Hockham's bhaji man spreads the message
It started with the sale of onion bhajis at a village dog show five years ago.But a former car salesman is now hoping to share his love for homemade eastern cuisine across the country by expanding his 'Bhaji Man' curry business from his Norfolk home.
It started with the sale of onion bhajis at a village dog show five years ago.
But a former car salesman is now hoping to share his love for homemade eastern cuisine across the country by expanding his 'Bhaji Man' curry business from his Norfolk home.
Don Lear has become renowned for his Indian food dinner parties at Great Hockham. But instead of thinking about retirement, the 74-year-old is planning to get more families socialising and cooking at home by launching a new range of curry spice kits.
Mr Lear, who spent almost 20 years running a car dealership in Diss, said he hoped to get his products into local supermarkets and farmers' markets across Britain at a time when people were buying fewer takeaways as a result of the economic downturn.
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The Sri Lankan-born entrepreneur only began cooking 10 years ago when he left his car sales business, but soon realised that dinner party guests loved his homemade onion bhajis.
“I overheard my neighbour telling my other neighbour that they were going to the 'bhaji man's' for drinks and I thought it was a nice name and a business opportunity. A lot of people do not want to try and cook a curry because they think it is very complicated and hard work. However, Bhaji Man's easy mixes enable even the busiest of people to cook fresh, authentic, delicious Indian snacks at any time,” he said.
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Mr Lear began selling onion bhajis at the Great Hockham dog show in 2004 and launched his first bhaji mix at the Feast East festival a year later.
Last March he launched five spice kits and has since sold 30,000 units through his website, farmers' markets, delis, and Taste of Anglia.
The �2.50 spice kits, which include three sachets of herbs and spices, also come with an ingredient shopping list and instructions to make Chicken Jalfrezi, Lamb Rogan Josh, Bombay Potatoes, Chicken Tikka Masala, Spiced Dhal, and Vegetable Pakora for up to four people.
The grandfather, who recently launched a spicy potato and cauliflower kit and hopes to release four more different recipes this year, said that making a Bhaji Man dish was almost half the price of buying an Indian takeaway and only takes about 30 minutes to prepare and cook.
“This is not about making money. I want to leave a legacy for my grandsons and I want to see people cooking more. The tastes and smells create a lot of social atmosphere,” he said.
“We would really love to break into a quality supermarket like Waitrose, but only to sell it regionally. I'm much more interested in supporting local farmers in and around East Anglia.
“We also have a top chef who likes the products and wants to get them into farmers' markets across the country,” he said.
Mr Lear prepares his Bhaji Man spice kits from his home in Great Hockham, with the help of his wife Joan, and his neighbours. His products are packaged at Green Cuisine, Watton.