Talk and table, Kiran Jethwa

kiran picture: Kiran in his kitchen

For some time now, I watch the TV series ”Tales from the bush larder” on 24 Kitchen. Starring Kiran Jethwa.. He is a third generation Kenyan, a talented cook in Nairobi and a real adventurer. Cooking with all the lovely produce this amazing country has to offer. His mother is English and his father comes from  India. These two influences and the use of African produce contribute to all the taste that he shows us.

Kiran is also a big traveler, From the USA to Italy, from France to South East Asia, From Central America to India. All kind of flavors you will find on his menu! Intriguing!
Let’s see if I can conceive a dish for this multitalented guy, from the answers he provides to my questions. Needless to say, this willl be an international dish travel and foreign exciting ingredients to be in it. And I hope to venture something Dutch in it.
Who is Kiran Jethwa? Tell me some more.
I, Kiran Jethwa am a colorful and ambitious 3rd generation Kenyan born in Nairobi. I have an English mother and an Indian father and the influence of the 2 cultures in his life can be clearly seen in my cooking style. Having completed a BSC in hospitality management in Manchester, I then traveled all over the world, from the US, to Italy, France, South Africa, South East Asia, South & Central America and Australia to mould my professional abilities and broaden my palate. In 2010 I opened my first restaurant Seven Seafood & Grill which has been a huge success in Nairobi, Three months ago I opened a second restaurant, a bespoke Steak House- Seven Lounge & Grill.
How did your attraction for cooking start?
Growing up in a house, where food was the most important occasion and coming from a family (Originally from Goa) who created fantastic dishes at simple mealtime, have all contributed to my comprehensive knowledge and interest of the culinary world. From a very young age I have been cooking, but begun my formal training in a Hilton in Florida in 1996.
What is your favorite country? To travel to and to stay
It’s difficult to have a a favorite as every country offers so much. If I had to pick my top 3 for food and travel combined would be India, Thailand and Mexico.
Which means of Kenyan produce do you like the most and which one you dislike? I am very curious about that.
I don’t think I dislike any produce. Every food has its place in the culinary world. My approach is to take all food and get the best out of it in any dish you are creating. My favorite Kenyan produce has to be the Seafood from this country. We have incredible variety and quality here
Are there differences between African and European cooks?
There are differences and similarities. It is a bit difficult to generalize, but I would say the biggest difference in that African Chefs as a whole do not have the exposure to as much variety of ingredients. This is like only allowing an artist to use certain colours as opposed to all the colours of the world. The pictures ultimately will all have the same tone.
You talk a lot on finding local produce. What  do like like the most about it?
This for me is very exciting. We use food every day but often  have no idea where it comes from, or how it comes to be. The hard work and love. that farmers go through to give us the quality of food we desire in humbling and really makes you appreciate food more.
With whom would you like to cook one time and why?
Heston Blumenthal- quite simply as he is genius and he approaches food in away that is inspiring.
I once did a cooking workshop once for several guys from Eastern Africa. I remember that night very well.  Because the perception of cooking was so different between us. I learned a lot.“We men never cook” said one to me. They also didn’t understand the fun/leisure part of the cooking workshop. Can you tell me some more about the attitude of African men towards cooking?
Generally African men DO NOT cook. This is the womens job. I have just returned from Ethiopia filming series 2 of Bush Larder. This was very apparent there. I think its about tradition and chauvinism, but this is changing as Africa modernises.
On food, which food do you like and which you would never eat?
I am a great lover of ALL seafood, especially Oysters, There are so many different varieties and I love to try them. I dont think there is any food I would NEVER eat. Being a chef, it is your job to eat and understand all food. Some things you won’t like and some will allow you to discover new and incredible eating experiences.
Which wines do you like?
I LOVE WINE. In my restuarants I have a selection of over 150 at any time, and it always changes. I create the wine lists myself.  At the moment I am really loving the red wine from Sicily. I have a good selection of different grapes. There is a particular Nero-d’Avola which I love. I am also really enjoying various New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs and an Albariño from Spain. My taste changes all the time- I think wine is fascinating.
Can you tell me something about your “foodprint.” Are you a conscious cook?
I am a very concious cook. We are very lucky in Kenya as most of our produce is organic. This comes by virtue simply of the fact that farmers don’t have access to methods that make food “un-organic”. My beef all comes from one farm that practice fantastic beef rearing techinques.Completely organically fed and treated. My seafood I only source from sustainable sources. I try very hard to be concious of where my food is coming from.
What else do you want to tell us? Do not be shy
Besides being a chef I am a lover of sport and adventure. I have played professional rugby in my life, and represented Kenya many time at international rugby. I love motorsport and rallying which I do as a hobby and any chance I get to travel and explore, or go on adventures and fish I will take. These days with my workload I don’t get enough time for this- but I guess that is life.
 039 fishing for mackerel just outside of Amsterdam

 

The recipe

Kiran has given me a lot of hints for a recipe. What comes in mind is seafood ofcourse. In the Netherlands, as a small country we are never far away from the sea. Since Kiran is an explorer, I am too in a more modest way, I will make him my balcony smoked mackerel served on a flour tortilla with grilled vegetables, a Mexican salsa. Easy to take with you on a trip. Or as a snack, while watching the adventures of Kiran on TV. The wine I suggest is a white Rueda wine from Northern Spain made from the verdejo grape. Crisp and fresh to pair the smoked fish an spicy salsa
Ingredients:
4 flour tortillas
2 tbs of sour cream

 

the fish:

600 g of mackerel filet
wood ground
pepper
salt
1 lemon for curing

 

the salsa:

6 tomatoes
2 red onions
1 clove of garlic
1 red spanish pepper
chives
parsley
salt
lemon juice
olive oil
1 ts cane sugar.

 

vegetables:

1 courgette
1 red bellpepper

 

Preparation:

You can either use an outside smoker or pan. You fill the smoker with special smoking wood ground, Like small pieces of oak, birch etcetera or smoking ground. An alternative way, is to use and old pan, with a thin bottom. You cover the whole inside of the pan with some aluminium foil, shiny side up. On top of the foil you put 4 tbs of special smoking ground. That is what I sometimes do on my balcony.

Meanwhile you cure the fresh mackerel filets in olive oil, salt, ground black pepper and some lemon juice and leave it to rest for 20 minutes. After that, you cut the fish in medium thin slices.
Cover the smoking ground with some alu foil, pierce it with a fork and put a plate on it. Put some pebbles under the plate to help smoke/air circulation. Put a small grill on top of the plate.

Put the pan on a high fire and when the ground starts smoking, put the cod on the grill. Cover up with foil and a lid. Smoke for about 10 minutes.Peel the tomatoes, get the seeds out and chop in fine pieces. Chop the onion, garlic, Spanish pepper, chives and parsley very finely. Mix everything in a bowl to get a salsa. Add some lemon juice and olive oil. Season with som salt and a treaspoon of sugar.Cut the courgette and bellpepper in pieces and grill them gently until al dente.

Spread some sour cream on each tortilla. Put some of vegetables and smoked mackerel on the tortilla. Top the whole with some salsa and fold them.

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