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5 minutes with: Peter Joseph

Chef Peter Joseph shares the inspiration behind his restaurant Kahani, and a recipe for the perfect dal

21 April 2022

Peter Joseph

Peter Joseph learned the secrets to Indian cuisine from his mother while growing up in Tamil Nadu before honing his skills over 20 years at fine-dining restaurants in India and the UK, including Mayfair’s Tamarind. Then, in 2018, he opened Kahani, a restaurant tucked away next to Cadogan Hall, just off Sloane Street. Here, Joseph talks about his career in Indian cooking, serving food to his cricket heroes and why Chelsea was the only place he would’ve opened a restaurant.


Tell us about your journey to opening your own restaurant

I had been running Michelin-starred restaurant Tamarind for more than eight years as head chef. I’m always on the lookout for new opportunities and challenges, and I knew that one day I wanted to open my own restaurant to showcase my 20 years of experience in the food industry. A site came up in Chelsea and that’s when Kahani was born.


What has been your career highlight?

When I became head chef of Tamarind and was responsible for maintaining and gaining the Michelin star every year. I had sleepless nights when something went wrong during service, but it was so rewarding when we continued to keep our star.

Another career highlight was when I started serving food for the premium viewing boxes at Lord’s Cricket Ground. We prepped the food at the restaurant, transferred it by refrigerated van to the ground, and then served it in the VIP boxes. We served almost all the international cricket matches that happened at Lord’s and met most of the teams between 2006 and 2016, which was great because I have a real passion for cricket. I also served lunch for President Bill Clinton – another big career highlight.


What is the inspiration behind Kahani?

Kahani means story in Hindi. A good story educates, entertains and fascinates its listeners, and we crave them both for entertainment and the chance to relate to people. Our menu is focused on entertaining, and we aim to enchant our guests through the dishes they taste.

Kahani is the place where I can put together all I have learned in Indian cookery and fuse my own lighter modern approach with traditional dishes. When I launched Kahani, I didn’t want to focus on one region of India, but draw inspiration from across all the different areas, showcasing all the regional flavours, aromas and differences in one menu.

 At Kahani, we wanted to break the stereotype of the typical Indian being saucy and greasy and so, in my menus, you’ll find more grilled meats and fish than curries. 


What are your favourite ingredients to cook with?

 My favourite spices have to be ginger, fennel and star anise. In terms of seasonal ingredients, asparagus, duck and peach are the winners. And my favourite flavour pairings are yoghurt, turmeric and mustard, honey and saffron, and coconut and curry leaves.


Why did you choose Chelsea for the location of Kahani?

 I was a chef in Mayfair for more than 13 years, but more recently, it seems every other street in Mayfair has an Indian restaurant. I wanted to stay away from the crowd and go somewhere a bit different.

I’m also a big fan of football, and particularly Chelsea FC! Chelsea’s achievement in lifting the Champions League trophy in 2012 was incredible. In the 150-year history of football in England, none can match Chelsea’s accomplishment. I also wanted to give the area a good-quality Indian restaurant. For all those reasons, that’s why it had to be Chelsea!


For me, food is a passion and I love to meet people who share that feeling


Kahani has a bottomless brunch – how did you go about curating dishes that pair well with prosecco? 

My bottomless brunch has a wide range of foods, including green pea cake, chaats, broccoli, tandoori grilled chicken, minced lamb naan, Mangalore’s chicken curry, carrots, and fudge as dessert. Prosecco is a food-friendly sparkling wine that can pair well with almost any meal. You can drink it before or after dinner, with snacks, spicy food, or even desserts.


What advice would you give to someone looking to improve their culinary skills?

I always say, if you can make a soup at home then you can cook a curry at home. But there are a few things you need to understand: essential Indian spices, the right cookware and tools, cooking methods, and the balancing of flavours. You can learn a lot of these from cookbooks that include authentic Indian recipes.

Always marinate your meat before making a curry – this is essential to creating a delicious curry. Bhuno in Hindi means to roast or simmer, and the process of slow-frying or slow-cooking certain ingredients such as onion, ginger and garlic creates that depth of flavour. Use fresh ginger and garlic for curry rather than bottled pastes, and always season your curry carefully with a balance of lemon juice, salt, chilli or black pepper.

Cooking any cuisine that is outside your comfort zone can be a challenge. However, with the right ingredients and cooking techniques, the task becomes easier. Most likely, you will have eaten similar dishes before, maybe at a restaurant or someone’s house, which can help guide you to the right flavours when you’re following a recipe at home yourself.


What do you enjoy most about your work?

The thing I enjoy the most is when it has been a long shift or a busy Saturday service, and a guest calls us to say how much they appreciate the hard work and effort we have put in. Seeing their happiness and satisfaction is delightful, and that fills my heart. For me, food is a passion and I love to meet people who share that feeling.


What’s your motto?

As I alluded to earlier, ‘the joy of cooking – the joy of eating’. I know that when I enjoy the cooking, the guest will have a memorable and joyful dining experience.

Kahani is just four years old, and we have had two years of navigating Covid-19. We’re finally coming out of the pandemic and we want to make our guests happy by offering memorable dining without compromise – that’s my motto.


Peter Joseph’s Dal Makhani

250g of black lentils
2l water
1 tbsp of vegetable oil
1 tbsp of ginger paste
1 tbsp of garlic paste
1 tsp chilli powder
200g of canned plum tomatoes, blended
40g of unsalted butter
1/2 tsp Kasoori methi (dried fenugreek leaves)
4 tbsp of single cream

  1. Wash and then soak the black lentils in warm water for 1 hour and strain.
  2. Transfer the lentils to a large thick-bottomed pan, add 2l of water, the vegetable oil and ginger and garlic paste. Bring to a boil, cover with a lid and simmer for 2 hours or until the lentils are soft.
  3. Next, add the chilli powder, blended plum tomatoes, unsalted butter and Kasoori methi.

  4. Simmer for a further 30-60 minutes, stirring occasionally. This can be chilled and stored in a refrigerator for up to four days.
  5. To finish, re-heat the required quantity of the dal, add the single cream, season to taste and serve hot. Top with a knob of butter.
Kahani is at 1 Wilbraham Place, SW1X 9AE

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