Book review: Jikoni, by Ravinder Bhogal

23 July 2020 by
Book review: Jikoni, by Ravinder Bhogal

Following her debut cookbook Cook in Boots, which won the Gourmand World Cookbook Award for the UK's Best First Cookbook, Ravinder Bhogal's second book, Jikoni, is both the name of her restaurant in London's Marylebone and means ‘kitchen' in Kiswahili.

Bhogal was born in Kenya to Indian parents and moved to Britain as a child. Her recipes take inspiration from her mixed heritage and her travels to create what she loosely terms as "immigrant cuisine, proudly inauthentic recipes that span geography, ethnicity and history", resulting in hybrid dishes unshackled by rules or cultural accuracy.

For example, Bhogal mixes the culinary traditions of France, Poland and Turkey in her recipe for duck and pistachio pierogi with hot yogurt sauce and pul biber butter, which is the kind of border-blending dish for which restaurant has become known. Paneer gnudi with saag and cavolo nero mixes Italian Parmesan with Indian paneer and is described as "a love letter to those migrant workers".

The book is also refreshingly challenging – "to confine your use of miso to just soup would be to miss out on a multitude of exciting gastronomic opportunities", Bhogal writes alongside the recipe for one of Jikoni's most popular dishes, banana cake with miso butterscotch and Ovaltine kulfi. Prawn toast Scotch eggs, lamb and baharat sausage rolls and paneer-stuffed padron peppers catch my eye, but it is the mushroom ragoût with sweet potato gnocchi, kale and sweet potato crisps that has me really salivating.

Another aspect I loved about Jikoni was how it focuses on the soothing nature of food, whether that is because it reminds us of home or family, or because of its ability to pacify us in times of distress. Bhogal writes about how she found sanctuary in her mother's kitchen and, when she experienced homesickness upon moving to the UK, she made peace with her new home by fusing unfamiliar ingredients with her old culinary traditions.

Jikoni: Proudly Inauthentic Recipes From an Immigrant Kitchen, by Ravinder Bhogal (Bloomsbury, £26)

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