Minesh Agnihotri, the chef bringing real Indian cuisine to your doorstep
When Gordon Ramsey went to India for the first time, he wondered if the curries we serve in Britain are the real deal.
“Are we doing it wrong?” he asked.
A famous Delhi food writer shook her head at the question: “It is nothing close. I was shocked they even call it Indian food.”
Ouch! We should have guessed. Chicken tikka masala and balti dishes are delicious, but it’s no secret that they were invented in Britain.
Which raises the question of where you can get authentic Indian food, without getting on an 8-hour flight to Rajasthan?
Brighton entrepreneur Minesh reckons that it’s pretty much impossible. So he’s on a mission to help Brits make their own pukka Indian cuisine with his delivery business, The Kari Club. Each month subscribers get the recipes and ingredients they need to make authentic regional Indian dishes.
Minesh’s recipes are inspired by his parents, who taught him the joy that food can bring. “The inspiration for good Indian food has always come from my mum, but the idea for the actual recipe kit came from my brother. He sent me a recipe box from someone else and I thought it was great. But nobody was doing a really good quality Indian one.”
It’s educating people who may not know what true Indian food is.
And they look (and taste) sensational. No processed food, colours or additives – you know exactly what you are putting into your food.
There’s pork belly vindaloo, and mamaji chicken – made with cashew nut puree and roasted fenugreek.
How about the south Indian dish called Nariyali Jhinga, made with coconut, plantain thoran, and juicy king prawns? It’s miles away from the menu of your typical high-street curry house.
“It’s educating people who may not know what true Indian food is,” says Minesh. “I had an email last week from a customer about a lovely spinach pea side-dish. He’d never had anything like it. So that was my job done, really!”
Vegan diners are in for a real treat. Indian cuisine has a wide range of vegan dishes, and The Kari Club is full of vegan recipes: “We are showcasing melon seeds, which is a really popular North Indian product that isn’t well-known in the UK. You blitz the melon seeds with water and it turns into a cream. No dairy.”
We’re giving people the confidence to cook from home.
Customers can buy one-off boxes to test the concept, before taking out a subscription. Soon there will be a recipe and spices-only option, so customers can source their own meat and vegetables. “A consultant told me, ‘One of the key things is to start one product at a time. Don’t start everything at once.’”
Minesh takes incredible pride in his personal service. When a customer received a package with a broken yoghurt pot (during an experimental eco-container trial), Minesh took the time to speak to him and apologise, and the pair have been emailing ever since about food and how The Kari Club can be improved.
He’s building the entire business to be environmentally friendly. There’s minimal single-use plastic, and all ingredients are organic and ethically sourced. It’s hugely ambitious.
Naturally, keeping an eye on costs is the biggest challenge. “Meat and fish prices go up and down. So, I’m constantly looking at a line that cost me 11p two weeks ago that now costs me 25p.”
Minesh manages The Kari Club’s finances with Tide. “If I want to look at my account, it’s instantaneous.” It means payments are so much easier. “I can just log in to the app before bed, and pay for my spices! Tide is so easy.”
Tide’s responsiveness matches his own ethos of personal contact: “When I need to ask a question or if there’s something I need to set up, Tide gets back to me really quickly. They’re just friendlier to deal with. With the big banks, it’s difficult to get any information. Even my old bank manager, who I had a good relationship with, would be difficult to get a meeting with.”
The reduction in time wasted on admin means that Minesh can concentrate on getting Britain acquainted with true Indian food. “When you start a business, there’s a lot of paperwork, which you need to find time to do! Using Tide makes managing my time more efficient, as opposed to the other way round.”
As a result, The Kari Club is off to a flier. In barely a year, it’s won a solid base of loyal customers and inquisitive newcomers. And best of all, it’s teaching curry-loving Brits how mouthwatering real Indian cuisine can be.
“We’re giving people the confidence to cook from home. Even cooking chapatis from home can make people feel a bit scared. So we love getting comments saying ‘It was so easy. I’ll never buy from a supermarket again!’”
Perhaps Gordon should give it a go.
Discover all the recipes and try a box at thekariclub.com.