Michelin-star samosas from the chippy: Sat Bains launches a new takeaway with his 70-year-old mother

Despite not being able to give his mother a hug for nine months, chef Sat Bains is working with her on a new venture celebrating her recipes

Sat Bains with his mother, Tarsem
Chef Sat Bains with his mother, Tarsem, outside his Nottingham restaurant Credit:  Andrew Fox

Ordinarily, the kitchens of Restaurant Sat Bains in Nottingham would be buzzing with the sounds and smells of 12 chefs busily preparing the components of the 10-course tasting menu that has earned the chef two Michelin stars. Today, however, it is a batch of samosas that Bains and his team are meticulously making – under the watchful eye of his 70-year-old mother, Tarsem. 

The samosas are one of a number of traditional Indian dishes coming out of Bains’s kitchen as part of a new project in partnership with – you guessed it – his mum.  

“My heritage is Punjabi, and so although I’ve spent my cheffing career cooking French and British cuisine I was brought up on aloo gobi and saag,” explains Bains, who is up bright and early before a day of rolling, wrapping and frying the savoury pastries. “As a kid I always hated it; I just wanted bangers and mash when I got home! But when you leave, you begin to crave those homely flavours. You never know what you have until it’s gone, and I found myself really missing the taste of mum’s saag.” 

From this Saturday, #Mommabains traditional home-made samosas, chickpea curry and imli (a sweet, tart tamarind chutney) will be available in a handful of chip shops around the UK – outlets more suited to Michelin-starred Bains's new creations than you might think.   

With his restaurant closed during lockdown and Bains reluctant to offer a cook-at-home box like so many others (“I’m not sure of the practicalities of compressing a 10-course menu into a box”), he had been mulling the idea of a new venture for a while. It became tangible just before the second lockdown, discussed over a few drinks with John Molner, owner of award-winning fish and chip shop The Cod’s Scallops which has four branches around Nottingham. “Samosas are perfectly suited to a fish and chip shop, when you think about it,” says Bains, “They’re handheld, fried and a good vegetarian option. So, Molner offered to sell some of mum’s from his shops.” 

After visiting the temple where his mother volunteers to learn the ropes of samosa-making from the women in the community, Bains hired a test kitchen and set to work. “The difficulty is these recipes aren’t usually measured – everything is done by eye. As a chef working in a professional kitchen, we have to standardise ingredients to create consistency. So, when creating the recipes, mum cooked the dishes and we weighed out everything she was using.” This was all done throughout the lockdown, meaning social distancing measures had to be put in place, too. 

Tarsem oversees her son's team of chefs as they make samosas to her recipe Credit: Andrew Fox

With their recipes finalised, Bains and his team (he has been able to keep on all 12 chefs) have set to work shaping samosas and cooking curries to meet the demand of their first set of orders. “Yesterday we managed to make 1,700 samosas in an hour and 55 minutes. When I told mum she was shocked; we’re faster than the women, now!” 

To start with, Bains’s samosas, chickpea curry and imli will be available to buy from the Nottingham and East Midlands branches of The Cod’s Scallops, No.1 Cromer in Norfolk, and Rick Stein’s fish and chip takeaways in Fistral and Padstow, Cornwall. “We’re hoping to launch three more curries in the next few months," Bains says. "An aubergine sabzi, aloo gobi and a lentil dhal – and expand to more venues. Eventually, we want to launch a box for customers to buy online containing all the curries.” Bains has been careful to select takeaway locations that offer vegetable oil fryers, making the samosas both vegetarian and vegan-friendly. 

Bains (centre) and his chefs put their Michelin-starred skills to the test Credit:  Andrew Fox

News of the project is music to the ears of other Michelin-star chefs who are already well acquainted with Tarsem’s food. “Momma Bains has something of a legendary status among the other chefs,” laughs Bains. “Michel Roux Jr took a takeaway of her food when he visited a few years ago, and Claude Bosi loves her samosas. Only the other month Tommy Banks was trying to find a chickpea dish to put in his at-home boxes, and she made him her samosas. I think they like her food more than mine!” 

Will Bains have the time to continue with the project when his restaurant is eventually allowed to open? “We’re fortunate in that we only operate four days a week, from Wednesday to Sunday. My plan is to have a team working on the #Mommabains dishes one day a week, which will hopefully fulfil the demand.”

It’s clear that to Bains, this is far more than a stop-gap project. “I’m always looking to do something on the side of what we do in the restaurants," he says. "We’re a two-Michelin-star restaurant and I’m well aware that this means we’re not accessible to everyone. Food like samosas and curry, though, it’s as humble as you get. Samosas are comfort, they’re about sharing – this kind of food is what I think has become especially important during lockdown. 

“I haven’t been able to hug my mum for nine months; she’s 70 and has asthma, so we have had to be very careful. But it’s great to see her involved in the business. She’s a shareholder and consultant, and so will oversee everything that gets made in the kitchen. It’s been such a great experience, I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes.”