As a chef, Manju Malhi was recently forced to step out of her comfort zone as one of the British Empire Medal (BEM) winning guests invited to the Coronation ceremony of King Charles and Queen Camilla at Westminster Abbey in London.
“Normally I just cook and throw on some clothes and an apron. I had to do a checklist like I do with my ingredients,” shares the chef and prolific cookery writer, who joined other community champions at the historic ceremony earlier this month.
As someone who says her foot is very much in two countries, India and England, her outfit also reflected that fusion. British Indian fashion designer Geeta Handa created an Indo-Western outfit for her big day, which reflected her heritage and resonated with the regal theme.
Handa said: “Having Manju in one of my outfits was apt as she’s amongst one of many clients who I dress that believe in helping communities and appreciate conscious fashion.
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“She carried it off well and I’d put in a lot of thought for the comfort and simplicity she wanted along with the occasion’s day wear brief. I could see her getting so many compliments for its striking blue colour, Indo-Western silhouette and 1940s vintage inspiration in broderie anglaise Indian cotton fabric.”
UK-born Malhi was conferred her BEM by the late Queen Elizabeth II for services to the community in London during the Covid-19 response. It was in recognition for her work offering remote cookery classes to the charities Open Age and C-Change West London during lockdown. Her charity work remains ongoing and meanwhile she is also looking forward to a trip to India.
“I always go back to India for inspiration and ideas as to what I could try out. It’s almost like crossover, so I take British cuisine to India and Indian cuisine to the UK,” she said.
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Besides the cooking, Malhi loves creating recipes in her London kitchen which find their way into cookbooks that are designed for people of all levels of cooking expertise. Her Anglo-Indian cuisine focus comes through in books like 'Everyday Healthy Indian' and ‘Easy Indian Cookbook’. Most recently, 'The Seasoned Foodie: Nutritious Dishes for a Healthier, Longer Life’ was the result of the pandemic lockdown.
Everyone found that food made them feel better,” she reflects.
*Info: Manju Malhi