For most people, creating a curry from scratch to feed their own partner or children is quite enough of a challenge.
So the thought of making enough home-made curry sauce to feed more than five people would be unimaginable.
But Northampton family, the Sapals, suddenly found themselves cooking curry sauces for hundreds, all from their own kitchen in Abington, Northampton. And, as demand grew, they realised they needed to expand to a bigger premises for their business.
The whole idea of setting up the Panjaban food company had come about by chance.
Mother-of-two Charanjit Sapal: “When my son Gurjeet was at university I couldn’t send him cooked food so instead of making him a cooked meal, I made the base so he just needed to put the chicken in. Unknown to me, he was selling the sauce for beer money and there was quite a demand for it.”
From unwittingly feeding Gurjeet’s hungry friends at Staffordshire University, Charanjit had the idea of making authentic Panjaban curry sauces as a proper business. The 46-year-old explained: “I worked out how to get it dairy free, nut free, sugar free and how to bottle it without adding preservatives; people are so health conscious these days.”
It was November 2010 when the business was set up in Charanjit’s kitchen but, within six months, the sauces were in such demand, they expanded into two of their friends’ kitchens.
Just one year after starting up, the interest in these sauces was so great that Charanjit, along with 25-year-old Gurjeet and his 24-year-old sister Rubinder started running the company from a professional unit in Moulton Park.
They now sell handmade Bombay Potato, Naga Chilli, Keema and Authentic sauces from their website as well as a range of delis and other shops, such as Beckworth Emporium in Mears Ashby, Budgens at Grange Park and St Giles Cheese in Northampton.
They are now selling their sauces across the country and hope to extend their range.
Demand for their sauces was proven by a recent appearance on the Bid TV shopping channel, after which 305 cases (each holding 12 jars) were sold in the first 20 minutes after the programme aired. Two weeks later and the Sapals had received orders for 13,200 jars.
But did the family expect the company to take off to this extent?
Charanjit said: “No we did not, we now have two distributors who buy from us and sell nationwide. We have also been asked to bring out mango chutney, marinades and rice.
“We are bringing out a product with step by step instructions on how to make the sauce.
She joked: “I will get one of the kids to make it step by step and if it works, I will know it is idiot proof.”
Gurjeet said: “If you go to a supermarket you might be able to buy curry sauce but not what Indian people would make at home. This is an insight into how real Indian people eat. And, at the same time, it is gluten free, dairy free, there is no ghee, no additives or preservatives.”
For more information, visit www.panjaban.co.uk