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“It’s immigration and innovation that have made British food great”

In the second part of her residency, chef and writer Ravinder Bhogal proudly raises a fork to those who have transformed the nation’s cooking, introducing ingredients and flavours from far-flung lands

The residency.

RAVINDER BHOGAL

Food writer in residence No 6

Immigration has changed the way Britain eats. Our food culture has flourished with the influx of new arrivals. Immigration and the innovation it brings have helped make Britain great, and our food decidedly global. Our kitchens have become home to feasts of ingredients, flavours and ideas from every corner of the globe.

Immigrant foods have often been attacked as a mark of foreign invasion. Indian restaurant owners who opened their doors in the 1960s and 70s tell moving stories of the racial abuse they faced. Their food, derisively referred to as ‘foreign muck’, was derided for the pungency of its spices.

As a child, I had a lunchbox that my classmates positively recoiled from. There were no neat crustless triangles of bread, but rolled up keema chapattis whiffing of garlic and cumin that made me long for a jam sandwich and a packet of Hula Hoops. Now I’m full of joy at how Britain has embraced food that was so alien in appearance, taste and aroma even just a decade ago.

What I love most about ‘immigrant food’ is that it flourishes by feeding other immigrants. It creates mini-economies of restaurants, suppliers and markets specialising in food from a cross-section of world communities. The food of immigrants is about adaptation to environment and circumstance. Recipes aren’t static but are stories open to the improvisations forced on people by their new landscapes. In urban centres, the proximity to other immigrant communities means there is a sharing that creates interesting hybrid dishes. There’s also an interesting mash-up of culinary heritage with what the new landscape has to offer. My mother cooked ‘English food’ on Friday nights. The batter for her fish and chips was laced with ginger, garlic and carom seeds, her shepherd’s pie emboldened with black cardamom and cinnamon, the warmth of spices feebly trying to comfort a family who could not adjust to the frigid English weather.

When standing up for immigrants and the greater ideal of immigration, food might be just the ammunition you need. It’s one thing to be wary of unseen, faceless Syrians, Indians and Koreans but it’s quite another to enjoy silky houmous, a puff of naan bread or an eye-watering kimchi and still hold on to those prejudices.

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About delicious. Magazine

Enjoy a bank holiday bonanza with the May issue of delicious. – there's the ultimate rainproof picnic, global dishes from Ravinder Bhogal and a crayfish feast from Gill Meller. With new recipe ideas for pesto and asapargus, a Cornish crab rarebit and herby saddle of lamb, spring has truly sprung. After the strong comes the sweet – three bakes fit for a Royal wedding, an insanely good rhubarb, lime and ginger custard tart, and Nutella doughnuts. That’s why delicious. is the UK’s best food magazine.