Award-winning TV chef and cookbook author Anjum Anand grew up in London, cooking at home — where meals were a delicious blend of her Pakistani mother’s light, vegetarian fare and her father’s “meaty affairs, with melting mutton curries and soft, puffed chapatis anointed with ghee” — but did not begin cooking professionally right away. After completing a degree in business and working in a small company for two years, “reality dawned,” she says. “I wasn’t enjoying any of it. The only thing that gave me any pleasure was cooking for myself after I got home from work.”
I Love India is Anand’s eighth and latest cookbook. It references traditional Indian recipes that are inspired by her travels in India with influences from her family and a lighter, healthier take on local recipes.
With chapters ranging from “Street-Side Tiffin,” “Sunset Bites,” and “Indian Summer” all the way to “Regional Stars,” “Comfort Foods,” and “Desserts,” this cookbook, full of easy-to-follow recipes and mouthwatering photographs is a fantastic way to inspire and incorporate healthy and delicious Indian dishes into every day cooking.
Recipes featured include:
The Daily Meal: What is your philosophy of cooking (and/or eating)?
Anjum Anand: My food philosophy, in general, follows the principles of Ayurveda, which says food can be medicine or poison depending on how and what you eat. So all natural foods have properties which will nourish your body in different ways, and although Ayurveda does explain these in detail, it basically advocates eating a broad spectrum of ingredients in your diet to ensure you are getting everything your body needs to be healthy. As such, I try to avoid processed food as much as possible and eat and cook fresh food as often as possible. This doesn’t mean I don’t succumb to chocolate, coffee, sliced bread, and other bits, but in general my meals are fresh and mostly cooked.
How did it inspire the recipes you chose to include in this book?
India is a country that until very recent times has only eaten fresh food. In fact, most people will still cook and eat what is grown locally and in that season, as supermarkets are a relatively new concept, especially away from the cities. I remember when I visited India and stayed at my aunts, fresh produce would be pushed down streets on carts with the vendor shouting out his wares to the houses lining the street. Food was therefore fresh and regional, giving India a fabulous tapestry of cuisine where food from the North is so different from the South, as they would grow different ingredients.
I chose recipes from around the country that represented, and were often the best or most popular, in the region. I always try to marry dishes that were and are eaten in the country with what I feel we in the West would cook, eat, and enjoy.
What is your favorite recipe in the book and why?
I don’t have and couldn’t choose a favorite. Each recipe reminds me of a different occasion, family member, friend, or visit to India, and they are all special to me.
What are some of the foods you can’t live without?
I can’t get through my day without a strong cup of ginger and green cardamom spiced tea. I brew it fresh every morning with good quality black Assam tea-leaves, even if it is a hot summer day. Aside from that, I have been on so many diets, fasts, and other food-restrictive regimes in my life, I feel I can manage without most things for a while but loathe giving up anything anymore.
Would you rather dine out or cook at home?
I obviously love to cook, but when cooking becomes your career, it is nice to be fed.
What is your favorite go-to meal or drink?
Aside from Indian, I love Thai food, and a good green curry with a raw papaya salad would be heaven for me. In the day, I mostly stick to water. When out at night, a full-bodied red or a cocktail would be it. I was recently told that tequila is an alkaline alcohol, so I have been upping my margarita intake on nights out!
How do you hope readers will use this book? What do you hope they take away?
I hope the book will address some of the misconceptions about Indian food. It isn’t just rich curries — it is a cuisine of grilled, steamed, baked, and stir-fried foods. A typical Indian plate is balanced and healthy, it is full of ingredients that we all accept are healing and good to include in our regular diet. Also, that not all Indian food is heavy and spicy in the sense that it is hot. Spice adds flavor, chilies and black pepper add heat. It is a cuisine that is full of flavor and history and is one that is cooked every day in hundreds of millions of homes and not as a special occasion meal. It just depends which dishes you choose — like all cuisines, it is full of lighter home food and richer restaurant dishes.
Obviously, I hope readers will LOVE the book, but maybe more importantly, I hope they will get cooking and add a few new dishes to their regular go-to repertoire.