Every summer, in sultry, tropical Birmingham, Surjit Uppal lays out her masala spices in the midday sun, and, when they are dry and ready, she grinds them up at home for a year’s supply.
Her daughter, Nina, who loves to cook and entertain, served anything from chicken curry to baked beans on toast with the magic masala ingredient, and friends loved it so much that she found she was giving all her supply away.
From a high-flying job with the likes of Liberty and Selfridges, she suddenly had the idea to make and market her mother’s Magic Masala. Her mixture of 15 different spices (as opposed to the eight used in commercial blends), including cardamom, chilli, fenugreek, kachoor and mace, can now be bought online, and Fortnum & Mason is now interested in stocking it.
‘I could never get dishes to taste quite the same as my mother’s, which are true to her Punjabi roots. And I always wanted to run my own business, so in February last year, I handed in my notice and was resting and thinking about it when I was inspired by a TV programme about women millionaires.’
Galvanised into action, she started The New York Delhi Company, fusing her mother’s North Indian recipes with the chic of New York delis such as Dean & DeLuca. Magic Masala is ground specially coarse in the traditional manner (unlike commercial versions), with Surjit Uppal in charge of quality control at the Birmingham headquarters.
Magic Masala (£4.99, 100gm), Magic Curry Powder (£4.99), spiced salt (£3.99) and turmeric (£2.99) are already for sale, to be followed next month by her own take on Bombay Mix. To buy online, visit www.magicmasala.co.uk