Forget ringing for a takeaway or grabbing a jar of sauce, cooking Indian grub from scratch is a lot easier than you think and doesn’t have to mean hours in the kitchen, says TV chef Anjum Anand.
The British-born TV chef and cookery writer - who was taught to cook authentic Indian food by her mother and aunts, and whose passion for her family’s cuisine inspired her to launch The Spice Tailor range - is on a mission to bring dishes from the subcontinent up-to-date by making them easier to prepare while retaining their rich, spicy flavours.
As a busy working mum-of-two, Anand, 42, is well aware that although many people love to cook, they don’t have limitless time to do it - and that’s the theory behind her latest book, Anjum’s Quick and Easy Indian, which features recipes she regularly cooks for her family.
“The meals I cook are often simple, with lots of one-pot recipes, street foods, spice-laced sandwiches, salads and quick curries,” she says.
The book features a detailed list of time-saving ingredients, ranging from ready-cooked rice and pre-prepared crispy fried shallots or onions, to ready-made tamarind and date chutney.
“There are so many products you can buy that will help you cut down on time spent in the kitchen. It’s better to cheat a little than not cook at all.”
While Anand can cook a mean curry, many of her dishes aren’t typical Indian fare. While spices are involved - the recipes often feature ingredients such as ricotta, brioche, creme fraiche and chorizo.
“Ricotta is my quick and easy take on paneer - they are both fresh white cheese with little added external flavour or salt,” she explains.
As for her dishes that contain chorizo, like her Goan chicken and chorizo stew, Anand points out: “Chorizo was first brought to Goa with the Portuguese many hundreds of years ago, and the Indian, slightly spicier version is used extensively in Goan food.”
Many of the ingredients used are, however, traditional spices and Indian mainstays, like tomatoes, garlic and onions, and she says she always has those, plus ginger, in her vegetable basket, as well as yoghurt, a block of creamed coconut and fresh coriander in the fridge.
“My larder has lots of spices, but really, if you have cumin seeds, coriander seeds or powder, turmeric, garam masala and red chilli powder, you can make a good curry.”
For those who don’t like spicy food, Anand says that the beauty of Indian cooking is in the flavours, not the heat.
She’s keen on keeping dishes fresh and healthy: “Most of us don’t cook with a lot of fat any more, and leave it to the restaurants to do heavier curries,” she says.
She says it should probably take around 20-25 minutes longer to make a good chicken curry from scratch, with boneless cubes of meat, than to prepare one with a ready-made sauce.
“But it’s worth the effort in my opinion, as the resulting tastes are so much better,” Anand insists. “I do find once you’re used to the flavours of a well-made curry, you can’t go back.”