Estimated reading time:6 minutes, 17 seconds
Everyone has a story. Five courses and a cocktail are the supper club treat offered each month by passionate cook Roshni Shah, who loves to blend Indian and Middle Eastern flavours. And now she’s celebrating a year of her 8 Plates supper club. Interview by Nicola Baird. Photos by Kimi Gill.
Roshni Shah buys clothes for a living but her passion for cooking modern vegetarian dishes is a huge part of her life in Archway. In her home’s hallway there’s a blue plaque – a gift from her cousin – describing her as a ‘cake lady’. The super tidy kitchen, filled with bright details like a vibrant portrait of Frida Kahlo and colourful window blinds, has a shelf of cookbooks on display. Behind the kitchen units are stockpiled ingredients such as suma powder, za’atar and puffed black rice fighting for space with homemade pickles and the many, many plates you need if you serve up five dishes to eight supper club guests every month. No wonder Roshni says she’d love a dishwasher.
>This is the 250th interview on ISLINGTON FACES. To celebrate, readers (and all 250 interviewees) is invited for a drink (there are plenty of soft options) in the pub on Monday 2 October. Save the date and hopefully you’ll soon be sent an email with your invite. If you want to come along, and haven’t yet received an invite please email Nicola for event details!
Excitingly on the table for this Islington Faces interview are two delicious plates of goodies Roshni has created from leftovers from her most recent (July) supper club. There are savoury puffed pastries piled with courgette, chill, garlic, lemon zest and cardamom and topped with feta and preserved lemon paste. And there are delectable-looking mini vanilla sponges sandwiched with slices of nectarine, cherry gel and white chocolate ganache. Her food is a very creative – and tasty – mix of ingredients.
“I keep all the menus and as my experience had developed, the first ones seem more basic now,” says Roshni who loves to read about food and discovering new flavours. “I do a lot of tasting, then write a menu and figure out how to make it.” For such creativity she charges just £35 a head but also has to prepare “for up to a week in advance and then cooking over two days. I like my day job but when it’s supper club time I get really excited.” No wonder it’s always fully booked.
Places Roshni Shah recommends in Islington
Roshni’s knowledge about food makes her a perfect person to ask where to eat delicious vegetarian food and ingredients (“I’ve never eaten meat in my life”) and what to buy. She also admits that she is “constantly eating out to get inspiration. I say to myself if I go for dinner, ‘it’s research’.”
- My food hero is Ottolenghi – the one on 287 Upper Street is an Islington institution.
- Loving Hut on 669 Holloway Road does really good Chinese and Pan Asian food. It’s vegan so you have the run of the whole menu.
- Oriental Foods on 126 Junction Road is good for tofu and oriental bits.
- Nid Ting Thai, 553 Holloway Road is a lovely family run Thai restaurant.
- Apple-A-Day, 621 Holloway Road, I walk past on the way home. It has a really great variety of vegetables and what I call hippy ingredients. It’s my corner shop but it’s selling ostrich eggs.
- In Tufnell Park, Fam Market, 150 Fortess Road is good for unusual ingredients like micro herbs which looks so pretty on a plate. My mum says let me know two weeks in advance and she’ll grow it! I also love the delicious and unusual ice cream flavours at Ruby Violet, 118 Fortess Road, NW5
- The Landseer on 37 Landseer Road is a lovely local pub with excellent pizza.
- There are good veg stalls on Holloway Road and at Nags Head Market. What’s lacking is a good Indian shop for spices that don’t cost a fortune. I go to Finchley near my parents. It’s one of those shops where they’ve known me my whole life and know my name.
Wise use of food
For Roshni good food isn’t just about matching fantastic flavours, it’s also about using seasonal produce “because it tastes better” and avoiding wasting food.
“No food waste was drummed into me. My family don’t waste anything,” explains Roshni, 35, who moved to Archway four years ago attracted by the multicultural vibe and the fact that it’s so close to places she loves, like Hampstead Heath, as well as near her family.
“Growing up the daughter of immigrants in Finchley, school was so mixed but then I went to Leeds University and met people who had never even tasted a mango was! Mum is a massive influence on my cooking as I love to blend Indian and Middle Eastern flavours. I’m lucky as I’ve got the Indian food side and I can look to Mum and her heritage growing up in Kisumu [a tropical port in Kenya on the shores of Lake Victoria].”
Roshni has been volunteering for the past three years on Saturdays to cook up a three course lunch with Foodcycle, first at Bloomsbury and now at Finsbury Park Community Centre on Corker Walk, N7. Foodcycle has hubs all over England, see “It’s not a soup kitchen,” explains Roshni, “it tackles food poverty, food waste and social isolation using food that would have gone in the bin donated by Tesco’s in Finsbury Park and Stamford Hill, Sainsbury’s Finsbury Park, Planet Organic in Essex Road,” adding that Foodcycle keeps dry foods for the weeks when not much is collected. Guests to recent Foodcycle lunches have enjoyed cheesy mushroom bruschetta; sweet potato, coconut and lentil curry and chocolate banana cake – all of which sounds delicious.
It’s so easy to take food for granted, but listening to Roshni discuss her amazing 8plates menus, ingredients and tackling food waste it’s clear that are many, many ways to improve the way Islington Faces eat. And the easiest has to be booking a ticket to Roshni’s first birthday supper club in September. See you there.
- grubclub.com/8-plates Next supper club dates are on 23 September, 28 October and 25 November.
- facebook 8platessupperclub
- insta @8platessupperclub
- twitter @8platespopup
- Find out more about Foodcycle, volunteer or treat yourself to a delicious lunch, see http://www.foodcycle.org.uk/location/finsbury-park/ .
Over to you
If you’d like to nominate someone to be interviewed who grew up, lives or works in Islington, or suggest yourself, please let me know, via nicolabaird.green at gmail.com.