Anjum Anand’s Indian food fanaticism

British Indian food writer and TV chef Anjum Anand chats with us about the beginning of her career in food, achievements over the years and shares an exclusive recipe from her yet-to-be released book, Anjum’s Vegetarian Feast, suited especially for the monsoon season. Read on…

British Indian food writer and TV chef  Anjum Anand has an indisputable zeal for Indian food. She’s taken it upon herself to bust myths about the cuisine being greasy and heavy, and to showcase to the world the simplicity involved in preparing Indian meals on a daily basis. Having lived and worked world over, Anand understood what the cuisine required to appeal to the global palate. Through her books, columns, recipes, TV show and now the recently launch The Spice Tailor range; she’s revealed the ease, wholesome goodness and absolute delectability of Indian food which leaves you wanting more.

What is your earliest memory of cooking/being in the kitchen?
I remember helping my mother make meatballs and her allowing me to drop them into the bubbling curry. I also remember help making samosas when we had guests over.

When did you know cooking/food writing was your calling?
When I was well into my career. I loved cooking and wrote my first cook book hoping to get published but even after it was published; it took me a few more years to believe it was my calling and not a temporary obsession.

You grew up in London and have also lived and studied in Geneva, Paris and Madrid. Do you feel a bond with the Indian culture/heritage?
I do feel very Indian. I suppose every time I entered my home, it was quite Indian. We ate typical Punjabi food along with Swiss food too; we watched Bollywood movies and had lots of Indians over in the evenings always looking so glamorous in saris. I learned about the gods and mythology which was fascinating; I felt quite lucky to be Indian, In fact, sometimes I feel more Indian than those living in India!

You have a European Business degree. How did you develop a career in cooking/food writing?
By accident. I don’t think life always takes you where you want to go and in my case, the place I ended up was infinitely more interesting than where I wanted to be.

Why the love for Indian cuisine?
It’s embodies everything I love about food. It is tasty, healthy, has heritage and talks of the people.

What is the philosophy behind the food you cook and endorse?
I like to cook food which tastes good, is healthy and easy. I endorse the food I like to eat and cook myself. I think Indian food is amazing but I’m trying to make it more relevant to how we eat today.

You have worked in some of the finest restaurants across the world. How have those experiences contributed to your style of cooking/writing?
I have worked in a few restaurants and I always learn so much but ultimately my first love is the food eaten at home and the many stories of tradition, history and geography that goes with them.

You cook and write about food from all over India. Which are your favourite Indian dishes?
Choosing a favourite would be like choosing a favourite child. It all depends on my mood but I suppose I mostly come back to the food I grew up with, Punjabi food. I also LOVE street food!

Tell us about your book I Love Curry?
I Love Curry came out last year and is a really great compilation of fantastic curries both classic and contemporary. A curry is often the main point of any meal and I build my meal around it so this is a starting point for anyone interested in cooking Indian food.
And the new one which will be out soon…My newest book, Anjum’s Vegetarian Feast is out this September and I am really excited about it and hope it does well. I really wanted to inject some modernity and life into Indian vegetarian food and I absolutely love the way it has turned out.

What was the philosophy behind developing The Spice Tailor range?
I wanted to create a range that was an extension of my philosophy and love of good Indian food and how it belongs in the home kitchen and not just in restaurants on a night out.  We all cheat sometimes and I felt there needs to be some good products to cheat with that taste homemade. The range is also quite regional and moves away from other traditional sauces.

How has the response been to the range of Indian sauces?
I think it has been really good but it is still early days.

Four bestselling books, one more in the works, two hit seasons of Indian Food Made Easy, numerous food columns and the recent launch of The Spice Tailor Indian sauces. What’s next?
I’m sure the range will keep me busy for a bit but I am also doing a campaign in the autumn to get people cooking quick and easy Indian suppers in under 15 minutes with a little cheating and lots of scratch cooking. I call it Spice Nights and it will air every Tuesday night starting from the 25th of September for 8 weeks on The Spice Tailor Facebook page. After that we shall see, there is so much more I want to do.

Would you like to share one of your favourite seasonal recipes with our readers?
When the weather is miserable outside, I do two things, bake with my daughter and cook for friends. Here is a recipe from my new book that encompasses both those things.

Recipe for Fluffy Pistachio Cake

Fluffy (eggfree) Pistachio Cake with Orange Syrup, Dates and Crème Fraiche

I was at first very skeptical at how an egg free cake would taste and more importantly how the texture would be. This recipe was given to me by a friend of mine, Divya, about 3 years ago, as she knows I love to bake and told me how delicious it is. I have to say this cake was a real revelation. It has a lovely texture and crumb and the cake is light and rises really well. The orange syrup adds a lovely sour, sticky note to the dish and the dates add a lovely chewy texture propelling this simple cake into an elegant, impressive dessert. The cakes can be made a day in advance, they won’t be hot but they will still be delicious. You can also make one large cake; just make sure it is cooked all the way through by testing with a toothpick.

Makes 8-9 individual portions

Ingredients:
150g pistachios (weight without shells), ground to a coarse powder
260g plain flour
1 tsp each baking powder and bicarbonate of soda
150g butter, room temperature
360-370ml (around 440-450g) condensed milk
240ml water
Pinch of salt (unless you butter is slightly salted)

To finish:
2 large oranges, juiced and the zest of an orange
6 tbs. sugar
Handful of chopped pistachios
8 large dried dates (preferably not dried with sugar)
1 large tub of Crème Fraiche

Method:
Heat the oven to 190C. Place a small round of greaseproof paper in the base of 8 (150-200ml) pudding moulds (mine are metal) and butter the sides well.

Beat together the condensed milk and butter until well blended and creamy. Stir in the water and add the remaining ingredients and stir well to mix.

Spoon into the moulds evenly into the moulds, the mixture will be thick. Place in the middle of the oven and bake for 25 minutes or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.
Pour the orange juice and the zest of one orange into a small saucepan and bring to a boil, simmer until it is lightly syrupy and when you drop a bit on a cold plate, it feels slightly syrupy to the touch. It will continue to thicken further as it cools.

Place a pistachio cakes on your plates, I like to plate individually. Spoon over some orange sauce as well as around the cake. Place 4 slices of the date in a pile on the juice and spoon a generous dollop of the crème fraiche on the side; scatter over a little pistachios and serve.