A CHEF will fly an Indian feast 4,000 miles as a festive treat for peace-keeping troops – paid for by a wealthy pilot who was blown away by her culinary skills.

Shahena Ali, head chef at the Maharaja restaurant in Thundersley, was hand-picked to cook up a special meal for 150 United Nations soldiers, based in the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo.

The chef, who has appeared on radio and TV, will leave Southend Airport by private jet, to personally deliver the food.

She was given the unique opportunity after a pilot visited the Maharaja, on Bread and Cheese Hill, last week.

Captain Mustafa Aolad owns Imperial Air Services and travels the world salvaging plane wrecks.

He has a cousin working for the Armed Forces as a UN peacekeeper and was so impressed by the meal at the Maharaja he decided to treat his relative and his colleagues over Christmas.

As well as paying £1,500 for the meal, Mr Aolad will cover the cost of the private flight to the Congo capital Kinshasa, and a two-night hotel stay.

Miss Ali, 36, from Stanford said: “It’s certainly going to be an experience, and I am very happy to do this.

“It’s great I have been given the opportunity.

“It’s a unique request, but I am delighted to help.

“This is somewhere I wouldn’t normally have access to so it’s a wonderful chance to see what is happening out there.

“These troops are away from home over Christmas so it’s amazing to be able to do something for them.”

The Maharaja, which is owned by Miss Ali’s father, opened over 30 years ago.

Miss Ali trained at the restaurant and has gone on to feature on BBC Radio, UKTV Food and Channel 4 programme Taste.

She will spend tonight and tomorrow morning cooking up a three-course meal for the troops, with a main course of masala chicken bhuna.

Miss Ali added: “We didn’t want to make anything too spicy or too mild.

“I want to give the troops traditional Indian cuisine, but need to make sure I cater for all tastes.”