The bewitching smells of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, with a hint of Morocco, filled the air in Westminster’s Church Street with the community’s first biryani bake off.
Ten contestants, all local residents or business people, signed up to face off against each other with their best biryani in a ‘Great British Bake Off’ style event.
Originally from Iran, biryani is a rice and meat dish made with spices that is popular in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. The contestants cooked their biryani at home before putting them on display for the judges.
The biryani ranged from traditional vegetarian and chicken dishes, to seafood and unusually, a Moroccan tagine made into a paella by chefs from Church Street’s Moroccan fish van.
Organised by CityWest Homes and the Marylebone Bangladesh Society (MBS), the aim of the bake off was to strengthen ties with different groups in the local community. Church Street is one of the most diverse communities in Westminster.
The bake off judging panel included Church Street councillor Barbara Grahame; Intaj Ali, a chef and the chairman of MBS; Shafiara Muttalib from CityWest Homes; and Kennedy Beddowes, the new owner and chef of the recently re-vamped local institution, Rooftop Kitchen at Alfies.
Kate Donovan, operations manager for CityWest Homes, said: “It’s a great way for the community to come together and celebrate a dish that is popular in lots of different countries. I think the variety of the dish represents the diversity of cultures in Church Street. The event has been a great success and lots of residents have been suggesting ideas for the next cook off. There’s quite a competitive spirit here.”
Winners, presented with gift vouchers and special necklaces on the day, were:
First place: Farhana Parvin Pozy
Second place: Nufah Choudhury
Third place: Rowshon Kalam
With a biryani described as “a very good use of spices, full of flavour”, winner Farhana Parvin Pozy said she entered the competition to see how others made their biryani. Her stall proved very popular with the locals who came to see the competition and eat the biryani afterward.
Announcing the winners, Councillor Grahame said: “We’ve just eaten ten platefuls of exotic food and the standard was so fantastic we could hardly choose between them. I won’t eat for another week.”
Darren Levy, director of customer services for CityWest Homes, said: “We arrange many local events throughout the year to give residents an opportunity to feedback about their housing service and learn about other council services. Today we met people who we don’t usually see or hear from so it’s been a fantastic new way to engage with the community.”
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