A few weeks ago I attended the Scottish Speciality Food Show at the SECC. Whilst there a met up with sisters Julia & Nadia, not the acting Sawalha siblings, but a pair of sister who work together running Our House Of Spice from their Cambridge base.
Using family recipes that have been handed down over the generations, the sisters produce a range of spice packets and frozen meals that offer their customers the chance to enjoy authentic 'Indian food with flair', in the comfort of their own homes.
Using the Scottish Speciality Food Show as a launch pad to raise public awareness north of the border, Our House of Spice gave away lots of samples sachets of their ready to cook spice blends, including a packet of medium masala to myself.
Here's their story;How did you get started?
We’ve been lucky enough to have been brought up surrounded by mouth-watering Indian food all of our lives and identified a gap in the market for good quality Indian food.
In 2012, we started to sell our Indian dishes at farmers markets, shows and events. The reaction to our food was extremely positive and as we were using family recipes, the food produced was traditional, authentic and contained no artificial colours, flavours, preservatives or MSG. We think this creates a great foundation for an excellent meal and our customers seem to agree!
As we progressed, customers asked on numerous occasions whether it was possible to purchase our dishes outside of these markets and events. It was from here that we diversified into frozen ready meals and spice packets.
What’s the best piece of business advice you can give?
We strongly recommend putting a business and financial plan in place from the outset and to refer and update it on a regular basis to help plan for the future and consider different avenues as the company grows.
Where would you like to see your business in 5 years time?
To meet demand and increase growth we intend to make use of a specialist production facility to create our ready meals and spice packet range. This will work alongside the Our House of Spice kitchen which will develop new and exciting dishes. Exporting our products abroad is another ambition of ours.
If you could cook one of your products/recipes what would it be any why?
Our lamb curry is one of our best sellers and a dish we both love! As with all of our dishes, it is based on our family recipe that has been passed down from generation to generation and it really is delicious!
You can invite one person living or dead who would it be and why and what’s on the menu?
We would invite our eccentric grandfather Jim, who sadly passed away before we set up the business. He had an amazing sense of humour and was a fantastic cook. We would love to see his reaction to our curry capers!
Baked Chicken (our version of tandoori chicken), dhal, Bombay Potatoes and Raita, all served with his Bhatura recipe (Indian bread). Yummy!
I've always been a huge fan of Indian food and would be keen to cook it more at home but always feel that the huge array of ready to cook sauce jars on the supermarket shelves always fall short.
You can create your own curry from scratch, all you need is a well stocked spice rack and a certain degree of knowledge on how to put them all together. Anyone who has looked through Indian cook books will be well aware of just how many individual ingredients can be used to create a truly wonderful tasting curry.
The packet of masala curry spices was put to use by myself very quickly. All I needed was a chopped onion, a tin of tomatoes and 400g of my preferred meat plus some chopped coriander to add just before serving. This dish would work well with chicken, beef or lamb, and I'm sure that a vegetable curry would work just as well. I chose to make my masala with beef shoulder, slow cooking it for a couple of hours in the spices, onion and tomato - only occasionally adding a little water to stop the sauce catching on the bottom of my pan. About two hours later I had an authentic looking curry dish that tasted as close to the Indian dishes that I would order at my favourite Indian restaurant. This was definitely a meal that was very different from the store bought sauce jars that I've used in the past.
It shouldn't have surprised me that the end result turned out tasting so authentic, after all, the recipes have been passed down the girls family for generations. What impressed me most was the simplicity. Nadia & Julia have created a fantastic a product that makes serving up a full flavoured and authentic Indian meal quick & easy. I'm sure that grandfather Jim would be proud of the way that his granddaughters have taken their heritage and created something wonderful.
You can buy the Masala mix and the other spice packets from the range online from the Our House of Spice website. After sampling my own home cooked curry, I'll definitely be stocking up on a few more packets and also be giving the rest of the range a little test drive.