Indian food and spices go hand in hand; this is because India has a rich history of spices and flavors. The aura and aroma of Indian food is ‘Simply Spice’. To spice up our food in a more delicious manner, guide us about the various ingredients and tingle our taste buds furthermore, Raji Sharma, is all prepared with her cook book, ‘Simply Spice’. Indus Age team arranged an interview with the author where she gets candid about India and our love for spices, her inspiration behind the book, the challenges she faced while writing the book and much more. Excerpts:
What was the inspiration behind your cook book, ‘Simply Spice’?
When most people think about Indian food they think of chilli and lots of it. Being Indian I know there’s so much more to Indian cuisine than what usually gets eaten.
I’ve always been passionate about creating and sharing the tastes of authentic home cooked Indian vegetarian food. To me, the heart of it Indian food are spices used simply. Through the book I wanted to show people how to really use spices in authentic, accessible and delicious way.
How did you come up with the name of the book?
When it came to the name though I was able to ask my talented journalist son for advice. He knew what I was passionate about and suggested the name.I loved it instantly and it fitted perfectly with the essence of the book.
To write a cook book, there needs a strong inclination either towards cooking or eating. In which category you find yourself?
For me it’s definitely about the cooking. There’s nothing that makes me happier than cooking for family and friends. That’s where my passion comes from, and it’s the encouragement of my dear friends that’s prompted me to start different cooking based ventures.
Were there any challenges before you when you were writing, ‘Simply Spice’?
The hardest thing was definitely trying to precisely measure and time all the recipes. Cooking is such an intuitive process for me so it was tricky to slow down and meticulously track everything I do. It’s also a bit funny because I’m also passionate about trying to get people to cook with more intuition and their senses rather than rigidly by the book. But I do think recipes are a great starting point and way to get a feel for how to use different ingredients. Once you have the confidence to do that you can do things more handfuls of this and pinches of that!
A mother always faces this tough task of inventing and experimenting with every day meal. What according to you are the ways of spicing up the mundane and monotonous everyday food items?
Well I think all of us, not just Mums’, can sometimes get into a bit of rut. That’s when I like to branch out and I learn to cook a new dish. It’s something I get from my Dad, even though we are South Indian he always got us to try different dishes from all over India. I was very lucky to taste so many different dishes which inspired my cooking. In Australia we’re even luckier because we get to try cuisines from all over the world, there’s even more flavors to taste and techniques to learn!
One recipe from your new cook book which everyone must try?
Well my friends and family would definitely say ‘paneer kofta curry.’ I call it my signature dish. It’s a lightly spiced tomato gravy with tender ricotta patties throughout eaten with Jeera Pulao, cumin rice, it’s just bliss!
What sets ‘Simply Spice apart from the other cook books?
It’s a collection of family recipes with stories from India and my own life. It’s not restricted by region and showcases a variety of dishes that I’ve loved to cook and eat over the years.
What advice do you have for young and aspiring cook book writers?
Be genuine and share authentic recipes that have a story behind them.
A piece of advice that you would give a lover of Indian food.
Open your mind and be adventurous. Try new recipes that you may not be familiar with and learn how to balance spices and flavours. Then once you get comfortable be creative and create your own combinations.
You also run a cooking school, ‘Indian made easy’, tell us something about it.
I’ve always loved having people over for meals and my friends loved my food so much that they often suggested I start myown restaurant! That idea didn’t fit well with my life right now, so instead I thought I could share my passion by showing others how to create my recipes for themselves. Then they would be able to share it with their family and friends. From there I came up with the idea to create a cooking school in people’s own home, and Indian Made Easy was born!
With stiff competition and accessibility of the internet most of the things are easily available. In such a scenario, how do you think, ‘Simply Spice’ can reach out to the masses?
Even though you can find most things online these days I think there’s always something magical about having a book in your own hands and also having a companion to not just teach you one dish but take you on a journey through Indian cooking. That’s how I hope to reach out to people to be there with them along their journey of creating authentic and delicious Indian food for their family and friends.