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What’s cooking? Tsaretta Spice head chef Yousuf Mohammed

Our favourite chefs spill all about their work, lives and top tips. Dishing it this week? Yousuf Mohammed, head chef at Tsaretta Spice in Twickenham.

First job in a kitchen?

ITC Kakatiya Sheraton Hotel – I learned a lot and have very fond memories of these times. It fuelled my passion for cooking and love of quality ingredients.

Career highlight?

As a development chef it’s so exciting to create dishes for a new restaurant. As much as a logo, dishes on the menu will define the restaurant, the brand. It is a great satisfaction for me to see how successful Dishoom has become. I am so proud of the menu I contributed to, inspired by the Mumbai “Bombay cafes”.

On a personal note, I absolutely love cricket so getting to cook for prestige banquets at Marylebone Cricket Club – Lords was a dream come true.

Sum up your cooking style / food philosophy?

I favour a casual, but sophisticated, dining experience, with innovative cooking that is both accessible and affordable. I love how our modern Indian tapas brings people together over a meal.

Ever cooked for anyone famous?

The Nepali president in 1998 Mukesh Ambani, India’s number 1 billionaire.

What would you cook to impress a date?

Probably something Indo-Chinese – the best of both worlds, Indian vegetables and spices married to saucy noodles, probably chilli garlic chicken bursting with flavours.

Favourite chef?

Imtiyaz Qureshi, a grand master chef of Indian Fine Dining cuisine. I learned so much from him.

Favourite cookbook?

Prashad by Kaushy Patel – an Indian vegetarian cooking that is vibrant and original. Authentic Indian cooking, the recipes are the perfect way to bring authentic Indian cooking into your kitchen.

Favourite type of cuisine?

I love Italian and Chinese, but probably would choose Lebanese cuisine. I love its use of whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fresh fish and seafood – and of course the mezze approach, bringing small plates before the guests creating an array of colours, flavours, textures and aromas.

Tsaretta Spice

Favourite kitchen gadget?

I am more about quality fresh ingredients and spices than gadgets.

Favourite local café?

I love Esquires coffee, they serve a great organic fair trade coffee, and you always get service with a smile.

Your three favourite local markets and suppliers?

I would have to say Billingsgate Fish Market (we source our amazing scallops and monkfish from there), Borough Market ( foodies and chefs love borough market, such a great location for inspiration) and Gandhi oriental food.

Favourite things to eat when you’re on holiday?

Would it surprise you if I said fresh pizzas and homemade burgers?

What mistake do inexperienced cooks tend to make?

One of the most common mistakes made by beginner cooks is under-seasoning the food – always taste your food before serving it; never be afraid of seasoning and spices. Vegetables, pasta, meats, they are all the same – in each step of cooking, you need to coax flavour out by adding seasoning.
Salt helps draw out water and concentrate the food’s natural flavours, as well as spices, which infuses flavour throughout its structure. Salt is one of the five basic tastes that we’re hard-wired to detect (along with bitter, sweet, sour, and umami or savoury).

Favourite ingredient and why?

I love the combination of rose petals and cardamon, its gives a delicate flavour and sweet taste to a gin cocktail, shortbread or biscuits… even scones. Or my favourite Kulfi, a traditional Indian ice cream that does not contain any eggs.

Three dishes every home cook should master?

  1. A classic tasty healthy yellow lentil dal. Lentils are an excellent source of B vitamins, iron, magnesium, potassium and zinc. They’re also a great source of plant-based protein and fibre. We know the importance of having a less meat-reliant diet – it’s good for both our health and the environment, a tasty dal is a perfect brightly colour dish.
  2. Dhaba chicken. Growing up, the highlight of any road trip was a stopover at a Dhaba for steaming hot, spicy Dhaba style chicken curry, dal fry and tandoori roti’s fresh from the oven to mop it all up. The slow cooking process is what lends dishes a unique flavour. You can’t hurry love or curry.
  3. Basmati rice. “Bas” in Hindi language means “aroma” and “mati” means “full of,” hence the word Basmati — or “full of aroma.” The key to making basmati rice that is light, tender and fluffy is to rinse it first, otherwise, the grains will stick together. It only takes a minute or two. A simple dish such as grilled salmon can really benefit from a jazzed-up side of pilau rice – don’t be afraid to experiment, caramelised onion, citrus zest and pistachio are a great combination.

Loads of us are really bored of our own cooking right now – any advice?

Cooking is an art whilst baking is more like a science. Do not be afraid to improvise and experiment, with ingredients but also spices. YouTube has so many inspiring video, even Tik Tok has gone foodie obsessed. If your love food then you won’t get bored of cooking, pick a destination once a week and research a dish from that area.

Tsaretta Spice, Church Street, Twickenham, TW1 3NR. Tel: 020 8892 1096

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