Introduction

Introduction

By
Anjum Anand
Contains
0 recipes
Published by
Quadrille Publishing
ISBN
9781849491204
Photographer
Emma Lee

I was raised by a vegetarian mother. She had an arranged marriage, which makes you think she would have been introduced to a ‘suitable’ partner, but really my father couldn’t have been more different from her when it came to food. His tastes were as gourmand as hers were restrained. He tells colourful stories about fishing with his brothers, taking their prize catch home and making a big pot of curry, but food never features in my mother’s childhood tales. Once married, however, she started to cook the rich, meaty curries my father loved, and served them up as well as her simple but equally tasty vegetable and lentil dishes. I was brought up eating both.

In a funny twist of fate, I then married a vegetarian who comes from generations of vegetarians. So my children are vegetarian. As I have been married for nine years – and my husband doesn’t cook – that’s a lot of vegetarian meals. Like my mother, I have learned a new way to cook, creating new dishes and tinkering with flavours to keep my family well fed and enjoying their meals.

Luckily, my culinary heritage is replete with amazing vegetarian dishes, as two-thirds of India has followed a meat-free diet for thousands of years, either because the people can’t afford meat on a regular basis, or because they believe that eating it is bad for the soul (in a country that believes in reincarnation, they aren’t taking any chances). Either way, this has given them a lot of time to perfect the culinary uses of lentils, beans and dairy products into a vast spectrum of dishes. I have always said my desert island ingredient would be the humble Bengal gram (chana dal), a type of lentil. It can be made into a curry, stir-fried with spices into a protein-rich side dish, even used to make a dessert. It is also ground into flour and then made into bread, or batter for spiced pancakes or bhajis, or spiced and steamed savoury lentil cakes. Indians are alchemists of the vegetarian table, and can conjure thousands of uses from their beans or dairy products.

The recipes in this book have their feet firmly planted in India’s amazing regional food, but also contain influences from my life and travels. Many of the dishes here are Indian classics, others are refreshed and revised meals that I love. There are also a few which are just hanging by a home-spun cotton thread to an Indian heritage, but are too delicious not to be included.

I have enjoyed writing this book more than any other; I’ve cooked with foods I hadn’t tried before and experimented with new flavour combinations. I find the world of meat-free living bountiful, beautiful and a feast for so many of the senses. I hope you enjoy the food as much as I do.

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