Fashion journalist and stylist turned food writer and chef Ravinder Bhogal launched Jikoni in Marylebone back in 2016, carving out a niche with her eclectic food inspired largely by her multi-cultural background. Indeed, the subtitle of the book – her second – is ‘Proudly Inauthentic Recipes from an Immigrant Kitchen’.
On Blandford Street, her debut restaurant serves up food unlike anywhere else in London: think prawn toast Scotch egg, banana ketchup and pickled cucumber; and paneer gnudi, wild garlic and spinach saag, pine nuts and preserved lemon.
Bhogal was born in Kenya to Indian parents and moved to London as a child. A reluctant kitchen assistant to her mother at first, she found a new appreciation for cooking when she moved to England because it helped reconnect her to her roots. In the opening pages and peppered throughout the book are stories from Bhogal’s past that illustrate the powerful relationship between food, people, place and identity.
Like Jikoni, the book is partly inspired by African and Indian flavours and dishes but there are many other influences at play – within its pages you’re just as likely to encounter miso and kimchi as you are curry leaves and asafoetida.
Bhogal’s first two books were pitched at home cooks but as a restaurant cookbook Jikoni is a little more involved in its approach with larger lists of ingredients and more complex methods, but dishes are still on the simple side in terms of technique.
The book is split into breakfast and brunch; snacks and nibbles; vegetables and salads; fish and shellfish; poultry and meat; and sweets. Dishes include dashi broccoli with sesame sauce and tobiko; beetroot and walnut kibbeh with tahini sauce; and clove-smoked venison samosas with beetroot chutney.
Jikoni will be of particular interest to chefs looking to shake up their vegan and vegetarian options. Bhogal has a knack for adding interest to vegetables through deft use of spices. The especially outlandish pastry section is also worthy of a mention, with dishes including banana cake with miso butterscotch and Ovaltine kulfi and Turkish delight trifles with pashmak (Persian cotton candy).
Number of pages: 304
Self-indulgence rating: ✪✪✪✪
Must try dish: Charred sprouting broccoli with spelt, cashews and miso
Publisher and price: Bloomsbury Publishing, £26