Hello, I am Zeenat

I was born in Kenya to a Sikh Family. Both my parents were from India. I lived in Africa until the age of eight and then in India until I was eleven, and then moved to London. I married a Pakistani man at a young age. I gave birth to six children (I lost two), I have 2 beautiful grandchildren. We are all a loving, funny, close-knit family.

I didn’t learn to cook from my mum. I was the youngest and a bit spoilt. However, I used to watch my mum and sisters cook, when I got married I started to cook. I had some recipes in my head from watching my mum cook. Once I had children, I began to cook more often and learnt from family and friends; there was no YouTube or internet. It was good to learn face to face, as there was natural human touch and connection. I wanted to raise my children on good, healthy home-cooked meals using fresh ingredients.

A drawing by: Sophie Herxeimer from Elephant in the kitchen project

My dishes are a combination of Indian and Pakistani recipes. They are both very similar. Pakistani dishes are predominately meat, and Indian dishes are mostly vegetarian. I grind most of the spices at home, so I know what I am putting into the food I eat. My children have learnt to cook the same way and have good healthy eating habits, and now my grandchildren are being raised on good nutritional food.

Indian dishes don’t need to be cooked with many oils, fats, overpowering hot chillies or too many spices. Instead, herbs can enhance the flavours and add nutrition and aromas. Good home cooking can nourish your mind, body and soul.

I have also started to grow my own produce to be more sustainable and have learnt new skills. I didn’t know much about gardening until I started volunteering at Loughborough Farm four years ago http://www.loughboroughjunction.org, where I learnt a lot and adapted it to my own garden. This year, I got a delicious harvest, Peas, Beetroots, Lettuce, Tomatoes, Broadbeans, Mint, Oregano, Rosemary, Sage. I also have an excellent gardener Ben, who takes great care of my garden, and I am learning a lot from him to make my garden sustainable.

I have cooked for my local community in Lambeth as a Guest chef at The Platform www. the platformcafe.org.

I have also delivered cooking sessions for parents and children with the Healthy Living platform. In addition, cooking dishes from surplus produce is donated by companies and with produce bought from local shops.

I hope to inspire you all with delicious and nutritious recipes.

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