Photography from Mira Manek’s book, Saffron Soul
I’ve had the pleasure of eating at Holborn Dining Rooms on a couple of occasions, properly investing in founder Des McDonald’s intention on serving proper old fashioned comfort food. So I was surprised when I saw Chai Chia on the dessert menu on my last visit.
‘I was surprised when they asked for it to be on their menu too,’ says the cook extraordinaire behind the dish, Mira Manek. ‘I was worried people wouldn’t know too much about it, but after a few months I was delivering so much of it to them.’
Mira Manek is becoming hot property in the food industry. Visit her website and read her ever-popular blog, which is crammed full of easy-to-make, step by step recipes, and you can see why. After all, who wouldn’t want to eat healthy Indian food?
‘When you think about the local curry house, you think strong flavours and dals, by way of example, cooked in oil and cream, which makes them feel very heavy on the stomach,’ Mira says on the traditional perception of Indian food.
‘I would stay away from a lot of Indian restaurants to avoid that feeling after eating. A dal, though, is actually very healthy as it’s made of lentils, so it just comes down to how it’s cooked.
‘A lot of restaurants in this country are of the North Indian variety, which features a lot of heavy food, whereas I am Gujarati, which bases its food around vegetables, so it’s a lot lighter and essentially healthier. What I am trying to do is show that Indian food is not that difficult to cook, and there are different ways you can change a recipe to make it healthier.’
Previously a travel journalist and writer, Mira was constantly on the lookout for healthy options when travelling and always recalled her upbringing.
‘I come from a very large family, with our grandparents living with us and cooking, so food has always been a very big part of my life,’ she says.
‘Having fresh, hot roti on the table, and freshly made curries, were things that I thought were the norm – but realised later in life this wasn’t the case at all. When I came to London, I started looking at ways of changing things with recipes, something simple like yoghurt for cream, and then I started innovating a little more.’
When I came to London, I started looking at ways of changing things with recipes, something simple like yoghurt for cream, and then I started innovating a little more
London, it seems, has been waiting for such an approach. Mira’s spiced delights are in high demand and found in the likes of Raw Press Co. Dover Street, The Hoxton Hotel, Department of Coffee, and the aforementioned Holborn Dining Rooms at Rosewood London.
‘I love working with the chef at Holborn Dining Rooms, Calum [Franklin],’ Mira enthuses, ‘who is so experimental and open to ideas. Every time I am experimenting with a recipe, he is so open to trying it and tasting it.’
It’s also where you will find one of her favourite recipes right now. ‘I have a real sweet tooth – it’s why a lot of my products are sweet – and the breakfast I have created for Holborn Dining Rooms [saffron compote served with yoghurt and cinnamon granola] is one of my all time favourites.’
It’s not just top chefs, however, yearning for a little of Mira Manek’s creativity in the kitchen. On her website you’ll see a host of comments and questions from fans all over the world, which is why her supper clubs are becoming such hot property.
‘I like combining things,’ Mira says on what makes her events stand out, ‘such as cooking and yoga. I look to bring people together who have an interest in food, yoga and just meeting like-minded individuals.’