What is your earliest memory of spice? I am pretty certain I sniffed some chilli powder as a child and regretted it immediately!
Managing spices can be intimidating to the uninitiated — do you have any tips to demystify this gorgeous art? I am not sure I would call it an art, but I always advise people to buy small quantities of spices and label their jars. I am almost overzealous about putting my existing spices to good use before I buy a new exotic one to add to my collection (currently at 52!).
If there was a cooking explosion in your kitchen, what would be the one spice you would salvage? This is a very tough question but it would probably be Panch Phoron or Bengali five-spice. It is a mix of five spice seeds so effectively I would be left with five spices I could use together or separately for my cooking ;-)
You are a Food Pioneer for the UK Government for its Great British Food Campaign. What does this entail and what does this mean for you? It is a huge honour to be part of this campaign to promote the food of Britain in the UK and overseas. Britain's position as the capital of Indian food and ingredients outside India is well established and I am proud to be able to be an anbassador for the food of India, where I was born and brought, in the nation I have settled in.
Who inspires you? My mum, my grandfather and the work of many amazing chefs and food writers. Also, everyone who questions me - I find being challenged a huge motivator.
How often to you chuck out your old fusty spices. Are there are good tips you can give our readers for managing and maintaining their own spice kitchens? I never throw out spices, I use them! A quick tip to reinvigorate old spices is to warm them gently before using them, it gives them a quick lease of life. The problem most people have is that they buy a spice and forget about them in the back of the cupboard. Clean out your spice drawer regularly and put old spices to use.
Experimentation is part of the beauty of Indian food. But experimentation generally leads to disaster for us mere mortals, are their any guidelines you can give? Both experimentation and approximation are part of the style of Indian cooking but I provide very clear instructions for the uninitiated as I remember finding these very frustrating as a beginner. This doesn't mean you cant experiment, once you gain confidence you can use one of many variations and ideas I provide in my new cookbook Masala.
Today seems to be the age of the Instagram chef, how do you use social media as a chef, and how can our readers connect more and learn more online? This is the subject of a thesis, but I think that its all about emotional connections and individuals as brands. If you like the way someone explains something, the images they are posting and their recipes are simple and work then it's a magic formula. Follow them and get stuck in the kitchen!
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We want EVERYONE to have the opportunity to experience the joy of cooking with spices. They can bring your dishes to life and elevate even the most humble ingredients in no time at all.