I started cooking at the age of 10 years old; my father was my inspiration.
I was brought up in Southall in the early 70’s where Indian spices were not as readily available as they are now. I remember travelling on the bus (the 207 along the Uxbridge Road) with my father, to Shepherds Bush Market where we were able to buy a selection of spices, fresh fish and Indian vegetables.
I loved coming home with all these ingredients, intrigued with what I was about to be taught. My father believed in simply cooking healthy, nutritious and wholesome Indian food, which his father had originally taught him in Kenya. Vegetables were picked fresh from their own farm in Kenya, tasting wonderful.
The first thing my father taught me was the secret of getting all the spices perfect in a curry. I remember being so fascinated by all of the spices, their shapes and colours.
My father taught me how to grind all my own spices and masalas, and I remember sitting on the kitchen floor with a large pestle and mortar, while my father carefully selected nine (or more) different whole spices for me to pound into a fine powder. The aroma was so unique, and I remember chatting away to my father while he was preparing a whole fish to stuff with amazing fresh ingredients. We just loved eating and talking about food. I would go to sleep thinking about what my father had taught me, and looking forward to waking up to an Indian cup of tea flavoured with cardomons, cinnamon and fennel.
My brothers and sisters would talk to my father about sports and whether India was winning at cricket; but my conversations with my father were nearly always about food.
My first love was a very simple chutney. It was so fresh, pounded in the pestle and mortar. Fresh tomatoes, green chillies, coriander leaves and fresh mint, some dry roasted cumin seeds topped with fresh pomegranate seeds. This chutney became a pillar of the healthy diet which my father always encouraged in all of the dishes he taught me.
Sunday mornings were so exciting, as I would wake up to the smell of stuffed paratha. My bedroom was above the kitchen, so I would listen before any cooking even began, to the clattering of saucepans, and wait eagerly for the smells to drift up into my bedroom. The beautiful balance of butter, potatoes and spices was incredible. Sometimes we would have stuffed paratha with cauliflower and fresh fenugreek as a special treat
My father and I used to spend endless amounts of time in the kitchen perfecting and tasting dishes. I used to get so excited when my father agreed to use or change something I had thought of.
Healthy Indian Food
I always try and make my dishes look very interesting and healthy. I love cooking with fresh vegetables and greens, careful not to use any artificial colours and preservatives.
I really enjoy teaching and meeting new people; and try to inspire as many people as possible to cook great tasting and healthy food, just like my father did all those years ago.
I will be cooking traditional Indian recipes which my father handed down to me; some of which I have adapted to make my own. These recipes will cater for vegetarian food lovers, as well as those who love cooking traditional meat and fish recipes. I will show you how to make a great selection of Indian breads and rice.
My cooking lessons are easy, fun and a journey of discovery. Food is an excellent way of bringing friends and family together. I welcome people of all different levels of skill and experience. People will always love meeting, and eating great food. The lessons take place in a comfortable home setting, but can be arranged to take place in your own home.
Indian food is very different to that cooked in many Indian restaurants in the Western world. My lessons recreate the authentic tastes of India. I will always believe that you really are what you eat.
Anjula Devi - October 2010