

I am so grateful to so many people for their support; Brad Barnes at the Peterborough Telegraph for allowing me to write about my life and food; Alan Ramm from the Bakehouse in Stamford; Liz Stevenson of YOU Stamford; Sophie Pierro from Perfect Ten for makeup and of course all of you for reading my column.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your feedback and kind words... now watch this space, there is more to come!

To order Parveen’s cookbook, go to ParveenTheSpicequeen.com

Watch Parveen via the ITV hub on the James Martin Saturday Morning show.