Anjum Anand is known as the Nigella Lawson of Indian cuisine in England, where she came to prominence with her BBC cooking show Indian Food Made Easy. She is recognised for her family-friendly and healthy spin on traditional food. Her latest book ‘I Love India’ will guide you to create authentic and vibrant dishes from the comfort of your home. We chat to Anjum about her journey so far.
You launched your spice business in 2011, and it became international in 2013. What gave you the push to start your own spice business?
I had been in the food business for 10 years and I felt through the conversations I was having with many I met at an event or even on the street that finally the understanding of real Indian food was moving on. This was reflected in food magazines and new regional and street-food restaurants. However, this wasn’t being reflected in the supermarkets. The Indian shelves hadn’t changed in 20 years or more and much of what was there wasn’t really proper Indian food and didn’t have the layers of flavours we look for in Indian food. I decided to start my own business and created The Spice Tailor. I wanted them to be authentic, regional, have no nasties and taste like I had cooked them for you!
You’ve written eight best-selling books on Indian cuisine; how do you determine what recipes make it into the books?
I suppose each book has a different theme and that dictates what goes into it. My last book was Quick and Easy Indian and recipes had to be one or the other, whereas my newest book, I Love India is about my favourite Indian recipes. It is the ultimate, catch all Indian cookbook with delicious recipes for all. In general though, each book needs a good balance of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes, a good mix of white and red meat, lentils, vegetables and sides. I also like to add lots of easy dishes, tandoori foods and streetfoods into my books.
You grew up in London but have also lived and studied in Geneva, Paris and Madrid. What influence have these countries had on your style of cooking?
Geneva was where I grew up and there was emphasis given to really good quality ingredients and fresh food, both of which ensure better results. My father is also very fond of food so every weekend we would all pile into the car and were taken to a new restaurant that could be in the city or a couple of hours outside. I know I was fortunate to grow up eating delicious food from very early on and it sets the tone for wanting quality and flavour in everything I cook and eat. France and Spain were similar experiences but I continued to learn new dishes and flavour pairings. London is home now and I am inspired by what I see around me. I think London has a very good compass on food trends and these often inspire me in my cooking at home and also spill into my books as I like to keep them relevant as to what we like to cook and eat today.
Do you have any advice for any first-time home cooks wanting to try something new?
I would recommend finding a recipe where the main ingredients are something you are really familiar cooking with. For example, if you cook a lot of fish, I would find a fish curry or even a tandoori fish so at least the cook on the main ingredient is familiar and the only new bits are the spices or Indian ingredients.
Out of any cuisines, what is your all-time favourite dish?
If it was my last ever dish, it would have to be chocolate fudge cake with cream, but from an Indian perspective, my mother’s black pepper chicken.
Release: I Love India is out now.