Our new Local food hero, the queen of contemporary Caribbean cooking,

brings sunshine flavours to Arvia’s Caribbean holidays



Shivi Ramoutar’s journey to culinary queen is as evocative as the delicious plates of food she creates. Plates brimming with passion and flavour recall her childhood growing up in the Caribbean and her life as a chef and cookbook author in London today. Shivi’s childhood in Trinidad was marked by mealtimes with family and friends, with food always at the centre of any gathering. And later, after her family moved from Trinidad to the Leicestershire countryside (via a stint in New York), food became the bond between her family and their local Caribbean community, who celebrated Carnival and packed their children off to school with aromatic curries. Although Shivi was surrounded by food from an early age, it wasn’t until she started working in London that she discovered her calling, and a passion for Caribbean cooking. ‘I worked as a lawyer for several years, but I was never satisfied,’ Shivi recalls. ‘I always knew I wanted to do something creative but being a lawyer wasn’t creative enough for me. I wasn’t happy and I found myself going back to food.’ Starting with curry chicken, a Trinidadian recipe that her mother used to make, Shivi found the ritual of cooking almost meditative. ‘Adding the spices, then the chickpeas and the chicken brought back the memory of my parents cooking, and that made me feel really happy,’ she says. Shivi set up a supper club with a friend in London’s Shoreditch and her life took a new direction.

It was lovely to step into my parents’ shoes and cook Caribbean food for other people,’ she smiles. ‘I felt like I was passing on the comfort. I’d spent so much of my childhood in Leicester feeling embarrassed by being sent to school with Caribbean food when all I wanted was a ham sandwich like everyone else! But then, the idea of everything revolving around the kitchen became just wonderful to me.’ Shivi’s Caribbean supper club took off. She has since published two cookbooks, with a new one in the pipeline, and is the resident chef on ITV’s Martin & Roman’s Weekend Best on Saturday mornings, putting Martin Kemp and his son Roman through their paces in the kitchen. She’s also just recorded an episode of Celebrity Mastermind (specialist subject, Sex and the City). Her star just keeps ascending. Her feet, however, are firmly on the ground. ‘My heritage is very important to me,’ she says. ‘And the way I do Caribbean food now is authentic to me. Authenticity goes hand in hand with your own experience, and Caribbean food is “authentically inauthentic” because those beloved dishes from each island have taken form from so many different origins around the globe: jerk originates from West Africa, Jamaican patties take inspiration from Cornish pasties in the UK, and so on. The term “fusion” has been overworked but I guess Caribbean food is the ultimate fusion food. And I’ve moved from Trinidad to New York, to Leicester and then London. This journey is evident in my style of cooking.’

Food was the focal point of life in Trinidad, recalls Shivi. With her two sisters, she would often spend the day at her grandmother Marion’s house, revelling in the hustle and bustle of the Caribbean kitchen and watching keenly as meal after meal was prepared in one continuous heartbeat. ‘Whoever you went to visit, there would always be something there ready to eat,’ says Shivi. ‘There weren’t formal sit-down meals: you’d take food outside and sit and relax – or “lime” as we call it. It was all about being together. Everyone had their speciality so people would travel far to a family’s home for a specific dish. And nothing ever went to waste.’ Today, these influences are alive and well in Shivi’s attitude to cooking, recipe-writing and raising her young family in London. ‘I’m a feeder,’ she laughs. ‘And I’ve been getting my two children involved in the process of cooking. It’s important to see where food comes from, and to understand the importance of reducing food waste and of being resourceful.'

Shivi wants her cooking to be a celebration of great flavours, colour and life. ‘From callaloo (a rich stew or soup made with okra, callaloo leaves, ham hock and coconut milk) to roadside doubles (a curried chickpea sandwich brimming with sweet, sour and savoury condiments), there was never a shortage of happy-making, flavourful food in Trinidad,’ she recalls.

The joyous, colourful nature of Caribbean food is something Shivi now wants to share with guests travelling on Arvia, and her menu of sociable dishes at The Beach House promises to be bold, vibrant and multicultural. ‘All our happy memories seem to revolve around food,’ she says. ‘I want my menu to hug the nations that have come to the Caribbean islands over the years. It will be colourful because you eat first with your eyes. And for me, colour is Carnival and Trinidadian culture. I hope guests will look at my dishes, smile and want to dive right in.’



Wherever I am in the world, when I eat Caribbean food it takes me back to a specific memory,’ says Shivi. ‘This curry chicken recipe evokes memories of lovely Sundays in Trinidad, of being with the family and enjoying great, warm, plentiful food. I always want to make this when I need a little reassurance; it gives me that feeling of comfort. The recipe can be adapted, depending on what you have around your house, so it’s always a little loose. Tweak it to find your own style.’

INGREDIENTS 2 tbsp vegetable oil 1 onion, roughly chopped 3 cloves garlic, grated 2 tbsp chopped coriander 2 tbsp curry powder 1 tbsp ground cumin 8-12 boneless, skinless chicken thighs 250ml chicken stock made with 1 stock cube 1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained 1 large potato, skin on, in bite-sized cubes Scotch bonnet-based pepper sauce, or hot sauce, for drizzling. 4 wraps or rice, cooked as per instructions

METHOD 1. Heat the oil on a medium heat and soften the onion for about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and the spices and, stirring, cook until the aroma hits you.

2. Add the chicken, brown off, then add the stock, chickpeas and potato. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer, adding a splash of water if the mixture becomes too dry. The curry should be thick and not too liquid. Cook for about 25 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the potato is soft. Season to taste.

3. Pop the curry into a bowl and serve with rice, or serve it like street food: wrapped in roti or wraps like a burrito, with splashes of hot sauce to serve.

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