Who is Manju Malhi, Anglo-Indian chef invited to King Charles III's coronation

Manju used to make a lot of simple dishes using British ingredients and Indian spices, like Tadka Beans – or baked beans with a little bit of cumin, taking all inspiring tips in her cooking come from her mum

By Newsmeter Network  Published on  6 May 2023 3:20 AM GMT
Manju Malhi, Anglo-Indian chef invited to King Charles IIIs coronation

London: From helping during Covid-19 to offering cookery classes in remote areas, Indian-origin chef Manju Malhi has won British Empire Medal (BEM) and an invite to one of the most iconic moments in global history.

Manju will be among the chosen few British Empire Medal (BEM) recipients seated at Westminster Abbey in London when King Charles III will be formally crowned Britain's monarch at a grand ceremony on Saturday.

Manju Malh, a British-born chef and food writer, specializing in Anglo-Indian cuisine, was raised in North West London, where she grew up surrounded by Indian culture, traditions, and lifestyles, learning about Indian food from her mother – an immigrant from Mumbai who worked as a nurse in the UK's National Health Service (NHS). Manju spent several years of her childhood in India, where she explored and experienced the vast and varied cuisines of the country.

Manju is among the last batch to be awarded a BEM by Charles' mother, the late Queen Elizabeth II, for services to the community in London during the Covid-19 response. The medal recognized her work offering remote cookery classes to the old age charity Open Age during the lockdown and got her the coveted Abbey to invite to a gathering of an estimated 2,000 guests made up of community champions, charity representatives, world leaders, and royalty.

"When I realized it is happening, I felt like gosh – who am I to be at one of the most historic moments in global history, sitting in the Abbey watching the ceremony take place for real," said Malhi, who has come up with her own self-styled Brit-Indi style of food, which mixes Indian and Western influences.

"Im quite nervous because normally I just cook and throw on some clothes and an apron. But this is almost like a wedding but more important than that. I think I have everything ready; I have to do a checklist as I do with my ingredients," she said.

The British-born chef, in her early 50s, is also a prolific food writer behind popular recipe books on Anglo-Indian cuisine such as 'Everyday Healthy Indian' and most recently 'The Seasoned Foodie'. She came to prominence in 1999 when she won a competition to find a guest chef for the BBC's Food and Drink program and cooked with Antony Worrall Thompson on the show.

Manju used to make a lot of simple dishes using British ingredients and Indian spices, like Tadka Beans – or baked beans with a little bit of cumin, would teach how to make a crumble using mangoes instead of apples. All inspiring tips in her cooking come from my mum.

"My foot is very much in two countries, India and England. I always go back to India for inspiration and ideas as to what I could try out. It's almost like a crossover, so I take British cuisine to India and Indian cuisine to the UK," said Manju.

Set back during pandemic

On her charity work that got her on the Buckingham Palace guest list, Malhi explains that it all came about at a time when chef work suffered a setback during the pandemic, and charities like Open Age and C-Change West London expressed an interest in her offer of cooking lessons. Something that she was involved with pre-pandemic as well took on a wider virtual element to get people cooking healthy meals with fresh herbs and spices.

"At a time when we were all feeling low and worried about older members in our community, we had Zoom classes for the tech-savvy and also a 'conference call cooking' option for the others," she said.

Indian-style costume by Geeta Handa

Malhi has chosen British Indian fashion designer Geeta Handa to create an Indo-Western outfit that reflects her heritage and resonates with the regal theme of the day. The result is a bespoke design, tailored from pure Indian broderie cotton to a vibrant royal blue tone and styled as a kameez over trousers.

"As a British Indian fashion designer, my vintage-inspired outfits are all about creating a global style statement through conscious fashion and we loved making BEM recipient Manju Malhi look the part for the day in her coronation outfit as she actively supports our sustainable ethics and giving back to the community," said Geeta Handa.

"We've also kept in mind the Union Jack – the flag of the United Kingdom colors and added elements of the 1940s, the era King Charles was born, to its sleek shape and frill double collar. The broderie fabric gives it an effortless sophisticated day dress look," she said. The look will be completed with a fascinator and fancy shoes, with more comfortable walking shoes handy in a little handbag, reveals an excited Malhi during an interview in her kitchen just days before in south-west London.

Inputs from PTI

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