Manjit's Kitchen Leeds: How cooking with her grandma inspired Manjit Kaur's hit veggie street food
Manjit's Kitchen has become a household name in the Leeds food scene.
Launched by Manjit Kaur and her husband Michael Jameson as a home delivery business in 2010, their vegetarian Punjabi curries and snacks have reached many homes across the city.
Manjit is a self-trained chef who loves to put a twist on the ingredients and flavours she grew up eating.
While her four siblings were playing outside, she preferred to help her grandma prepare the evening meal in their Chapeltown kitchen.
“My mum, dad and grandma used to get all the family together and cater for family weddings from our garage," Manjit, 50, said.
"All the passion came from back home in India with all the relatives, that’s where it all started.
"My granny used to look after us when my mum and dad went to work and I would hang out with her in the kitchen while everyone else was playing. I felt bad that Granny had to cook for everyone!"
Manjit and Michael set up their first permanent home in Kirkgate Market in 2016, before launching a restaurant in Kirkstall Road three years later.
The pair have poured their heart and soul into the business and the personal touch has resonated with their customers.
After a difficult first marriage which knocked Manjit's confidence, cooking has been her therapy.
“I think I got left behind through the bad experiences I had," Manjit said.
"I wanted to do something for myself to make myself proud, that’s what gave me the confidence to just do something I love and enjoy.
"It boosted my confidence to think - 'yes, as an Asian female, I can do this'.”
Manjit's warm personality and humorous anecdotes on life in Leeds have earned her an impressive social media following.
Her customers got behind a crowdfunding campaign to raise the money to launch the Kirkstall Road restaurant - and that unwavering support would go on to help the business through the pandemic.
Manjit and Michael had to revert to home deliveries during lockdowns, whizzing around Leeds delivering curries with help from Manjit's son.
“It’s been phenomenal really, I get so much energy and support on social media," Manjit added.
“It’s come full circle, we started with home deliveries and we were back doing them over lockdown.
“It’s been a rollercoaster for everybody, not just people with businesses. It’s been a horrific year and a half but we managed to turn it around with all the support from Leeds and on social media.
“That’s what gave us the energy to carry on.”
Manjit's Kitchen in Kirkgate Market, which is now run by a group of women that Manjit trained up, is now open - as is their Kirkstall Road restaurant.
“We’ve got five tables out of 10 open, there's a nice feel," Manjit added.
"We just want people to feel comfortable, there’s a really nice vibe and everybody loves what we’re doing. You don’t have to come for a full meal, you can walk in for snacks or a cup of chai.
“I love all the running around, coming up with lovely dishes and training and supporting everyone. It gives me the energy to keep on going and keep on cooking; that’s what I love doing.”
What's on Manjit's menu?
Manjit blends the familiar spices of North Indian curries with her own take on vegetarian street food, from parsnip crisps with Desi ketchup to paneer tikka flatbreads.
Her trademark Thali, a selection of dishes served in a traditional large tray or boxed up for delivery, currently includes cumin rice, butternut squash kofta, dhal, slaw, roti and chutneys.
The Vada Pau or ‘Mumbai sandwich’ is a beetroot bun filled with a spiced mashed potato ball in gram flour batter, green chutney, tamarind and dry garlic chutney.
Small plates include fried potatoes seasoned with chaat masala and served with homemade curry sauce, crispy onion bhajis and salt and pepper chickpea fries.
Customers can wash down their snacks with Manjit’s house chai, black tea with an aromatic spice blend, a refreshing mango lassi or a range of beers.
Manjit’s collaboration with Horsforth Brewery, Manjit’s Pale, is a four per cent lime and coriander pale ale - the perfect pairing for her street food.
“It’s home-cooked, authentic and fabulous veggie and vegan food," she said.
"So many customers tell me it takes them back to the food they enjoyed at home growing up.
“We just mess around in the kitchen and try things that are a bit different. We add specials on the menu, from paneer tikka to beetroot bun Vada, to chickpea fries.
“My ultimate favourites are the chilli paneer and chickpea fries. The chickpea fries are made with pure butter and gram flour, it’s something different.
"It’s all the ingredients we’ve grown up with, we’ve just tried to add extra excitement to the menu."
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