Later this year, you are hosting a series of Spice Night cook-a-long demonstrations. What can we expect from the show?
The Spice Night campaign is aimed at getting people excited about cooking Indian food at home; there still seems to be some lingering fear of tackling Indian food and people order-in instead. So, with a little cheating and some quick and easy scratch cooking I’m hoping to inspire people to break open the spice tin, don an apron and cook delicious home-made Indian meals in under 15 minutes in the form of a speed cookathon. You will be able to watch the Spice Night cookalong every Tuesday evening at 7.30pm on The Spice Tailor Facebook page from 18 September 2012.
How important do you think is it to be able to cook?
I think it is a crucial life skill. Freshly cooked food is vital for good health and it is a skill we need to pass on to the next generation.
What advice would you give to someone who is learning to cook Indian food?
Find a chef you trust, choose a recipe and just get stuck in. It really isn’t as hard as people think. As long as you cook the components well (take extra time to cook the onions, garlic and then the final sauce) and don’t burn the garlic or powdered spices (cook on a low flame and with a little water if you are worried), you should be fine.
When did you first learn to cook?
I started helping in the kitchen when I was quite young and I think you just pick things up. I would say I am still learning though. India is so vast and the foods from the different regions are all distinct in taste, ingredients and even composition that there is still so much to discover. I also really enjoy cooking dishes from my travels outside of India and that is also a learning experience.
Your new book, Anjum’s Indian Vegetarian Feast, launches in September 2012. What can we expect from it?
I wanted to update Indian vegetarian food to reflect how we (or maybe just I) like to eat today. There are lots of quick and easy dishes, snacks, grilled foods, salads, sandwiches, brunches and, of course, proper, full-on curries that are all full of flavour and vibrant. There are dishes for mid-week suppers but also those to impress your friends with. It is a really great book and as my husband, children and his family are vegetarian it is one that has come about feeding vegetarians everyday so has a good balance and an eye on protein and not just a compilation of vegetarian recipes.
You are known for your Indian dishes, what other types of cuisine do you enjoy eating?
We eat a really varied diet and just like anyone else, every time I go to a new country, I get inspired to cook the food, buy a couple of cookbooks and start experimenting. I also love to bake, cakes in particular.
How are you when it comes to handling spicy food?
I am somewhere in the middle of the range. I love spices flavouring my food and I really enjoy the heat and clean flavours of chillies but I feel too much heat bullies the rest of the flavours so that I taste very little. However, every now and then a well spiced, robust curry with a good amount of heat is much enjoyed.
What inspires you when you’re cooking and creating recipes for new sauces for The Spice Tailor range?
I find I get inspired in the oddest ways. I was once watching a TV cooking show whilst at the gym but couldn’t hear what they were saying and saw a man make a red wine soufflé and kept thinking it was a pomegranate soufflé. The thought became a recipe which I serve with a raspberry and rose cream and is now one of my favourties. Or I might be thinking about a recipe or idea and walk past a market stall with a heap of ingredients and a connection is made. The other day I ate a green coleslaw which I thought would go really well with coconut and some fresh mustard seeds and a little sour cream rather than mayo: another idea was born. It is very random really.
Which other chefs do you admire?
I admire so many all for different reasons.
If you had an evening off from cooking, which restaurant would you go to?
I like to try new restaurants but mostly I gravitate towards cuisines from the Far East as they are often very flavourful and light.
You recently came back to work after having a baby, how has that been?
I think being a mother is difficult and being a working mum even more so. I do feel really guilty when I am not with my baby but luckily I work a lot from home so even if I am not entertaining or literally feeding him, I am around and miss very little. I am very grateful for that. These days unless I am traveling or in meetings, I work hard until mid afternoon, then spend time with the kids and once they are in bed, I pick up where I left off.
Who does the cooking when you’re at home?
It really depends on my day. I have a lady who helps me with my children. If I’m not around or have too much work, she cooks but I love cooking for my children: I want them to think that I am the best cook ever!
If you could cook for a famous person, who would it be and why?
The Dalai Lama; I am a huge fan. He is very cool, very zen and very wise. I am into all things alternative.
What would you cook for them?
Simple home-style Indian food; rice, lentils and vegetables and a dessert. Simple food that is good for your mind and body.
You spend a lot of your time around food. How healthy is your own diet?
My diet has mostly always been really healthy but I have to say that as I have had my children and gotten busier with work, I have less time to worry about what I eat. It is still a good but not as good as I would like it to be.
If you weren’t a chef, what would be your plan B?
I love anything creative and visual and always fancied being a magazine editor so maybe the editor of a food magazine.
What have you got planned for the rest of the year?
This year is mostly about the Spice Tailor and my new book, Anjum’s Indian Vegetarian Feast. I have a few work trips planned: one to India for the launch of my new book and another to South Africa for a Gourmet Food Festival. Other than that, I will be in London working on some new sauces and building the Spice Tailor business.
Anjum’s new book Anjum’s Indian Vegetarian Feast is out in September and her premium range of Indian sauces The Spice Tailor are available to buy at Waitrose and online at www.thespicetailor.com/spicenight. You can cook along with Anjum during Spice Night, a series of seven weekly web-based shows at 7.30pm from Tuesday 18 September at http://www.facebook.com/thespicetailor