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About Titli Nihaan…

When and where were you born?

I was born in Birmingham, UK, and I am a child of the ’60s.  My father was what we would call today an “Elevator Service Engineer” – he repaired and serviced lifts.  In fact, he came from a family with elevators in their blood (not literally of course.  That would be freakish!).  Both my grandfather and great uncle were Lift Repair Men.

My mother was an office worker and was determined that I would have nothing to do with lifts, but they do have a fascination for me.  I remember that my maternal grandmother loved to bake cakes.  The recipe I use for trifle was handed down to me from her via my own mother.  Trifle connects me to my past!

What did you eat during your childhood?

I remember eating a lot of Marmite sandwiches… My father was very much a meat-and-two-vegetables man, but the first foreign food I remember eating was a Spaghetti Bolognese Vesta Meal.  During my childhood many immigrants to the UK were setting up home in and around Birmingham and creating their own communities.  New restaurants selling strange foods appeared and the British diet was about to change for ever.  During school holidays my mother and I would sometimes travel into the centre of Birmingham and we would eat at either an Italian or Chinese restaurant in the New Street Shopping Centre.  That was a real treat!

Where does the name Titli Nihaan come from?

It’s a name I decided on when I started putting my videos on YouTube.  The word “titli” means “butterfly” in Urdu.  I have a butterfly tattoo that I had done some years ago.  Nihaan is also an Urdu word meaning “hidden”.  You can’t see my tattoo…

Where did your interest in Asian food come from?

The first ever Indian meal I can remember eating was in a restaurant somewhere at the back of the old Bull Ring Shopping Centre.  I have no idea what I ate, but both mum and I remember that it was accompanied by a large and very necessary jug of water!

During my University years it was common to go for a night in the pub followed by a late-night curry.  This is where my real interest for Desi food began and it has never left me!  It remains my favourite cuisine because of its flavours and variety.

How long have you been cooking?

I have always been interested in cooking.  Some ancient cookbooks at my mothers home reveal some recipes I wrote when I was about 6 years old!  Note: My handwriting hasn’t improved much since I wrote those recipes…

Cooking is my passion and it is a passion that I want to share with you.  I am not a trained chef and I do not claim that the recipes I present are the definitive versions of classic dishes.  I enjoy cooking simple, tasty things and these recipes are “typical” recipes that work well for me.  I try to present things in a way that both new “cooks” and seasoned “cooks” can understand and enjoy.  As long as you follow the recipe you should get good results.

Are you a muslim?

I do not come from a religious family and during my life I had never felt the need for religion.  However in 2008, following a series of events in my personal life that my scientific mind had no explanation for, I reverted to Islam.  I am thankful to Allah for opening my heart and I feel truly blessed.  This has raised some interesting problems for my cooking as some things are not allowed as food according to Islam.  For example, pork and pork products are not allowed in food, and alcohol is not allowed in cooking.  I always use halal (allowed according to Islam) foods in my cooking, and seek out halal substitutes or alternatives for those things which are haram (not allowed according to Islam).

Why don’t you specialise in one particular cuisine?

My professional life has taken me to many parts of the world and allowed me to experience many cultures and cuisines.  This is why I don’t restrict myself to one particular style of cooking.  Why should I?  There is a whole world of cooking out there!  Having said that, it is amazing how some dishes seem to appear time and time again.  For example, I wish I could count the number of countries that have their own version of “meatballs in sauce”…

What is your philosophy on cooking?

Firstly, I believe that ANYONE can cook good food.  All it takes is a simple recipe, a bit of self-belief, practice, and an understanding that sometimes things will go wrong.  Stuff happens!

I also believe that cooking should be fun and you should never be afraid to experiment a bit with the ingredients.  Add a little bit more of this herb, don’t add so much of this spice… with experience you will be able to cook things which are more in tune with your own particular taste preferences.

Finally, keep it simple!  Some of the best things you can cook are really easy, very tasty, and cheaper than you can buy ready-made.

Who is this website for?

This website is for anyone who loves to cook, who wants to learn to cook, or who is looking for a bit of inspiration as to what to cook next weekend.  This website is for the young and the not-so-young, male and female, wherever you live.  This website is for you.  Thank you for visiting.

Titli Nihaan