Anjum’s got you covered

I had never heard of Anjum Anand before attending the Sydney launch of her cookbook, Anjum’s Quick and Easy Indian: Fast, effortless food for any time and place (Quadrille RRP $39.95), but she is well known in the UK for her two BBC 2 series, both called Indian Food Made Easy, and she has published six other cookbooks.

At the venue, a test kitchen, Anjum Anand was in an apron supervising the preparation of samples of the recipes to be found in the book. I’m a long-time fan of Indian food, but I was a bit surprised to see what was being offered – tomato bruschetta? Vietnamese-style spring rolls? Yet each of these variations on other traditional foodstuffs incorporated Indian spices in a completely valid and tasty fashion.

Anjum's quick and easy indian

New to me, but extremely exciting, was the pani puri (below). This fabulous street-food snack is described in the book thus:

…a hollow, crispy shell is half filled with, traditionally, chickpeas or sprouted pulses and chopped potato; a tangy, minty and slightly sweet liquid is poured in, then the whole thing is popped straight into the mouth where it bursts into a firework of flavours and textures.

Anjum’s version of pani puri contained avocado, tomato onion, fresh coriander and chilli, before a tamarind-based liquid was added. Surely they were too large to fit in one’s mouth? Surprisingly, no, they weren’t.

pani puri

It’s abundantly clear that Anjum Anand is no hidebound traditionalist when it comes to Indian food. She is keen to incorporate trends and influences from other styles of cooking, as well as to inspire busy people with ideas for shortcuts, so they can still manage to serve the complex and satisfying flavours of Indian food.

All of the samples at the launch were going down a treat, as they say. Some, such as curried lamb in wraps, and prawn curry with garlic naan, were also showcasing Anjum Anand’s spice packs. These packs combining spices and sauces retail under the name of The Spice Tailor, and have been on sale through Coles since last year, at $5 for 300 g (or $5.50 through Coles online). They provide the basis for serving a curry to two to three people (you need to add your own meat, fish or vegetables).

Anjum has been delighted with the success of The Spice Tailor in Australia. “Coles is now my number-one customer worldwide,” she told me, “outselling Waitrose and Tesco [huge UK supermarket chains].” My on-the-spot theory for their success is that Australians very much like Indian food but don’t have much time, nor cupboard space, for the preparation and range of spices required.

Anjum-cookbook-2Later at home, I was keen to try out the Keralan coconut curry pack with some salmon I’d just bought, although the pack recommended “firm white fish”. My fellow householder objected; it was a red fish. To keep the peace, I opted instead to make the tandoori roast salmon tacos from Anjum’s Quick and Easy Indian cookbook, served with a warm cabbage slaw. I keep a reasonably large range of Indian ingredients at home but I lacked several the recipe specified. Luckily, I live close to Nepalese grocers who could help me out with the missing dry ingredients, and greengrocers who could sell me the fresh coriander to make the accompanying tangy coriander chutney. It certainly meant more work than cooking from a spice pack, but the results were outstanding. But not everyone can walk to a shop that stocks fenugreek leaves, nigella seeds and chickpea flour, nor has the time to make such a dish. For those who desire the particular, complex deliciousness that Indian food represents, Anjum Anand would seem to have all bases covered.

Noodlies, Sydney food blog contributor, Keren Lavelle was a guest of the lovely folks at The Spice Tailor.