Chef, presenter, entrepreneur and author – The Wordrobe meets Anjum Anand to find out more about this gourmand girl boss.
What inspired you to become a chef?
I’ve always loved to cook and feed people. That combined with my love for Indian food and the fact that it was, and in many cases still is, so misunderstood by many got me writing my first Indian cookery book.
This then led onto me eventually launching my own brand of authentic tasting Indian food, The Spice Tailor. My love for Indian food has only grown as I spend more time in the different regions tasting different dishes. I feel very lucky to love what I do for work.
What can readers expect from your latest book, I Love India?
A riot of colour, flavour and options for any kind of mood, cook and eater. There are curries, biryanis, grills and salads for summer, street food that you can make into a light snack and lots of tapas ideas to share with friends. There are also traditional Indian desserts as well as some fusion ones that I absolutely love.
Tell us more about your culinary background…
I started learning Indian food from my mother and her sisters. That got me understanding the basics of how to cook Indian food. I then continued to learn from many others, including doing some classes in different regional dishes.
I have also worked in some restaurants where I learned a more refined, richer type of food and the tricks and techniques they use to infuse food with flavour. I continue to learn.
Recently, I learned how to make a proper Hyderabad Biryani when I was there in 2015 – it is a great dish and one best learned by someone who has been eating and cooking the dish their whole life. It’s one of my favourite dishes and I was so excited to put it in the book.
What has been the proudest moment in your career?
There are a few – I don’t think I can choose just one. Filming Indian Food Made Easy (the first series) as well as Anjum’s Spice Stories (third series filmed in Australia), being invited to Buckingham Palace for lunch with Her Majesty the Queen and Indian Prime Minister and when my range, The Spice Tailor, was first listed in Waitrose (the first retailer to take it).
If you weren’t a chef, which career would you like to pursue?
I might have gone into health and nutrition (probably with an Ayurvedic slant) or gone into architecture and/or interiors.
What is your favourite midnight snack?
I never have one. If I was starving it would probably be nuts or a banana.
Do you have any tips for aspiring chefs?
I think it’s a career of passion, determination and stamina. If you have those, you should be fine. Also, I would say, take every opportunity to learn more and grow.
How would you describe your style of cooking?
It is everyday cooking for those who enjoy Indian flavours with a good mix of traditional food and some lighter, fusion dishes.
I want to inspire people to cook Indian food at home so try to keep it simple but also have some special dishes for those who would like a challenge or want to have people over.
What provides you with inspiration for new recipes?
India is full of inspiration and I’m lucky that I’m able to travel there. This coupled with fresh seasonal ingredients I see on this side of the world often inspires me to create new dishes.
Also, I do love a challenge. For example, I filmed a series in Australia in 2015 called Anjum’s Spice Stories. The producer was keen that I Indianise some Aussie favourites.
One of their iconic dishes is the meat pie. I knew Goans had pork empanadas so I created a baked pie with similar flavour profiles but with a chunkier meat, a bit of sauce and an Anglicised pie crust. I loved it so much I also put it in the new book. It’s really delicious and has a very interesting provenance, even if I slightly changed the original recipe.
Do you have any role models?
I have never had a mentor but there are so many chefs and cooks who love what they do and are really good at it. They inspire me, as do strong women in business and working mothers.
What food takes you back to childhood?
Indian food has always been with me so doesn’t take me back to childhood as such. I suppose it would be Swiss food as we lived there for 10 years. We used to have a raclette machine and would have raclette once every few weeks which involved slicing raclette cheese and placing it in a small tray that would slide into the machine and be broiled from above.
We would eat it with boiled potatoes and pickled onions and gherkins. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea but I still salivate when I think about it.
What are your favourite spring ingredients/dishes?
For me spring is about greens and simpler dishes. We eat a lot of steamed asparagus, stir-fried spinach and other greens. I also love making savoy cabbage in a southern Indian way with brown mustard seeds, curry leaves, lentils and coconut.
What’s next on the cards?
My new book, I Love India, has now officially launched so I’m focusing on The Spice Tailor – my range of Indian food which comprises of sauces, wraps, lentils, chutneys and naans.
They are completely natural and really delicious. I’m excited to continue to develop the range so that it is the go-to Indian range in the supermarket.
To find out more about Anjum, click here.