Anjam Anand is known as the Queen of modern Indian cuisine for good reason. She has written seven cook books, outsold Harry Potter in the UK and has had two BBC TV Series. Most interestingly, Anjam is also renowned for being an Ayurvedic expert having written a book called ‘Eat Right for Your Body Type’.
Her cooking philosophy focuses on showcasing the true face of Indian food – a lighter, fresher and far more well-balanced version than some heavy offerings at Indian restaurants.
Anjum grew up in London but had extensive international experience working across the world in innovative restaurants such as Café Spice in New York, the Mondrian Hotel in Los Angeles, and the Park Royal Hotel’s Indian restaurant in New Delhi. But her real love is delicious and stylish food that is simple enough to cook at home.
I caught up with Anjam to find out what modern Indian means for her and what’s next.
When did you discover your love of cooking?
Since I can remember, I have always loved to cook. From the age of three I often cooked simple things like samosas with my mother. When I was younger, I never thought cooking as a profession but after gaining a European Business Degree, I realised cooking was my true passion and decided to pursue it.
How would you describe your cooking style?
Most peoples experience of Indian food in the west is not a true reflection of the real food we eat at home, which is lighter, fresher and far more well balanced than the offerings at some Indian restaurants. I try to showcase the true face of Indian food .I like to create food which fits into our hectic lifestyles and is easy to cook at home.
I always cook with ingredients which are seasonal and readily available on my doorstep.
Tell me about your book, Eat Right for Your Body Type?
This book is inspired by the principles of Ayurveda and is all about healthy lifestyle and food choices. The book includes over 80 healthy eating recipes which span flavours from all cuisines. I have been practising over Ayurveda for over eight years and have learnt a lot about the relationship between food and my body. The book is all about how what you eat can impact on your health and how you look and feel.
Why did you start practicing Ayurveda?
For a while my body just didn’t feel right and doctors weren’t helping me. Ayurveda has helped me understand my body – how it works and I feel much more balanced now. It’s a rational way of living and is not based on any fads or yo yo diets which I tended to do before.
Are there any new trends to look out for in Indian cuisine?
Indian food is constantly evolving. There has been a marked increased in the number of Michelin starred chefs and the quality of Indian cooking continues to rise. Indian food now has more of a focus on seasonal and regional produce. There has also been an increase in chefs practicing molecular gastronomy.
Can you share a recipe?
Sure here is one of my most popular recipes!
Gluten-Free Grilled Chickpea Seekh Kebab Wraps
Normally seekh kebabs are made with lamb mince cooked on skewers and served as they are or wrapped in thin flatbreads with some crunchy bits. This protein packed, gluten-free version is equally delicious and satisfying enough to make a healthy, light meal. I know it is odd to see cheese in Indian food but it really helps to add some umami flavour here and helps bind the kebabs together. You can also lightly fry them in a non-stick frying pan (with or without skewers) in which case you don’t need to brush with butter. You can leave out the butter if you are being healthy and eating them with the yoghurt, if not you should add the fat as they will taste a bit dry.
11/2 tbs. vegetable oil
1 medium red onion, half finely chopped and half finely sliced (for the wrap)
2 tsp. finely chopped ginger
2 good cloves garlic, finely chopped
400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1-2 tsp. finely chopped green chillies to taste
3 tbs. finely chopped red capsicum
20g grated cheddar cheese
1 tsp. cumin powder
1 tsp. garam masala
1 tsp. dried mango powder (or serve with lemon wedges)
3 tbs. gluten-free breadcrumbs
Salt and 1/8th tsp. freshly ground black pepper or to taste
2 small fistfuls of chopped fresh coriander
1 rounded tbs. butter, soft or melted
Large skewers, soaking in water as you cook
6 gluten-free tortillas or thin gluten-free flatbreads, 8-10 Iceberg lettuce leaves, Small fistful of chopped mint leaves, small fistful of coriander leaves, ½ lemon and 250g thick Greek yoghurt.
Mash or blend the chickpeas until they are a coarse puree.
Heat the vegetable oil in a small non-stick frying pan and add the chopped onion and some salt; cook until soft and then golden. Add the ginger, garlic and chilli and stir fry over a gentle flame for 1 minute or until the garlic is just cooked. Add the cumin and garam masala with a splash of water and cook out until there is no moisture left in the pan and you can see the mixture frying in the oil. Add this to the mashed chickpeas, along with the fresh coriander, dried mango powder, cheese, capsicum and the gluten-free breadcrumbs. Mix well together, taste and adjust the seasoning to taste. Leave to cool.
Meanwhile, stir the handful of chopped mint and coriander into the yoghurt along with salt and pepper to taste. Marinate the sliced onions in a good squeeze of the lemon juice.
Roughly portion the kebab mix into 6 and with slightly oiled hands, form the seekh kebabs around the skewers, you can make these round or slightly flattened. Preheat your grill setting in your oven place the skewers on oiled foil and place about 4” away from the hot grill and cook for 10 minutes, carefully turning halfway, or until browned on both sides.
Place the breads in foil in the oven to heat through for the last 3-4 minutes before the kebabs come out. Brush the cooked kebabs with the butter (they will be dry and quickly absorb the fat).
Quickly ease the kebabs off the sticks and place straight on the breads, top with the onions, lettuce and yoghurt, wrap and serve.