Raman's Handmade Relishes - the spicy accompaniments from Strensall
PUBLISHED: 15:46 04 July 2011 | UPDATED: 19:39 20 February 2013
There is nothing quite as tasty as the spicy accompaniments that can make an every-day meal that little bit special, as our food and drink consultant Annie Stirk report Photographs by Andy Bulmer
Its fair to say that Priya Raman and Geetha Varadan bring a world of flavour to their cookery. From their little kitchen in Strensall, near York, the best friends and business women who have lived in Southern India, the Middle East, America and now the UK bottle the essence of an extraordinary journey of food discovery, bringing the traditional, exotic and contemporary flavours of four countries to their range of Ramans Handmade Relishes.
And it seems that while relish is their game, relish is also in their nature with both women having an unwavering passion for what they do. Having lived together as a family in India (Geetha has been with Priya since she was a baby) the pair continue to live and work together under the same roof, shopping for produce and doing marketing during the day, picking up Priyas two sons from school and doing the usual after-school activities, before chopping vegetables and roasting spices into the night for their next batch of aubergine, butternut squash, beetroot, pepper, dessert apple and carrot and tomato and onion relishes.
We might have a couple of hours sleep but were often cooking and producing until 3.30 in the morning, says Priya. We produce around 90-100 jars per day all cooked in the kitchen at home. We dont use microwave ovens, nothing is frozen or ready-made, no part of the process is rushed or skimped, and there are no short-cuts.
Both women are heavily influenced by their mothers and grandmothers. Priya describes her grandmothers cooking and the wonderful aromas of her childhood avocado raita, Indian pilaf, chick pea pasties, rhubarb and spice chutneys while Geetha, a former payroll manager, says she learned everything from her mother, who was an amazing cook. Geethas family originally lived in Aden, a seaport city in Yemen, where there wasnt much of an Asian population and it made Geetha a very distinctive cook, living in an Arab country, I needed to be inventive, she says.
Geetha is very organised, adds Priya. She has played with numbers all her life and if you want to know the amounts of ingredients for 500 jars she will know exactly how much is needed.
Indeed, the spice blend for all the recipes is a secret and Geetha is the brains behind it, and she knows exactly how much goes into each batch. Her Middle Eastern background also influences many of the relishes; in the aubergine relish, tahini is combined with smoked paprika and nutmeg, for example.
The seed for the relish business came initially from Priya, who wanted to come up with what she described as the perfect ingredient a neat little idea that could spice up cooking, be used as a marinade (they are wonderful stirred into sour cream) or as an accompaniment to meat or fish. For us, delicious accompaniments are more than just a bit on the side they make or break the dish, she says.
She recalls that when she was pregnant she would wander around supermarkets unable to find anything to satisfy her cravings. I started spending more and more time in the kitchen, creating and writing down recipes and memories of food from my childhood. I began selling my first relishes at my sons school fete and they were a great success. The chef there, Tom Kaye, said wow you should go into production and the idea just grew from there.
Spices for the relishes are sourced from Harrogate and Leicester and Priya has formed a good relationship with the Farmers Cart, an award winning farm shop only a couple of miles away, which provides the vegetables.
Priya and Geetha now supply 15 delis in Yorkshire and Scotland and have completed their first export order for Germany and Austria.
In 2010, the Raman family also won the title of Britains Best Cooking Family on the Hairy Bikers Cook-off on BBC2, beating off competition from more than 200 families across the UK.
Its not everyday that you can claim to have blown away a BBC TV Hairy Biker, says Priya. But they couldnt have been more positive about what we cooked up in the kitchen that day. Our relishes reflect our food journeys, passions and experience, and I hope our mothers and grandmothers would be proud if they could see us today.
Rock n roll and relish
Sheffield-made Hendersons Relish is one with a rock star profile. Named after Henry Henderson, who began manufacturing his own sauce in the late 19th century, its now one of Yorkshires most famous exports, and its unique aroma and flavour brilliant as a sauce on meat dishes, and for soups and marinades have won many celebrity fans. Sheffield singer songwriter Richard Hawley, guitarist with cult band Pulp, says he cried when he returned home after a long tour and had his first taste of Hendos with sausage, mash and gravy; Peter Stringfellow is said to refuse to eat breakfast without it; while Rick Savage and his band mates from Def Leppard apparently rock all over the world with a bottle of Hendersons in their bags.
Other great Yorkshire relishes to try:
Rosebud Preserves Red Tomato Relish, rich and spicy; no burger or barbecued rib is complete without it. Rosebud Preserves have been making a range of 50 products, including jams, jellies, mustards, chutneys and four different relishes, for more than 20 years at its farm in Healey Masham, Ripon. All products are made by hand in small batches using traditional methods.
01765 689174 rosebudpreserves.co.uk
Womersley Fine Foods Apple and Geranium Jelly, with its florid hint of Turkish Delight, is a peerless addition to marinades for fish and smoked meats. Lavish on a tapas-style spread with Mediterranean pts or add to fragrant rice; even better with ice-cream or sorbet. The late and much loved foodie Martin Parsons and his wife Aline, began creating vinegars, preserves and jellies from produce harvested in their walled garden at Womersley 20 years ago. Martins ability to blend specialist herbs and sumptuous fruits with vinegar and sugar continues to be championed by his son Rupert and the company have won numerous Great Taste awards.
0113 2865 855 www.womersleyfoods.co.uk
Porters Preserves Peppered Mushroom Relish made with plump oyster mushrooms soaked in honey and cooked with a blend of black pepper and spices, goes fantastically with all cheeses and meats and is particularly good with a bacon butty. Porters is a small business in Knaresborough, which uses home-grown apples and pears and vegetables from local farmers. Everything is handmade and more than 80 per cent of the whole fruit goes into the preserves, with no artificial additives and no preservatives.
07986 731291 porterspreserves.co.uk