I remember the first time I ever travelled to Birmingham. I was 16 years old, I’d just finished my shift at Blueberry Park sandwich bar in Chatham High Street that afternoon, and I had a ticket booked on the National Express 420 from London Victoria to Birmingham Digbeth Coach Station.
I was taking my first solo trip to go and visit my first proper boyfriend. I had no idea that 13 years later, I would be living in Birmingham after moving there for Uni, but my love affair for the city started the moment I walked off that coach.
The lights sparkled, Selfridges shone resplendent in the evening darkness, and everything seemed new and exciting. The city was smaller, closer together and less overwhelming than London, but full of new things to discover, like the famous balti, the Custard Factory, and of course, Cadbury World.
Back then, the height of my foodie snobbery was buying jelly beans and Aunt Jemima’s cornbread mix in the Selfridges food hall, but after living, working and getting to know the city, my passion for its bars and restaurants grew and grew.
Over the last few years, the food and drink scene in Birmingham has grown exponentially, with chefs like Glynn Purnell, Aktar Islam, Richard Turner and Brad Carter receiving national and international acclaim (and their share of Michelin stars), while street food pioneers like Jack Brabant have propelled his brainchild Digbeth Dining Club into the most hipster magazines in New York.
The Birmingham Cook Book, released just weeks ago, celebrates the diversity and creativity of Birmingham’s culinary scene. This beautifully written book is a story, guide book and cook book all rolled into one, with some of the city’s most prominent chefs sharing their signature recipes, sat proudly next to independent cafes, delis and producers sharing theirs.
I bought my copy from Sanjay at Spice Kitchen UK. If you’ve read my blog before, you’ll know I love Spice Kitchen immensely! Their garam masala won a great taste award (if you’ve got some, you’ll understand why!) and their beautiful spice tins with handmade covers by Sanjay’s mum Shashi are a staple gift of mine for friends who are into food.
So, it only seemed fair that the recipe I road tested was one from Sanjay and Shashi. I decided to make their chickpea and kale curry, as featured in the book.
The recipe is incredibly simple, made largely from things I have in anyway, like chickpeas, onion, garlic, ginger and of course, spices. I used my Indian spice tin for this recipe, as it called for mustard seeds, cumin seeds, turmeric and garam masala.
All it took was a little frying of onion, garlic and spices, then bunging in the chickpeas, kale and tomato and leaving to cook down, the perfect lazy weekday recipe.
As there was no meat to deal with, the dish was cooked in less than half an hour, which was ideal as the delicious aromas were making me hangry!
The flavours were wonderful too, with nuttiness from the chickpeas, slight bitterness from the kale, and the lovely rich flavours of the garlic, chilli, ginger and spice mixture. Considering how fast this was to make, the flavours developed really well, and the chilli I used really packed a punch!
There are so many delicious looking recipes too, the Lord Clifden Guinness roast ham hock and Loaf Cookery School’s kung pow pastrami bao both look amazing. There’s even a recipe on how to create a sourdough starter from Loaf!
The beauty of The Birmingham Cook Book though, is it’s telling of the stories behind each of the contributors. Each recipe comes with a potted guide to where it comes from, the Birmingham chefs and entrepreneurs behind those delis, cafes, coffee shops and restaurants, their inspirations and passions, and that really gives me a sense of pride when I cook their dishes.
The Birmingham Cook Book has an RRP of £14.95. You could buy it on Amazon, but I heartily recommend you pick up your copy from the publishers, or local outlets like Dine Birmingham, Loaf Cookery School and Spice Kitchen.