Born in Mumbai but a London-area local, chef Monisha Bharadwaj runs and operates an Indian cooking school. She is an award-winning author, food historian, and food writer who was awarded “Cookery Writer of the Year” in 2003 by the Guild of Food Writers.
Her newest project, The Indian Cooking Course: Techniques, Masterclasses, Ingredients, and Traditional Recipes cookbook, recently hit the shelves in the U.S., much to the home cook’s delight.
This book demystifies Indian cooking. She begins with a comprehensive discussion of Indian equipment, ingredients, techniques, and a dissection of complicated names (for some of us foreigners) offering a step-by-step guide to a range of authentic regional Indian dishes.
For me, I loved when Bharadwaj provided discourse on Indian spices and spice blends — a key component in all Indian cooking. I (like most others, I’d bet) usually purchase a pre-blended curry paste or spice from a supermarket or specialty food store, but I’ve always been intensely curious about the make-up of Indian spice blends. The flavors are powerful and captivating, launching Indian cuisine in a culinary league all of its own.
Interestingly, Bharadwaj explains that spices used in Indian cooking are multi-functional and are chosen for properties in addition to their flavor components. Some spices, like turmeric and black pepper, for example, are sometimes chosen for their healthful properties. Others are used for color, and others still are chosen as preservatives to increase the shelf life of other foods. Mustard, cinnamon, and cloves are “particularly effective,” she notes.
Bharadwaj was kind enough to share a number of wonderful recipes with The Daily Meal:
I had the opportunity to catch up with Bharadwaj to find out more about her new cookbook; continue reading for her interview below:
The Daily Meal: What is your philosophy of cooking?
Monisha Bharadwaj: Cooking must be fun, easy, and practical, resulting in a meal that is healthy and delicious!
How did it inspire the recipes you chose to include in this book?
I chose some familiar recipes that my readers would find easy to replicate and others that would inspire a more seasoned cook. I cook every single day, often when I don't have much time but still want to make a meal that my family will enjoy, so I included many of my favorite, go-to recipes in this book.
What’s your favorite recipe in the book and why?
That's a difficult question — there are so many! I love the Butter Chicken for entertaining, the Tarka Dal as comfort food, and the Mung Dal Halwa as a special treat.
How do you hope readers will use this book, and what do you hope they take away?
I hope that my readers will read the book and then imagine me helping in their kitchen as we create the perfect Indian meal together. I also hope that the recipes will be personalized and cherished for many years to come.
Anything else you would like the share?
The Indian Cooking Course is very close to my heart as it is the essence of what I love most about my work — the teaching of skills, of course, but also the passing on of the passion I have for the diversity, history, and food of my native country.