“It felt quite unreal to meet and teach these famous people but they were so down to earth."
Pakistani chef and author, Parveen Ahmed, has warmed both hearts and stomachs with her recent cook book, Celebrity Spice.
A hard-working mother, this ordinary woman has achieved the extraordinary, being dubbed by popular celebrity TV chef, Gino D’Acampo, as the ‘Curry Queen’.
Parveen admits that she feels nothing but ‘honoured’ by the title.
Describing herself as a ‘dedicated, loyal and honest’ woman, Parveen sits down in a Gupshup with DESIblitz.
Originally from Pakistan, Parveen resides in Hale, Greater Manchester and has become well-known for her fine culinary skills.
She published her much-anticipated charity celebrity cook book, Celebrity Spice, in November 2013.
The inspiration for the book came from a challenging experience when Parveen’s son was taken to hospital after contracting a virus. Hashim was in a coma for 8 weeks with brain damage.
Miraculously, Hashim recovered after an intense rehabilitation programme at the hospital, which lasted six months.
Following the sudden illness of her son, Parveen came up with the brilliant idea of raising money for the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital, to show her sincerest gratitude to the dedicated and hard-working staff that helped her son to recovery:
“When Hashim first came home from hospital I did a charity cookery demonstration at my house and that afternoon we raised £1200,” Parveen explains.
“So my friends suggested I do a cookbook of my recipes but I made a twist to it by teaching the celebrities their favourite Indian curry that they would have in a restaurant!”
The cook book features celebrities such as Leona Lewis, Amir Khan, Jimmi Harkishin, Sir Trevor MacDonald and Michael Parkinson.
Celebrity Spice gathers celebrities and their favourite Indian cuisines, which have been tailored-made by Parveen herself, and taught to them in private cooking lessons:
“It felt quite unreal to meet and teach these famous people but they were so down to earth and eager to learn that soon it felt I’d always known them.
“Sir Michael Parkinson’s favourite curry is classic Bombay potatoes, Sir Richard Branson’s is chicken pilau rice and Sir Trevor McDonald loves lamb bhuna.
“I would have thought Bear Grylls would have gone for a hot and spicy vindaloo, but he prefers a mild korma. And the lovely Leona Lewis is a vegetarian. Her chickpea curry is really tasty.”
So why does Parveen feel that the book is such a success?
“It’s very unique as nobody has ever done this before so there’s nothing like it on the bookshelf.
“Britain is a nation of curry lovers. So I thought it’d be a great idea to collect the curry favourites from celebrities and provide a tailor made dish for them, then list all the recipes in a cook book for everyone to enjoy.”
The inspirational Parveen admits that the Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital were extremely appreciative of her and her family’s gratitude:
“The Royal Manchester Children’s Hospital charity team were very touched when they found out I was writing a book to raise money for them!”
Without a doubt, cooking for Parveen has been a life-long passion: “I loved to cook from a young age as the eldest of eight I loved to help my mum in the kitchen,” she says.
“I love biryani, it’s my favourite meal. It’s a meal all in one and there’s no need to use lots of pans!
“My mother made amazing Punjabi food, such as pilau rice, Hyderabad biryani lamb and chicken bhuna and our fridge was always stocked with homemade pickles and chutneys.”
The busy mother of five has also taken part, and come runner up in the ITV series, There’s No Taste Like Home (2011) with chef Gino D’Acampo, in which she helped to recreate hearty family recipes for paying diners.
Parveen is eager to continue the success of her first cook book with a second addition: “I would love to do another celebrity spice No. 2 if any publishers are interested and I would love to have my own cookery show!”
Her advice for any young British Asian chef in the making?
“Never give up on your dreams. We are learning all through our lives and a great way to learn about people and cultures is through food.”
We certainly have not seen the last of Parveen Ahmed; the talented culinary queen has not only written her own cook book, but for those eager to get more hands on experience, Parveen also offers courses in authentic Indian Cuisine at the Taj Mahal Cookery Club in Manchester.
The Celebrity Spice cookbook is available to purchase on Amazon. For more information, and how to contact Parveen for cookery lesson visit the Curry Queen website.