Vivek Singh moved from India to London in 2001, opening his first restaurant, The Cinnamon Club, the same year. Two more venues – Cinnamon Kitchen and Cinnamon Soho – followed over the next decade, and Singh is now executive chef of the successful restaurant group. His ancestors came from Rajasthan and Singh spent three years living in the region before he travelled to the UK. He told us what he loves about the area and its people, as well as taking us on a culinary tour of the dishes and ingredients of Rajasthan, and the influences that have moulded them.
He told us: 'I absolutely loved the time that I spent there. I have many fond memories and a real respect for the traditions of the region – how the spirit of the people endures. Rajasthani cuisine, as well as the terrain, culture and people, is very rich, with vibrant colours. There are also lots of forts and palaces, home to royal households.' The region's history is one of royalty and warrior princes and princesses, with the original inhabitants of Rajasthan undertaking many battles with the Afghan Moghuls during the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. Singh told us: 'There were long expeditions, with people sometimes living hard, nomadic lives. Quite often you would find the same people having access to the most ridiculous, aspirational luxuries part of the year (it would not be out of place to find caviar or Champagne), then living an extremely basic existence, just surviving off the land, at other times. The terrain is difficult – it is extremely hot with very little growing there, very little vegetation at all. Adversity, both in terms of what can be grown and the lifestyle of living outside, has shaped the food into the rustic, hearty, gutsy cuisine you can experience today.'