If the thought of strawberry and black pepper kulfi has you salivating, Torie True's first cookbook, Chilli & Mint: Indian Home Cooking From a British Kitchen, is for you. The desserts chapter includes recipes that are mostly British with an Indian twist, but other dishes in the book are very traditional.
"Strawberry and black pepper is a delicious combination that works so well together," says True. "A number of years ago, I ate a wonderful strawberry and black pepper curry at The Painted Heron, an Indian restaurant in Chelsea, that has since closed down. I recall that dish being such a revelation that I thought combining those two flavours into Indian kulfi would be a nod to that restaurant and an original flavour partnership that will interest readers." True said that the kulfi and her recipe for tropical pavlova may be classified as modern Indian dishes, owing to the unusual flavour combinations (the pavlova uses green cardamom).
True's culinary knowledge of 20 years comes from first-hand experiences, including her own travels to India and learning from her husband’s Indian family based in Kolkata and the UK. When asked what draws her to Indian food in particular, she says: "I love the way that spices can transform the most humble of vegetables, making them into something exquisite. I also love the colours and variety of the food and the fact that each state's food is so different from the others depending on its geography and terrain. It is so wide and varied and never boring."
The book contains over a hundred recipes that come with beautiful photographs by photographer Tim Green. It includes everything from breakfasts worth waking up for, comforting dals and punchy chutneys, savoury snacks, sweet treats and drinks to staple Indian breads and spice blends. Think Indian savoury doughnuts (vada), crispy cumin potatoes, mussel molee and classics that use fresh fruit, vegetables and herbs and vegetables like pomegranate raita, beetroot paratha and dill dal.
Besides recipes, True also shares tips and tricks for successful dishes, and her knowledge of Indian spices, suppliers, kitchen equipment, fresh ingredients and even menu ideas.
"The idea evolved over time as I began to teach more and more people Indian recipes that I had learnt over the last two decades," True explained over email. "I was repeatedly asked to write a cookbook as the feedback from clients was so positive and encouraging. It became clear that there was a gap in the market for an Indian cookbook that really hand-held its reader into learning how to cook with spice from someone who had not grown up cooking with it."
True would love more people to embrace spices and not be put off cooking with them. Her mantra is that cooking with spice need not be spicy at all, but to think of it more as bringing flavours and enhancing vegetables that people may have otherwise overlooked: white cabbage, courgettes and sprouts being prime examples. As her book demonstrates, cooking Indian food is not just a case of cooking curries in creamy or buttery gravies. Dishes can be completely dry, healthy and packed full of flavour. "I would love to continue teaching a wide audience the joys of cooking with spice," she signs off.
*Chilli & Mint: Indian Home Cooking From a British Kitchen will be launched on November 24 this year. It is a 240-page hardback and retails at £25. It will be available to purchase from www.waterstones.com and in store and at www.mezepublishing.co.uk.