At THEN AND NOW shop, we’re all big fans of food. As a testament to that, we caught up with our favourite “Caribbean food supremo” (as dubbed by The Guardian), Shivi Ramoutar, to grill her on her love of cooking and specifically her interest in Caribbean cuisine.
Who or what first inspired your passion for food?
The passion for food definitely runs in my blood, but I’d say that my Pa was my first inspiration. I remember his sheer excitement when being in the kitchen, trying different twists and flavours in his usual recipes.
What do you love about Caribbean cooking in particular?
I love how so many different influences from across the globe have come together to create a bold and truly unique cuisine.
How do you fit cooking around your family life?
Ensuring that my family eats fresh wholesome food is of major importance to me, but this doesn’t mean having to slave over the stove for hours. I love to cook certain food basics in bulk (like sauces, stews and casseroles), so when things are a little manic its easy to find a jar of something good in the fridge for a base, or take a prepared dish out of the freezer and still know that I am feeding them well.
What are you best tips and tricks for those who are cooking on a budget?
Bulking up meat dishes with lentils or beans is a clever way to save the pennies.
What is your all time favourite dish and why?
This is a horrid question – there are so many different things I want to choose. At a push I would probably go for a street food from Trinidad, “Doubles” – a delicious curried chickpea sandwiched in a fluffy dough with some spicy, flavoursome sauces. It is the ultimate comfort food and reminds me a lot of my childhood.
Can you explain what ‘Caribbean Modern’ means to you?
It is all about my Caribbean heritage and growing up in the UK and the influence that this mix has had on the food I create.
Do you have any advice for budding chefs out there?
I guess to just keep playing around with different flavours and take every opportunity to cook with new people. I’ve learnt so much from the many wonderful chefs and cooks I have met in the industry.
What made you first decide to create your own cookbook?
A desire to share this unique cuisine and the story behind it. It is so colourful and fascinating a story.
How do you cater for people with allergies or intolerances, like gluten for example?
It is very easy to substitute ingredients in my food without losing the ‘heart’ of the dish. It is quite typical in this kind of cuisine to use what you have lying around, so not to waste. This translates very well for people with allergies and intolerances.
How did you grow your name as a chef and acquire the opportunity to be featured in publications like The Times, BBC Good Food Magazine and many others?
I guess having a passion for what I do, really wanting to share it with others and a lot of chopping!
What would we most likely find you doing when not cooking?
At the moment, it would probably be sitting by the piano with my son, singing and letting him play (well, more like bashing the keys at the moment.) A lovely moment’s respite from everything.
For more on Shivi and to find out where you can taste her delicious food for yourselves, head over to www.shiviramoutar.com. If you think your friends could use some Caribbean influence in their lives, make sure to share this page with them as well!