1. Which do you love the most, teaching classes, writing cookbooks or leading tours to India?
Oh dear, tough one. I do enjoy all of them equally! Ten years ago when I questioned myself as to what I wanted to do in life, the answer was “Indian food: research, teach, write and travel.” And I am incredibly lucky to have fulfilled that dream!
2. How did you come up with the idea to write a cookbook that features dishes with 5 spices?
This cookbook was inspired by my students, many of whom simply didn’t have the time to create elaborate Indian recipes requiring numerous spices and steps. I wanted to write a cookbook that would simplify Indian cooking without compromising on the taste. And since many Indians cook like this at home, it wasn’t much of a stretch.
3. Did you consider including any other spices? If you had chosen 6 or 7 spices what would you have added?
Actually, no. These five go together so well, any other selected at random would disrupt the harmony.
4. What are the biggest misconceptions about Indian food?
That it HAS to be spicy. That it’s greasy. “Curry.”
5. How would you characterize the Indian food available in Bay Area restaurants?
It’s typical “restaurant” food i.e food that for generations has been served only in restaurants, like Tandoori chicken. But things are definitely changing and there is a crop of new places that’s serving up more regional fare.
6. What are the most important techniques for students of Indian cuisine to learn?
Tadka — the technique of infusing hot oil or ghee with spices is one of the cornerstones of Indian cooking. And it is essential that one learns to do it just right. I’ve attempted to make it very straightforward in the book. There are others — like, just how much to brown the onions for a curry, or how to toast spices correctly, but the tadka to me is foremost.
7. What’s your favorite dish in the book?
Another tough one, there’s several. The Mild Fish Stew with Potatoes because it has one spice — an Indian dish with ONE spice?! Thalipeeth — because it showcases a different bread other than Naan. Crispy Okra Raita because I make okra haters into okra-lovers with it…. I could go on and pretty much I’d be at all 50! Just goes to show these 50 were really chosen with much care… so many things I want to convey to people with this collection.
Next week we’ll have a review of Ruta’s book and a recipe.