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The dishes that made me: Kiran Jethwa

BY Anna Walker

1st Jan 2015 Recipes

The dishes that made me: Kiran Jethwa

There are no lengths Extreme Food presenter, Chef Kiran Jethwa, wouldn't go to for a good meal. We spoke to him about the foods that have most inspired him. 

Goat shank with yellow lentils

goat shank yellow daal
Image via Pinterest

This is an Indian dish that my mother makes. It's a combination of goat shank bones and yellow lentils. It's almost a soup—a daal as Indians call it. You stew goat shank bones and goat meat in yellow daal. The bones are full of marrow which you suck out. It’s very rich and heavy and full of flavour.  

I’ve had this meal since I was about three years old and it’s still, without question, one of my favourite things to eat in the world. I have to have it at least once a month.



"I was always trying my own things and trashing the kitchen"



I grew up in a half Indian, half English household so we had a varied range of food at home. There was a lot of Indian food, which I love, but my mum was also an amazing baker so there were lots of really unhealthy cookies and cakes floating around the place too.

Both my parents were very good cooks so food was always an event in our house. As a result, from as young as I can remember I was cooking. I was always with my mum or my dad learning what they were doing, trying my own things and trashing the kitchen.


Crab curry

crab curry

My dad was famous for his crab curry and the process of making it had a huge impact on me.

We'd have to go to the market to buy the crabs and I was fascinated by how he selected them: whether he picked the males or the females, the size of them and the weight ratio and then having to take them home and kill them and clean them before cooking.

The whole process was very slow, but my dad would put a lot of love into it and never rushed it. I think observing that gave me a real understanding of how to choose food, how to prepare it and how to take the time to cook it. 


Salted camel's milk ice cream

Kiran Jethwa in Ethiopia

My new show, Extreme Food, is about the extreme measures that some people go through to get their ingredients. We went all over the world—Bolivia, Peru, Mongolia, Nepal, China, Bangladesh, Borneo, Ethiopia, Mozambeek, Sri Lanka—and all of them have been incredible.

I wanted to show the viewer what some people have to go through to eat compared to how easy it is for us. We take our ingredients for granted and really we should think long and hard about where they come from, and respect that. At the end of each trip, I cook a dish that sums up the story.



"I used a fire extinguisher to create dry ice and freeze the camel’s milk"



For the Ethiopian episode, we went to the Danakil Depression which is one of the lowest and hottest places on the planet. There's an age-old tradition of the Afar people mining salt there. We marched a bunch of camels 20 miles into the desert to experience harvesting the salt. It was an epic four-day trek in 50 plus degree heat and very, very, very hard work. These guys do that every single day, day in, day out, which is madness.

At the end of it all, my self-imposed restrictions were that I could only create a dish using the ingredients that were around me, and in that environment, all you’ve got is camels and salt—but the Ethiopians do drink a lot of coffee. So I made a salted camel’s milk ice cream, flavoured with a bit of coffee and I used a fire extinguisher to create dry ice and freeze the camel’s milk. It was pretty cool.

The Afar guys I was with had never eaten ice cream before so it was really fun to see them putting ice cream in their mouths for the first time. Imagine your reaction the first time you ate ice cream—it was exactly like that. Plus it was so hot that to eat something so cold was heavenly. It was the best ice cream I’d ever eaten.


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