Spice it up

Categories: News and previews

Ahead of her upcoming demo, Chetna Makan—former Bake Off semi-finalist and author of The Cardamom Trail—outlines her food philosophy

As much as I love cooking for my family and friends, I also love to share my recipes with everyone.

At home, I like to cook easy and quick recipes, but ones that also have flavour and nutrition, which is why I end up cooking a lot of vegetarian food. The most popular thing I make on a Monday is some form of lentils, cooked on their own or with vegetables and spices. This always seems like a good way to start the week. Lentils are not only nutritious and simple to cook but also easy to add all sorts of flavours to. You can make a spicy dish, or add some mango to make a sour one, or lots of spinach to lend it body, or vegetables to make it more versatile. Once you start cooking with lentils, you can easily make up your own combinations.

I am always looking out for fresh local produce. Shopping at my local farm shop every week and finding some treasures is always very satisfying. You can get so much more flavour when the vegetables are in season and fresh. Add a bit of spice and you will have a very happy meal.

Colour and variety
It is easy to add colour and variety to your meals. Flatbreads, for example, are such a staple in Indian food, yet there are so many ways to make them versatile, using different flours, fillings or cooking methods. I will be sharing lots of such tips and tricks at my Borough Market demo.

I don’t only cook Indian food: my kids love homemade pasta, pizzas and all sorts. But I love mixing up Indian spices with other cuisines—the results are often amazing.

I have always enjoyed cooking, but it was appearing on Great British Bake Off that gave me confidence as a baker. I was able to experiment with some lovely spices and flavours in some of the more classic bakes. And the result was a beautiful book, The Cardamom Trail, which was published in April 2016. It gives me great joy to see people enjoying the unusual flavour combinations from the book.

Be brave
My mum inspired me to cook everything from scratch and to be brave when cooking with spices. As a family, we always loved going out to enjoy street food together. That is why my second book, Chai, Chaat & Chutney, is all about Indian street food: things that are popular and well know, and things that are a bit new to everyone, but all simple to make at home with ingredients that are easy to find. This book is out on 6th July.

I will be at Borough Market sharing some great recipes, using some seasonal produce, some spices and lots of flavours. I hope to see you all there.

Join Chetna for tips, tastings and recipes on Thursday 25th May in the Market Hall, 12:30-2pm