South Asian Heritage Month: The influence of Indian cuisine on British culture

  • Video report by ITV News Anglia's Raveena Ghattaura

South Asian influences can be found everywhere across Britain, from music to history to the food we eat. 

For Indian chef Padmaja Kochera from Essex, food is a universal language - something that celebrates culture, diversity, and flavour that brings people together, beyond geographical borders.

Padmaja grew up in the state of Andra Pradesh in South India and came to Suffolk in 1999 when she got married, before moving to Essex.

It was only when she came to Britain that she found her love of cooking, after growing up on her father's "famous meat dishes".

Padmaja grew up on her dad's food in India. Credit: Padmaja Kochera

For many Indians, sharing a meal with their family is one of the most important activities of the day.

Despite being almost 5000 miles from home, Padmaja's food has has kept her connected to her roots as well as those memories of helping her father cook.

Almost 200 years before the Indian restaurant became a fixture on the British high street, the first curry house in Britain, the Hindoostane Coffee House in Portman Square, was opened in London in 1809.

Chef Padmaja Kochera and ITV News reporter Raveena Ghattaura cooking a curry. Credit: ITV Anglia

It was also known that Queen Victoria had Indian staff who cooked Indian food for her every day.

Her first taste of authentic Indian curry was courtesy of her servant Abdul Karim and it is thought she became so fond of the cuisine that Queen Victoria had curry on the menu most days.

It didn’t take long before her fascination reached the homes outside the palace, making the people curious to try Indian food.

To this day, the British are still in love with the cuisine, with thousands of Indian and Bangladeshi restaurants up and down the Eastern region.

Padmaja now works as a chef and food writer and also holds cooking classes in Suffolk and Essex, including Braxted Park in Witham.

She hopes her recipes will be passed onto future generations, so more people can sample some of her Indian heritage.

Padmaja's chicken curry. Credit: ITV Anglia

  • Here's the recipe for Padmaja's chicken curry


½ kg chicken, washed and cut into medium sized pieces2 large onions finely chopped1 tbsp ginger-garlic paste  3-4 green chillies slit length wise1 large tomato finely chopped  ½ tsp turmeric powder1 tbsp coriander powder  ¾ tsp to 1 tsp freshly ground pepper powder (add according to your spice level)1 tsp garam masala (1″ cinnamon, 1 green cardamom, 4 cloves finely ground)Fresh coriander leaves for garnishSalt1 ½ tbsp-2 tbsp oil


1- Heat oil in a cooking vessel, add the onions and sauté till transparent. Add the green chillies, ginger-garlic paste and sauté further for another 4-5 mins on medium heat.

2- Add the cleaned chicken pieces and cook on high heat for 4-5 mins, combining once in a while.

3- Add the turmeric powder, coriander powder, pepper powder and salt, combine well.

4- Reduce heat to medium, cook covered for another 4-5 mins.

5- Add the chopped tomatoes and let it cook for 3-4 minutes without cover. Combine well and cook till oil separates.

6- Let the chicken cook in its own water, covered for 4-5 mins. Add half a cup of water and cook covered for another 4-5 mins or till you get the desired gravy consistency.

7- Finally add the garam masala powder, combine well and garnish with fresh coriander leaves.

9- Serve hot with white steamed rice or chapatis