Food Heroes: Sanjay and Sashi Aggarwal, Spice Kitchen
Yumbles seller Sanjay Aggarwal is the founder of Spice Kitchen UK – an innovative family business that’s shaking-up the spice scene here in the UK. We caught up with Sanjay to find out more about his business.
How and where did Spice Kitchen get started?
Spice Kitchen was born over the kitchen table and remains very much a kitchen table company. The idea came about because I wanted a way to keep my mum, Shashi, busy in her retirement. My mum has always been known as the best cook in our family (we’ve got a large extended family of about 200 members) – her taste for Indian food is just amazing.
We started selling spices online via eBay about a year ago before launching our own website and selling on Yumbles – we’ve been totally blown-away by the response we’ve had from customers and never looked back since.
Experts like Dhruv Baker and Anjali Patak rave about your spices – what makes them so special?
With Indian food, everything comes down to the quality of the spices. That’s what my mum has always taught me and my brother and sister, and it really is so true. So the first important difference is the freshness of our spices – all the whole spices we get are extremely, extremely fresh. We buy in small quantities – unlike the supermarkets who are handling massive quantities at a time.
The way the spices are treated and handled is really important too. We hand-grind and roast our spices ourselves, and are lucky to have two very special tools at our disposal. First of all, we’ve got a huge stone pestle and mortar that’s been in our family about 90 years. We’ve also got an antique wheat grinder that’s been our family a very long time too. They don’t change the flavour of the spices or heat them as they’re ground, and because everything is done in small batches and packed in airtight containers right after grinding, they stay very fresh.
What have been your proudest moments since starting Spice Kitchen?
Right from day one, we’ve been blown away by not just by the number of people who seem to be buying Indian spices online, but the feedback we’ve had from customers. Lots will buy the spice tins first, then keep coming back to us for the re-fills. That’s been our key motivator really – we were never really out to make money, Spice Kitchen was just an idea to keep my mum busy! But our customers love what we do so that’s what keeps us motivated and keeps us going.
We’ve had some amazing feedback from some really special people too: Anjali Pathak and also Dhruv Baker (Masterchef winner 2010) are both fans.
What’s your food heaven and food hell?
Food heaven – aside from anything cooked by my mum…..I’ve spent a lot of time in Asia and do a lot of Asian cooking; Malaysian, Thai, I’ve recently started making sushi, plus I do a lot of Moroccan cooking too – I love Moroccan food. We’ve developed our own range of Moroccan spices at Spice Kitchen as a result, like Ras El Hanout. So of course I love Indian cooking but my wife and I eat very well and have very eclectic tastes.
In terms of food hell – I’m not a big cheese fan. That’s it really!
mouth-watering to share?