Cooking star learnt from granny
Such is the interest in food in new Masterchef SA winner Kamini Pather’s family that her mother, Anitha, cooked biryani and prepared Indian sweetmeats for her daughter and son for Diwali, packaged the food, and sent it on a plane to Cape Town to ensure they ate a traditional meal on the special day.
Last night, the Durban-born Pather said the lessons she learnt as a little girl of the basics of cooking potato curry at her granny’s home in Mobeni Heights helped catapult her to celebrity status as the winner of the second season of the hugely popular TV cooking competition.
It follows after fellow Durbanite Deena Naidoo won the competition last year.
Pather, 30, whose family live in Glenwood, attended Durban Girls’ College and graduated with a commerce degree at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. She moved to Cape Town in 2006.
She is a writer, photographer and a radio host on 2oceansvibe fm, and runs her own blog, http://Kamini.co.za.
“My love for food started with my granny.
“I remember long Sunday lunches with lots of food being prepared and wherever there was family there was food,” said Pather.
She, with her mom and grandmother, were featured in Sam Woulidge’s book Confessions of a Hungry Woman which was released earlier this year.
The three cooked up a delicious Indian meal, which included vegetable bhajias, prawn pilau with raita and cucumber salad, and a cardamom and pistachio kulfi.
In the book, which is based on Woulidge’s popular cooking blog, the journalist writes that the three women had an “easy familiarity” and chatted sharing stories while they cooked.
When Pather became older, she said she started experimenting with eggs, and challenged herself with more complex recipes.
On her blog, she often refers to her mother and grandmother when discussing recipes. Her blog entry on her “Ma’s chicken breyani”, Pather said her grandmother (whom she refers to as Ma) was still the head chef at all gatherings, and was always keen to chat about recipes she had seen on BBC Lifestyle or about the latest book she’s buried in.
“As a child, Ma would always amaze me with her knife skills. She would be able to peel the jacket off any fruit or vegetable in one delicate spiral and carve out cores and foreign bits in near-artistic form.
“She would be able to, with only a whiff, smell a pot and know what spice was missing. Her culinary wiles are still as precise as anybody’s and she still grinds and mixes masala for our entire family, which is so good that it often finds its way over the sea into the homes of her family,” recounts Pather.
She writes at the onset of her blog: “When asked why her food always tasted so good, my mother would say that it was because she cooked with love… that belly-warmth that only good food made with love can bring, is what I carry with me at each meal.”
Pather maintains that her cooking was not necessarily Indian.
“I read tons of magazines and look up recipes from all over, but I have learnt to use spices in my meals and this comes from what I learnt while growing up,” she said.
She aims to get South Africans cooking using seasonal and locally grown foods.
“Cooking gave me a sense of freedom, and I want to share this with people, and I’d like to do this by producing a product that will get people cooking again, such as a web-based blog where people can share recipes,” she said.
Her prizes include R400 000 in cash from Robertsons; a VW Golf 7, a five-night Maia Luxury Resort and Spa holiday in the Seychelles with a partner, which includes business-class airfares and spending money courtesy of Tsogo Sun, a year’s free shopping at Woolworths valued at R100 000, and a year’s supply of wine and a full sommelier course from Nederburg.