He made it down to the final 10 in this year’s series of Masterchef UK, and now he’s taking Cardiff by storm with his very own series of supper clubs.
Imran Nathoo is a dentist and all-round good guy from Pontcanna in Cardiff. I got to know him through blogging (he writes over at www.kitchenclonc.blogspot.co.uk) when we met at a Chai Street preview event a few years ago. We hit it off from there, and have shared a love of Sean Paul and expressing ourselves through annoyingly loud laughter, ever since.
Fast forward a couple of years, and just a few weeks ago I found myself repeatedly shouting “Look, there he is!” every time Imran appeared on the telly, and also directing obscenities at Greg Wallace for asking him stupid questions when he was trying to get his dishes out of the kitchen on time. Quite a surreal experience…
Since leaving Masterchef after reaching the final 10, Imran has been incredibly busy; from doing live radio appearances to magazine interviews, and even live cookery demonstrations at food festivals with local BBQ legends Hangfire Smokehouse.
The most exciting thing he’s done so far though, is launch his own supper club. I was lucky enough to attend the first one earlier this month, hosted in the lovely surroundings of the top floor of Pettigrew Tearooms in Bute Park.
Called ‘HOME’, Imran’s first supperclub focused on dishes that are special to him and that have been passed down through his family.
To start, a mango lassi with a twist. Lassi is a traditional yogurt-based drink from the Indian Subcontinent, a blend of yogurt, water, spices and fruit – and in Imran’s recipe, a hit of rum. Sipping on this on a warm summer’s evening overlooking Bute Park was just delightful.
After we’d enjoyed our welcome drink, Imran popped out of the kitchen to say hello to everyone, and also explain that all proceeds from the first two supper club dates would be going to three charities – including local homeless charity The Wallich. (In the end he raised £700 over the weekend – I told you he was a good dude).
Next we were ushered to our seats in the cosy upstairs dining room – set up in rows as is typical of the supper club concept. We got to know the people either side of us over a glass of BYOB wine, and then it was on to what I think of as the star of the evening, Imran’s vegetarian thali.
A thali is an Indian-style meal, made up of a selection of various dishes, served on a platter. Imran’s – which was praised by the judges when he presented it on Masterchef, included a spicy potato curry, fluffy basmati rice, creamy lentil daal, kale pakoras (also affectionately known as ‘hipster pakoras’), apple kachumber, and puri – a type of fried bread.
Of Imran’s kale pakoras, chef and Masterchef judge Amol Rajan said “I’ve travelled the length and breadth of India looking for the perfect pakora, and that’s one of the best of them.” I have to agree with him. I love kale and these were absolutely gorgeous. I – and everyone else on our table – also loved the apple kachumber. Kachumber is a salad dish in Indian cuisine, usually consisting of fresh chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, onions, and sometimes, chili peppers. Imran’s version used apple instead of tomatoes which made for a delightfully different dish, and provided a lovely freshness.
By now I was feeling suitably stuffed and I wasn’t sure if I’d have room for Imran’s kheer, an Indian spiced rice pudding dish which I’d assumed was eaten warm. Thankfully I was wrong; instead what we were treated to was a cold, creamy dessert that bore no resemblance to my mum’s claggy rice pudding – not too sweet but well seasoned with cardamom, topped with a crunchy layer of brûlée. My fears that I would be unable to finish dessert were unfounded and I scoffed the lot!
After the meal was finished, Imran came out to talk to everyone individually, and it was clear to see that this is what makes him truly happy. In his own words, he was “absolutely buzzing”, and it showed. Seeing someone working so hard to make their true passion a much bigger part of their life – and loving it – was just lovely to watch.
The other thing I loved about Imran’s first supper club HOME, is that it was entirely veggie, but not self consciously so; his menu was vegetarian by chance, not design, and people got excited about it regardless of whether they were usually full-time herbivores or not. Looking back, I remember there being lots of chatter on twitter during the show about Imran’s ‘bravery’ for presenting an entirely veggie dish to the Masterchef judges. To me that just showed that there’s still a lot of work to do in helping people realise that meat isn’t a prerequisite – or a indeed a guarantee – of a great meal, and I’m so glad that Imran was unafraid to embrace that in his cooking.
That being said, I’ve been lucky enough to eat his food on one other occasion when he invited me and my other half over for dinner, and vegetarian he definitely isn’t. We sat in Imran’s kitchen and enjoyed an amazing Cajun salmon starter and a main of delicious homemade lamb kebabs – perhaps a hint at what we can expect from from future supper clubs over the next few months? Who knows, but having sampled a variety of Imran’s dishes, I know from personal experience that this guy is no one-hit wonder.
Chef Imran Nathoo is here to stay.
To book tickets for Imran’s final HOME supper club on Saturday the 29th of July click here.