Steven Higginson, co-owner and chef at Starlys, Staveley

Essential ingredients = Our hand blended spice mixes are key to our recipes at Starlys. We’ve worked hard to get the balance right for each dish. This has meant eating a lot of curry over the years. It’s a hard job, but somebody’s got to do it! Our other key ingredient used in all of our dishes is coconut oil. This keeps our food very clean and healthy without compromising on the flavour.

First kitchen worked in = My kitchen at home – years of experimenting with different dishes for Starlys Spice Company.

First dish I prepared = Chilli masala (Carly’s favourite). This is a fiery take on tikka masala and it was the first dish I invented. It was tried and tested by friends and family and it is always a firm favourite at food festivals.

Signature dish = I have two. The first is Kashmiri beef which is slowed-cooked for seven hours using balsamic vinegar and tamarind. This is by far the most popular dish at Starlys. The second is Cumberland Curry. I created this dish in celebration of Starlys’s second birthday using my favourite Cumbrian produce, Herdwick lamb.

Food philosophy = My philosophy from the start has always been keep it simple. This guarantees consistency which is key for running a successful restaurant. A small menu with simple dishes maintains high standards and enables each dish to be cooked from scratch.

Biggest kitchen disaster = A few years ago I was cooking Satan’s Ashes (the hottest curry in the world, containing Naga chillies). While stirring, I somehow managed to splatter some in my eye, resulting in agonising pain and momentary panic. Fortunately my staff comforted me through the medium of laughter.

My favourite chef = Professionally, it would be JP Singh, of Dehli’s Bukhari restaurant – one of the best Indian chefs in the world. I love how he mixes the old with the new. Personally, it would be Israel Bhooshie from Manna Bake Restaurant in Tamil Nadu who worked alongside me for three years and inspired me to trust my own creativity when cooking Indian food. He also became a very close friend.

My biggest influence = The influence behind Starlys was purely a love of Indian food. Growing up in Lancashire meant that there was a wide selection to choose from, but the majority of it was a Westernised version of Indian cooking. I was keen to learn more about the origins of traditional Indian cooking techniques, especially the balance of spice, so that I could create authentic Indian food with a Starlys twist.

My favourite meal = Chana Chatt (a chickpea and potato Indian dish), Kashmiri beef and Methi Roti (Fenugreek flatbread).