It’s always a pleasure to cook with people, even better to add story telling and a bit of healing touch too. It’s been a while since I tried this in London; mother’s untimely demise was one big reason, finding a passionate group was another.
The collapse of the market has really changed people’s lifestyle and the process continues. The restoration of a social fabric and new wave thinking was captivating in the nineties, in fact we were one of the outcomes of that change.
Our venue today, city of Newcastle, is the iconic centre for opportunities in the north-east. Once you whistle out of the last tunnel and reach Durham, the old cathedral town comes on your right and five minutes later you gently look upward to see the towering statue—Angel of the North—reaching out to the skies. Further one rides across the valley until the beautiful Tyne Bridge hits your eyes and you feel “you are in town”.
In the past, Newcastle was the safe haven for miners and destination for leisurely drinking. The city developed numerous business opportunities in the last decade until the fatal recession two years ago flattened its growth.
Ansar, our chief at Rasa Newcastle, organised a cookery evening with a wonderful mixed group of people from the neighbourhood. Actually a month since we agreed to this, I found it hard to sleep or never woke up without dreaming an evening full of food and people.
I like choosing my ingredients on impulse and experiment as the mood warms up. Desire is to make a difference to someone’s life in addition to sharing a recipe. It’s not always possible to do justice to this thought, people come unknowingly about the whole theatre and they hardly realise the weeklong preparations and imagination of this daydreamer. As we set free the emotions of ingredients, we slowly share their stories to bring our guests closer to the sublime feel of the moment.
We were lucky to have some Asian women in the crowd; their curiosity was more interesting and based on their domestic experience. In fact, the blend of variety helped the experience and opinions were diverse. Never mind, they came closer to me to feel that continued love for flavours and how it could be infectious in healing our life. It was beyond measurements and techniques; touch of a finger would trigger the magic as we took off. May be that was the crunch time for everyone.
In the conversation I tried to explain the new thrill and a mission, the determination to make a difference in the world and help people smile. Dishes were made as we talked, mangoes, spinach and beets were combined with creamy yogurt, gently cooked pumpkin crystals were caressed with sweetly rich coconut milk, cubes of potatoes lightly stirred with thinly cut ginger, green chillies and juicy tomatoes. We played with bubbly rice batter to make pancakes moving from right to left and backwards, turning wrists to draw shape of the pan.
It was one of the most memorable evenings for a while; we could see the air of unity and radiance of exhilaration on everybody’s face. Last few minutes of the programme people moved around and we heard them commenting on their happiness, there was indeed some glow on their faces. All ended quite well, I could just remember reaching my hotel room and I had comfortably dozed off.
In the most refreshing sunrise I could see the same excitement on the shiny top layer of Tyne River as it sang the song of dreamers whilst crisp morning wind pushed its flow faster.
Holding the bronze pan close to my heart I started to weave another evening of cooking from the soul. Journey home started, we pushed Tyne Bridge and attractive Sage Centre behind, said good-bye to the Angel. I remember glancing at the cathedral once more in front of my eyes and I gently fell back into a blissful sleep.
The author is a London-based restaurateur who owns the Rasa chain