As young boys Craig and Shaun McAnuff spent their summer holidays in the kitchen with their Nan, Lurline who taught them to cook Jamaican dishes. Fast forward to the present day and now those recipes are being shared with a world wide audience in their authentic new book Caribbean Food from Home.
Although both brothers have their own homes in Thornton Heath this kitchen in their grandmother’s home (pictured) nicknamed Nanny’s Yard, a 15 minute drive away, is where the Original Flava brand was born.
The brothers reveal: “It’s where it all started. Nanny’s kitchen. We owe everything to her. She let us start Original Flava in her kitchen when we couldn’t afford to use a space. Washes our aprons, tidies the space before we start our videos and helps clean up when we finish. Even though we tell her to just rest, she replies with A stern ‘nah suh’ – she just loves being involved and we love her so much and dedicate our new book to her.”
This is where they built up 15,000 YouTube subscribers and more than 58,000 Instagram followers with well over 40 million views of their quick and easy 1-minute Caribbean recipes.
The brothers published their first book on line and the rights to their second book prompted an auction and landed them a deal with a top publishing firm Bloomsbury.
They were then dispatched to Jamaica to research the book spending time with family and eating their way round the island. “It was my first time, but it felt like I’d been there for years,” says Craig. “It’s like I almost knew the place already.”
Woven with food stories from both Jamaica and London, and sumptuous photos the book features 100 mouth-watering recipes such as Classic Caribbean Fried Rice, Jerk-Seasoned Salmon with Mango Salsa, Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Curry, Jamaican Beef Patties and Saltfish Fritters – all washed down with some Caribbean Rum Punch!
Following the launch of the book last month The McDuffs have been on a whistle stop book signing tour and said: “So much hard work went in to it: history, family, vibes…. Jamaica,” adding: “This is not just a cookbook it is a representation of culture.
“It was life changing trip, hearing stories about our great grandparents who lived through poverty to create a better life for us – Just like Nan told us growing up. We do this for them.”
The brothers, put the increasing popularity of Caribbean food down to a “British acceptance of our culture” combined with staple Caribbean ingredients – from plantain to cassava – being more widely available, and the likes of Levi Roots and Ainsley Harriott having “paved the way”.
The brothers have also spoken about the challenges of growing up in Thornton Heath particularly about gang culture. Criag said:“You get caught up in that sort of life, and then you’re affiliated with people outside of your circle, and then you’re known as a gang, and then you have to build up that credibility, and not show your weakness.”
The younger McAnuff brother, 29, to Shaun’s, 32, remembers being on a bus with a group of friends when a guy got on: “He was looking to question us, ‘Why were we here? Where you from, etc?’ I got a bit cheeky, like, ‘Who wants to be a millionaire? Stop asking us questions’ – and then he got a bit rowdy, and then he showed me his gun.
“It just spiralled out, and I started to laugh at him; I thought it was a fake gun,” he recalls. “At the time you’re fearless as a young man.”
However, it was a “turnaround” moment for him and has led to both brothers visiting schools, where some of the children are facing those same choices, to talk about their experiences and run cookery workshops.
“We understand the struggles that young people face when it comes to this sort of thing,” says Craig. “We try to teach young people: Have that no-fear attitude, but put it in a positive place.”
Caribbean Recipes From Home by Craig and Shaun McAnuff is published by Bloomsbury, price £22.