Anjum Anand, founder of The Spice Tailor, has just launched her eighth cookery book, I Love India. I am so pleased to have Anjum on the blog today.
Here she gives her top 5 tips on how to create a stand-out dish.
Such great tips too.
“I’ve always loved to cook and feed people but I know how difficult it can be to find inspiration in the kitchen. Luckily for me, I draw on from the experiences I’ve had while visiting India and tasting the food prepared there. This, coupled with the fresh seasonal ingredients I see on this side of the world, gives me a great foundation from which to create new dishes.”
Tips On How To Create A Stand-out Dish – Anjum Anand:
Taste your dish and season well:
Even a great dish with fresh ingredients will taste flat without the proper seasoning. Indian food without seasoning is in fact considered bad luck! In my experience, food will have little taste in spite of all the ingredients you have added. It’s so important to taste your dish before serving and if it isn’t right see what you can add to balance the flavour. I often use garam masala, freshly ground black pepper, cumin powder, lemon juice, salt and chillies at the end of a dish to give it an extra kick.
Good quality spices:
People often forget the importance of great quality spices which are vital to really good Indian food. It’s important to buy your spices whole and ideally from an Indian grocer. Quality spices have an amazing aroma and taste which dried old spices just won’t compare to. Buying spices whole means they remain fresher for longer and you can then grind them down for when you need them. I make batches of about 100-150ml and then replace them once I’ve used them up. It only takes minutes to do with a spice grinder and is definitely worth the time.
Get creative and break down traditional eating barriers:
A standout dish doesn’t have to mean haute cuisine. Recently, I’ve found myself making lots of street-food dishes when I have friends over instead of a traditional Indian meal, and they always go down well. Much of my inspiration for I Love India draws on my experiences from eating food on the streets in India. The bold flavours in street food are truly exceptional and it’s a much-loved favourite of mine. Don’t feel that you need to cook a whole Indian meal, it might be as simple as good tandoori food and a salad or something like the savoury courgette cake which has everything you need in it.
Cooking with yoghurt:
Cooked yoghurt has an amazing savoury creamy tang that is so much better than cold plain yoghurt. Cooking with yoghurt can be a bit nerve-wracking for many, as yoghurt is temperamental and likely to split if not cooked properly. In my experience two things are important here: full fat yoghurt, as the fat helps keep it stable and constant and vigorous stirring as it comes to a boil and simmers. I’m not sure of the scientific reasons for this but it works. When I add yoghurt to a pot, I stir vigorously and consistently until the yoghurt has reduced a fair amount. Then you can move onto the next stage. If it does split however, the dish will still taste good but the sauce will not be as smooth.
The consistency of a curry and water:
I think we sometimes forget the power of water in cooking. I shake my dressings with a little water and it makes it much creamier. When I’m cooking Indian food, I always put a kettle on to boil so that if I decide to add water, it doesn’t bring the temperature of the pan down, which isn’t great from a time nor taste perspective. Also, when making a curry, I often add water to the pan when cooking the powdered spices to ensure they do not burn in a hot or dry pan. Additionally, a curry with a thick sauce can be a bit cloying in the mouth. Adding a splash of hot water at the end and lightening the sauce to a creamier consistency often makes the whole curry tastier if the sauce has over-reduced. If you are unsure, test with a little water at first and see how it affects the consistency and then add a little more.
Credits: photography Martin Poole and the publisher of the book Quadrille.
I Love India is available to buy now from Amazon.co.uk (RRP £20).
Over the next few days I will be sharing some of Anjum’s tasty recipes so do not forget to keep a lookout for them.
What do you think of Anjum tips?