Introducing our latest home cook: Ratna

Meet Ratna, the home cook bringing a taste of North Africa and India to Barnet, inspired by her mother and mother-in-law’s cooking prowess. We met Ratna in her Barnet home to sample her home cooking, and we fell in love with her platter of traditional North African cuisine. From baba ganoush to Ful Medames, hummus to falafel, it was a privilege to explore the authentic flavours of North Africa without leaving Barnet.

We wanted to learn more about Ratna’s motivations and inspirations behind her delicious food.

Ratna was born and brought up in North Africa, and is also of North Indian heritage. She came to the UK 30 years ago.

Ratna’s favourite dish to cook is her famous platter: “It’s all traditional food made from scratch, I don’t buy anything from the store. This one is warm, it’s Fava beans, its called Ful Medames, it’s lots of tomato, onion, garlic, chilis and spices. Then we have tabbouleh, it’s salad- tomato, cucumber, parsley, rocket, spices. Then baba ganoush, hummus, tahini, mish, and the most famous nowadays is falafel. Which I call Ta’ameya, which is the original name for falafel. Ta’ameya was the original and it converted into falafel. That’s my platter.” Ratna also makes Indian and Punjabi dishes. Whatever cuisine she makes, she ensures that only the freshest and highest quality ingredients are used, even choosing to buy raw spices and grind them herself.

“To reach the heart, you have to go through the tummy”

Ratna’s main reason for cooking is family. She fondly recalls learning to cook with both her mother and mother-in-law when she was younger, revealing that their guidance meant that cooking became a “second nature”. Being family orientated, Ratna has always endeavoured to ensure her loved ones have access to delicious homemade food over inferior store bought alternatives. Her family gatherings always involve “a big meal, loads of food, laughter, and love”.

Ratna also credits her family with being an inspiration for her cooking. “My inspiration comes from my family. I’m all about family. I have had three stages of inspiration, firstly my mum, then my mum-in-law, and now my kids. My best critics are my son and daughter, who keep me on my toes. My mum and mum-in-law have been big characters in my life. My mum is here in London and still she’ll say ‘this is missing’, or ‘I can’t beat your cooking now, you’ve beat me’, so she’s both a critic and praiser.”

“Everyone enjoys my food. I show my love through my food”

 

Her food is also popular with her friends and neighbours, as Ratna enjoys the challenge of adapting her recipes to different tastes.

She’s also no stranger to sharing her food with the community, reminiscing about her time organising popular Diwali events for the London Borough of Barnet council. A natural host, Ratna’s dinner table is often full of hungry friends and family.

To Ratna, home cooked food is about enjoyment and love. She looks forward to sitting around the dinner table with her family each evening and talking about the day.

Buying her ingredients from local Barnet shops, Ratna strongly believes in supporting local independent businesses, “because everyone’s having a hard time at the moment”.

If you’d like to support local Barnet cooks, you can browse and pre-order Ratna’s range of delicious and authentic North African and Indian food on our site.

Keep an eye on our Instagram for more home cooking content.

 

What’s your favourite dish to cook?

“My favourite dish to cook is what’s it’s in my platter collection, I’ll show you- there we go, that’s my favourite dish to cook, it’s North African. It’s all traditional food made from scratch, I don’t buy anything from the store. This one is warm, it’s Fava beans, its called Ful Medames, it’s lots of tomato, onion, garlic, chilis and spices. Then we have tabbouleh, it’s salad- tomato, cucumber, parsley, rocket, spices. Then baba ganoush, hummus, tahini, mish, and the most famous nowadays is falafel. Which I call Ta’ameya, which is the original name for falafel. Ta’ameya was the original and it converted into falafel. That’s my platter.”

 

When did you start cooking?

“I would say when I was 17. I gradually built up my tastes and cooking skills. (Serra: Why 17?) I got married when I was 20, and when I was 17 and half way through college, I was very passionate about both eating and cooking. I used to cook according to my tastes, with my mum. (Serra: Did you learn to cook with you mum?). I did, but I’d be lying if I said I only cooked with my mum, the traditional Indian cuisine I learnt from my mother-in-law. She passed away, but I learnt so many things from her. She taught me so many things and now cooking is like a second nature.”

 

Why did you start cooking?

“I enjoy it very much, it’s like a hobby. My family loves my food. I used to always give them homemade food from when they were young, not store bought. Now they’re so fussy that when we go out they will say ‘This is not to your taste Mama’. I’m family orientated, they like my cooking.”

 

Do you have a big family?

“I have a very a big family. My family is just 5, but my Dad has 9 brothers. In London we have a big family, and we have my husband’s side too. We get together quite a lot, Diwali, Christmas, that sort of thing is a must. My son’s birthday is on Christmas Day, so I always celebrate it at our place as a family- a big meal, loads of food, laughter, love.”

 

What kind of food do you make?

“We have a variety of food. Sometimes a platter like I have here, sometimes traditional Indian food, sometimes Punjabi food. It’s always different, it depends on everyone’s mood. But it’s always homemade, even the spices I make at home. I grind the spices myself. I buy the raw spices and grind them at home. Even things like chickpeas, I don’t buy the canned ones, I buy them dry, soak them and cook them. It’s a big process, but I enjoy the process”

 

What do you love most about cooking?

“I love cooking because my family is such a big fan. They enjoy it so much and it brings me joy to cook for them.”

 

Where do you get your inspiration?

“That’s a tricky question. My inspiration comes from my family. I’m all about family. I have had three stages of inspiration, firstly my mum, then my mum-in-law, and now my kids. My best critics are my son and daughter, who keep me on my toes. My mum and mum-in-law have been big characters in my life. My mum is here in London and still she’ll say ‘this is missing’, or ‘I can’t beat your cooking now, you’ve beat me’, so she’s both a critic and praiser.

 

Where did you learn to cook Lebanese food?

“I’ve learnt it from watching my mum cook it. My friends and neighbours cook it too. They’re meat eaters but we’re vegetarians, so they’ll make it vegetarian for me. That’s how I learnt it.”

 

What do your friends and neighbours think of your food?

“They love it. A few friends came over last Sunday. They aren’t a big fan of Fava beans, so I tried some different ingredients and ways of cooking and last time they came over they said ‘you nailed it’. That was an achievement, they didn’t like it so I spiced it up”

 

What is your heritage and background?

“I was born and brought up in North Africa, and grew up there. Until 30 years ago I came here. Being North African and North Indian and coming to the UK mixed very well together. It’s family always for me. But now my family is growing up, it’s about meeting new friends and bringing everyone together. To reach the heart, you have to go through the tummy. My husband is a bit of a fussy eater, so I have to really work around that.”

 

What inspires you now?

“Everyone enjoys my food. I show my love through my food”

 

What do you like about sharing your food with the community?

“I used to work for the local council ten years ago, the London Borough of Barnet council. I used to host a Diwali lunch, I was the organiser, and it really went so well that they wanted to do it yearly. We used to cook all the food at home but the numbers got so big that we had to get caterers in. We did everything like decorations, candles, dressing in traditional Indian garments. Everyone was enjoying the food. I always have loads of parties going on, I love to host. Family gatherings too, I have a big family and everyone always comes round for dinner.”

 

When I say homecooked, what do you think of?

“Made with love, made in a healthy way. Just the enjoyment. I work part time, and when everyone comes home we sit around the table with a home cooked meal and talk about how they day was. It makes it really enjoyable.”

 

Where do you source your ingredients?

“From local shops. I would like support the local community because everyone’s having a hard time at the moment, so I get my ingredients from Barnet.”

If you’d like to try some authentic North African and Indian dishes, you can browse and pre-order Ratna’s range of delicious food on our site.

Keep an eye on our Instagram for more home cooking content.

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