The Food That Made Me - Alun Sperring

Whether you’re a Brighton local or a visitor you will most likely be aware of The Chilli Pickle, and if you aren’t we are here to inform you!  The home of pillowy Peshwari naan, colourful curries and mind blowing biriyani, this place is the Bollywood blockbuster of Indian restaurants. We caught up with head chef and owner, Alun Sperring to find out how his mum has inspired his cooking and he was even kind enough to share one of Mama Sperring’s original recipes!

RD: Every time we hear about Chilli Pickle in the press you’re picking up ANOTHER award! Apart from all this award winning what else have you been up to?

AS: We are young, ambitious and hungry to progress, we do have a few things in the pipeline and I will let you know more very soon.

RD: Ah the suspense, we can’t wait to hear all about it! With Mother’s Day coming up, tell us more about cooking in your household as a child?

AS: Mum was a hard-working lady, she had 3 kids to contend with plus another 2 or 3 foster kids at any given time and Dad always had 2 jobs on the go. The weekly budget was tight and shopping and eating was restricted to this. But Mum was creative in the way she worked it; A big bag of mince on Monday would feed the family a cottage pie, lasagne & chilli con carne over 3 nights. She was a good baker and would churn out rock cakes and Welsh cakes by the 100 or so and large slabs of flavoured sponge with icing. This we would keep as lunch box treats!

RD: It sounds like Mum was a busy woman! We hope you were on hand to help?

AS: No doubt mums role in the home was a tough one and feeding the family was just one part of that.  I do remember helping Mum making Welsh Cakes (Mum was born in Aberystwyth), taking them straight out the pan and adding a generous amount of salty butter. This was the beginnings of a lifetime weakness of butter for me.

RD: Our weakness too! Would you say your mum’s cooking inspired you to become a chef?

AS: Mum’s baking was my first step into the kitchen and although a long way to where I am now specialising in Indian Cuisine it was the first spark and full of good memories.  Hats off to Mum and her ability to feed and look after the whole & extended family so my recipe I dedicate is the humble Rock Cake.

RD: Thank you for sharing this recipe with us Alun, It has been great catching up with you!

Keep reading for The Sperring Rock Cake recipe!

The Sperring Rock Cake

Ingredients

  • 225g/8oz self-raising flour
  • 75g/2½oz caster sugar
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 125g/4½oz unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 150g/5½oz dried fruit
  • 1 free-range egg
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract


Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4 and line a baking tray with baking parchment.
  2. Mix the flour, sugar and baking powder in a bowl and rub in the cubed butter until the mixture looks like breadcrumbs, then mix in the dried fruit.
  3. In a clean bowl, beat the egg and milk together with the vanilla extract.
  4. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients and stir with a spoon until the mixture just comes together as a thick, lumpy dough. Add a teaspoon more milk if you really need it to make the mixture stick together.
  5. Place golfball-sized spoons of the mixture onto the prepared baking tray. Leave space between them as they will flatten and spread out to double their size during baking.
  6. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden-brown. Remove from the oven, allow to cool for a couple of minutes then turn them out onto a wire rack to cool.

If you can pull yourself away from the kitchen after making these delicious cakes, make your way to The Chilli Pickle where Alun & the team will take you on a culinary journey across India.

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