Monday, May 8th, 2017
Many of you may know that I have done a demo at Grand Designs at the NEC in Birmingham, two years in a row.
I have learnt so much from the earlier two demos and was determined to get my third one spot on. What does spot on mean? It means to highlight the incredible good fortune I have been blessed with since I started this business. It reminds me of all the fabulous people I have met along the way, you, the customers, who trust me to discover a cooking journey that’s unique, fabulously tasty and guarantees results every time.
Grand Designs at London’s Excel wasn’t something I had expected to do when their email request came through, I thought it was a mistake. Me, in London? I checked my diary and just knew that I had to do it, lucky my diary was clear and I double checked the dates online, just to ensure it was actually Grand Designs in London.
It was an honour to be asked, it means my venture is heading in the right direction and it’s all falling into place, exactly as I had hoped. It’s a fabulous opportunity to go to London, get cooking, live onstage with the beautiful man that is Stephen Lamb, River Cottage curing & smoking expert, teacher, Food Tube presenter, Crowdfunder UK, award-winning author, consultant, basically, one of the greatest foodies around. He wrote a testimonial for me, which reads like this: “Lajina is a rarity in the food world in that she has no ego but instead is a champion of great ingredients and wonderful cooking. Her enthusiasm is infectious and she has a true sense of food community which celebrates the varied and vibrant producers that are local to her. I shared the stage with her at Grand Designs Live and giggled most of the way through her demonstration at her sense of fun and then was blown away by the food she had prepared. She is both entertaining and super talented.” pretty cool, don’t you agree?
There were two demonstrations to plan for, with me having to take the ingredients to London. I chose a vegan menu which meant that I didn’t need to worry about a cool box and could prep my ingredients on stage, without having the usual food hygiene safety concerns.
Choosing a menu, isn’t easy for me, for something as special as Grand Designs I need to keep it simple and cook dishes that I can do with my eyes closed. There is little time to check recipes, as Steve will be asking me many questions. Thinking about the dishes that deliver great taste and guarantees that some of you will be trying them at a later date. For the first demo, I decided on simple aloo gobi, potato and cauliflower and I added some peas for colour, some chapaties also known a roti, a mango and pomegranate salad with a fresh chilli sauce. These trusted dishes, although simple, deliver proven results every time. The second demo was a butternut squash, black chickpea and coconut curry with some rice, a carrot and spinach salad, again very bright, tasty and I can cook all the dishes in the allotted time of 45 minutes.
Both demos went well, we talked about how the business has grown, that I have regular workshops and the team buildings have received a great response. How the evolution of the masalas and packaging continues to surprise me. We talked football, the offside rule, how I asked Krish when Smalling scored if it was a corner (a defender and being a woman for me to know this, lol), the usual football talk and my campaign to turn the footballers’ shorts, shorter and their socks shorter needs to gather momentum.
Steve Lamb asked about the Festival of Curry and is now considering being the third judge. If he does, I will invent a smoky spice blend, especially for him. If you don’t know what’s planned, there is a curry competition, where you enter your favourite curry, using my spices in the afternoon. We have official judges who taste the dishes, followed by a bhangra bash in the evening. It’s on 8th July, Montford Bridge in Shropshire and please get in touch if you’d like to learn more.
We talked about the future and I dreamt of cooking in Hawaii, in a grass skirt and coconuts (on my ears) and Steve Lamb’s enthusiasm concerned me a little, he’s right up for coming along and wearing a grass skirt! There was a lady in the audience who has left details for me to follow up, so who knows where my next demo will be?
As always, we discussed local produce, the brilliant foodies in Shropshire, Chris Burt: my chef crush, rapeseed oil, how Martin Moyden has given me milk from the family farm to make my own paneer. Generally what a brilliant place to have a foodie business.
The highlight of the demo were the delicious flavours, each shining in their own right, put together culminate in a grand finale with exquisite flavours.
Lajina Leal, Founder, Lajina Masala
Lajina had a Corporate Career as an Accountant for many years and whilst discussing an impending redundancy in an Indian restaurant with her friends, they persuaded her to set up an Indian Cooking School.
The fun started in October 2013 and the business has grown from strength to strength.