Anjula Devi On Spice For Life

Spice for Life back cover

We spoke with Indian cuisine connoisseur Anjula Devi to find out more about her new book Spice for Life and the inspirations behind it.

What inspired you to write the new book?
I wanted people to understand that Indian cuisine is not easy to create unless you take the time to learn. I spent endless hours from the age of 10 grinding spices learning, understanding and gaining knowledge. Like anything in life, if you are prepared to learn, you can become good at what you do. I wanted to write a book, in a completely unique style, delivering 100 recipes that have never been seen before.

My Dad was my food inspiration. He never had the opportunity to share his culinary genius widely and I promised him that I would try to share our recipes with as many people as possible. It is full of recipes that my Dad and I created in our back garden when I was a little girl.

Tell us more about your culinary background…
My knowledge of Indian cuisine goes back over 40 years. I was taught by my father, who in turn was taught by his grandfather. Both of them were ‘mini-Wikipedias’ – fonts of an amazing wealth of knowledge. Spending endless hours cooking with my Dad, I remember clearly how his wisdom was delivered with substance, style and flair which made you listen intently and crave much more.

What can readers expect from the new book?
It is written with tips and stories from my life. There are no formulas and no science, just 100 unique and original recipes. It has no chicken tikka or butter chicken. My goal is to share knowledge and a very different way of creating food which has not been seen in any previous Indian cookery books.

It’s written with the knowledge and understanding of one cuisine and it doesn’t have any fusion food. It simply evolves by embracing great British produce, whilst using the techniques of Indian food.

Spice for Life Cover - Copy

Describe your cooking philosophy in two words.
Knowledge and understanding. I want to impart knowledge through my recipes and books to give people a good understanding of how to create great Indian food.

What has been the proudest moment in your career?
It was probably when I first saw the front cover for my cookery book, Spice for Life, as I knew that it was exactly what my Dad would have wanted and I loved it too. I have many very simple everyday proud moments too, interacting with others who appreciate my craft.

Do you have any tips for aspiring chefs?
Never follow the crowd. Stay unique and work incredibly hard to make your food the very best that it can be – perfect it and then perfect it some more. Never stop learning, listen to others but nearly always go with your instinct or gut feeling. 

How would you describe your style of cooking?
 I specialise in one cuisine, aiming for my food to be consistently good and to inspire others.

What provides you with inspiration for dishes?
What drives my search for inspiration is wanting to create fresh and flavoursome recipes, which are truly unique. I absorb everything that many amazing foodies openly share.

Do you have any role models?
My Dad, who was uncompromisingly unique. My husband, whose belief in me has never wavered. Importantly I find inspiration in the ‘everyday’ as well; it could be a conversation with someone I haven’t met before and I hear something compelling which unleashes my creativity. 

What food takes you back to your childhood?
Aloo Gobi with fresh chapattis, lime pickle and homemade yogurt.

What is your favourite spring dish and ingredients?
 Saag aloo, made with wonderful mustard greens and fresh fennel.

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