We talk to the head chef of Juma Kitchen about the popularity of his Iraqi cuisine infused with a western twist
JUMA Kitchen was established in 2012 by head chef & founder, Philip Juma.
As an English-Irish-Iraqi, Philip has been influenced by both Middle Eastern and modern European cuisine throughout his upbringing and this is reflected throughout his style of cooking.
As a self-taught chef, Philip has taken his experiences from London’s contemporary restaurant scene and translated them onto the plate with traditional Iraqi dishes using modern cooking techniques and Michelin flair, while always staying true to dishes heritage.
Philip is now in the JUMA kitchens full-time, while also writing a fortnightly food column for The London Evening Standard. The next pop up event is in Wimbledon on 12 April and for only £35 you can try a unique 5 course meal incorporating the flavours and tastes of Iraqi and western cuisine.
Why did you choose south west London for your Pop-Ups?
South West London is where I grew up. I was born in Wimbledon and lived in Southfields until I was 10 years old. My family then moved to Tooting so it’s always been home. I’m now a bit older and I’m back in Wimbledon so I am big fan of South West London.
How popular are the Iraqi tastes with a western taste palate?
They are proving really popular. So many of the dishes that I serve have never been seen or tasted before which is amazing for me. Iraqi cuisine uses spices like cardamom, corriander, all spice, to name a few – all of which are familiar to Western palates. It is the textures, flavour combinations, and cooking techniques that makes Iraqi cuisine so unique and delicious!
How have you joined Iraqi and western flavours to the dishes? What flavour combinations are the most popular?
I always try and stay true to the dish so I avoid flavour combinations that don’t need to be there. Iraqi food is already flavoursome. There is a saffron chicken dish that is proving really popular at the pop-ups. Saffron is arguably an Iranian spice but Iraqi’s still use it. That dish was influenced from a dish that my dad used to make and I changed it so many times. Now, it’s a finished dish and the diners seem happy with it. I do take Western influence on presentation. Iraqi cuisine is very rustic and it lacks refinement and elegance. I try and add a contemporary and modern feel to all of the dishes adding textures and colours where necessary, as well as presenting a beautiful looking plate of food.
What experience/s inspired you to produce your unique style of food?
Well my dad is Iraqi. I grew up eating this food and it was nowhere to be seen on the London food scene. That in itself was a big inspiration for me to put Iraqi cuisine on the map and give it the recognition it deserves.
What are the essential tastes and ingredients associated with Iraqi cuisine?
Lamb is an essential meat for Iraqi cuisine. It is in so many of the dishes but it is cooked in a variety of different ways. The dish, Quozi, is a famous Iraqi dish; a whole lamb, slow cooked in cardamom spice rub that is served on a bed of fragrant rice with sultanas, cashew nuts and pistachios.
How can people try your food?
Well, there is a pop-up happening on Saturday 9th April, at Aston and Magill in Wimbledon. It is a 5 course, tasting menu, starting at 7pm. Tickets can be found here: http://grubclub.com/juma-kitchen/juma-kitchen-iraqi-supperclub/6142
Is there anything you would like to mention?
If you’ve never tried Iraqi cuisine before – come on April 9th!!!!!
Find out more at www.jumakitchen.com