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Never give up on a dream

MASTERCHEF: Big nanny Veda Sampson

THE THOUGHT of putting her feet up for retirement didn’t seem very palatable for award-winning cook Veda Sampson.

So at 72 years young the popular grandmother decided to make her long-held dream come true and open her own restaurant right in the heart of Birmingham.

More than 18 months later, despite these tough economic times, Big Nanny’s Caribbean Restaurant is visited by fans who drive from as far as London and Wales for a taste of authentic Jamaican fare.

And she’s even created a fusion of traditional British dishes with a Caribbean twist such as her popular Jambrum pie - a combination of jerk chicken pie, sweet potato mash with mushy peas and gravy. And she also has a popular take on the British apple crumble, substituting it with pineapple and mango.

“I’ve been cooking since I was a child and I have my parents to thank for inspiring me,” says Veda, who has written her own book ‘Big Nanny’s Jamaican Kitchen’ revealing some of the secrets behind her dishes. She’s also the proud owner of an award from the Black Country’s African Caribbean Business Federation.

“My dad was a fantastic cook who could make a saucepan of water seem tasty. My mother was a ‘higgler’ who used to sell what we grew at market and had a little corner shop in our yard for some of our produce.”

Other favourites include Bammy and fried fish St Elizabeth style, and every meal is washed down with beautiful Blue Mountain Jamaican coffee.

Maybe Veda’s vitality comes from her mum Miriam, who lived to be at least 102 and put her long life down to smoking a clay pipe and having a tiny tot of overproof rum and fresh ginger every morning.

“I have my family to thank for my cooking passion,” added Veda, who left her beloved Cheapside in St Elizabeth to come to England at 19, where she trained as a social worker, combining her profession with bringing up four children.

Now her restaurant in Warstone Lane in Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter is a family affair, where her daughter Tara, grandson Royston and nephew Nathan Edwards all help out making homemade patties and a carefully guarded secret recipe for jerk chicken.

The 44-seater restaurant is also a popular venue to be hired out for family occasions. It holds special events such as Valentine’s Night, plus a psychic night and Caribbean buffet on Saturday February 23.

Mother’s Day on March 10th will also be another special date in the calendar where mums get to eat for half price.

There’s just no stopping Big Nanny!

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