10 Minutes With: Romy Gill MBE, Romy's Kitchen

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 29th November 2016

MasterChef judge and MBE Romy Gill is chef/owner of Romy's Kitchen in Bristol. Since opening in 2013 she has been shortlisted for an Asian Women of Achievement Award and has been nominated in the Bristol Good Food Awards, the BBC Bristol Food Hero and The British Curry Awards 2014.

Romy has been making a culinary stir in the countryside as she hosted a public dinner party at the idyllic country manor, Dewsall Court in rural Herefordshire. After exploring the Secret Garden-like grounds lit up with candles, guests piled in to the great hall for a reception of cardamom infused gin and tonics as the sun went down over the Black Mountains. Meanwhile Romy was hard at work in the kitchen with one hand stirring vats of Arnanda Gosht and the other held to her ear as she managed the staff at her restaurant in Thornbury.

Romy Gill at Dewsall Court
Romy Gill at Dewsall Court

Over the past few years the family run Dewsall court has been hosting supper clubs showcasing top chefs. The chefs design a unique four course menu and cook it on site to be paired with specially chosen wine and Chase distillery cocktails.

Feeling stuffed after a phenomenal menu encompassing the freshest seasonal ingredients, we caught up with Romy to discuss her adaptation of Indian recipes to accommodate British ingredients and her refreshing attitude to healthy eating.

Tell us a bit about your use of Ghee. How do you blend traditional Indian recipe ghee with British ingredients?

I like to put balance in my food, which I do by mixing ghee with rapeseed oil which is grown in this country, and I support the producers of this country. Why wait for something that is going to come from far away? I have been here for more than 20 years so I am very much British but my culture is back from India. My mum used to use ghee, my Grandparents used to use it. You can use spices in it, you can use bay leaves, you can use chilies.

Can you share your ghee recipe with us?

It’s really easy, get the butter you know, melt the butter, any kind of butter. In India we would get the buffalo milk, but here, that is not possible so you can probably get somewhere with normal butter. Put it on a high temperature, start with a high temperature then go to the low and the foam goes to the top, which you throw it away and then the brown bit at the bottom. You leave it to rest and that’s the ghee. Used in moderation, anything used in moderation is really good for you. I just don’t, I think everybody is so different, so what might...my metabolism might, it might be good for my metabolism but not for yours. So I think all these health fads, I don’t really believe in that. Nothing is banned in my kitchen.

How does the use of ingredients differ across India, and how does that translate to Indian cooking in the UK?

Romy Gill at Dewsall Court
Romy Gill at Dewsall Court

Every state has cultural differences. It depends in every state what is grown there. India is such a big country, every state people speak different languages, people eat differently and have different ways of cooking, different ways of using spices. The spices are the same, the way you use it will change the look of the dish, the taste of the dish, the smell of the dish...everything!

It’s all about how you add your spices, how you going to use the oil, how you going use the butter or ghee, anything! It’s just, it’s the way of using it, you know spices are very good for you but this turmeric fad coming out now in  the UK and chai latte, we’ve been using it for donkey's years you know, how can that suddenly become the big thing you know?

We heard you grow your own vegetables at your restaurant?

We have a big garden at the back of the restaurant, we are very lucky with that, so we try to grow most our vegetables which is very seasonal.

When did your interest in seasonal food begin?

My parents are from the North, India is a big country. I was born and brought up in West Bengal. My parents are Punjabi, I spoke so many different languages.  My mum would depend on the seasonal produce, because you had to depend on the local produce, you couldn’t wait for something coming from thousands of kilometres and then wait, you couldn’t, you have to adapt to what you had.

Your use of mackerel in this evening’s meal was fantastic. The flavours of the mackerel were made truly unique by your use of a tandoori mix to marinate and a kashmiri chilli to bring up the heat before serving with a papaya and pomegranate salad. Mackerel isn’t an ingredient that most British people associate with Indian cuisine. What’s your reason for using that type of fish?

Romy Gill at Dewsall Court
Romy Gill at Dewsall Court

I would never, never wait for a fish that will come from overseas frozen. I would always use fish from here. This particular mackerel was from Devon, which is the same as I use in my restaurant. I also use monkfish, I use hake. I never grew up having those, but this is what I have here, so I utilise it.

Do you follow trends with your ingredients at all? Are you excited about any up and coming ingredients at the moment?

Do you know what, I just, I don’t because we make our own sauces and we make our own techniques. We make our everything in our restaurant, we do not buy anything made. Of course ketchup and things like that, but you can do a twist to a ketchup, make our own ketchup.

I don’t follow any trends I just follow is more seasonal and local and that kind of thing, and also supporting small producers ethically, I am very ethical, grown and sourced. For me those things are more important than trends and things like that.. My next step is very important to just keep going. It’s a very hard industry. It is not easy.

So what's next for you?

One day I’m going to have to sit down and write a book. It’s going to be my journey about the story behind every recipe and who has helped me. Sometimes you think you can’t write, but I think everybody has it inside them, everybody can write, It’s just in your head that you can’t write. I had that all the time in my head... can’t do it, can’t do it, can’t. I think if you write every single day, even a way of writing a recipe every single day or doing something, I think it helps you.

Words by Shanna F. Jones

@ShannaFelicia

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The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 29th November 2016

10 Minutes With: Romy Gill MBE, Romy's Kitchen