A little desi, a little Aussie: in conversation with celebrity chef, Sarah Todd
Sarah Todd talks to us about her love for India and her newest cookbook: My Indian Kitchen
Chef Sarah Todd's love affair with Indian food is not unknown. The Australian native shot to fame after making aloo gobi, when she was just a participant in the sixth season of MasterChef Australia. After spending six years working and travelling through the vastness of the Indian subcontinent and opening two restaurants here - Antares Restaurant & Beach Club in Goa and The Wine Rack in Mumbai, she now reveals her latest cookbook, My Indian Kitchen.
Her book serves as a map that guides you through the complex flavours, spices and herbs of our country and is divided into four sections - pantry must-haves, recipes for bases, main dishes and last but not the least, dessert. Curious about the how's and why's around her latest release, we caught up with her to unearth the whole story in a bid to understand the genesis of the book.
Edited excerpts from an interview.
What can we expect from your new cookbook?
This book represents my travels through India over the last six years. Each recipe has a story behind it and I enjoyed collating all of those special moments. Locals from the remotest villages to bustling cities generously shared their homes, recipes and techniques with me. Writing a cookbook requires a lot of dedication but for me, the most important aspect was respecting Indian cuisine and culture. This book is like my journal and I hope that through the imagery and the recipes, readers will be able to relive my experiences with me.
Can you tell us why you chose to write a book on Indian cuisine?
I am fascinated by the incredible diversity in flavours, methods and culture in the art of Indian cooking. Indian food is savoured all around the world but is often regarded as labour-intensive and complex. If you are not brought up using the intricate blends of spices, cooking a traditional Indian meal would appear daunting. The recipes in my cookbook, although not authentic, are a representation of how fresh and light Indian food can be and that's one of the reasons I sat down to write this book.
What part of Indian cooking do you enjoy the most as a chef?
I was trained in classical French cuisine, which taught me the techniques of cooking but in India, I learnt how to add the heart and soul to a dish. I know that sounds cliché but cooking from the heart really is the key to making incredible food and that's the best part about Indian food.
Did you have someone particular in mind while selecting the recipes for this book?
I want home cooks to embrace Indian cuisine. There would be very few people in Australia who have not eaten Indian takeaway or dined at an Indian restaurant. We love it! However, this is not a true representation of the healthy and wholesome food cooked in Indian homes. My book contains just that; wholesome and flavoursome desi food that is quick, simple and easy to make. I hope that the Indian communities will love it, too.
What's your favourite recipe from the book and why?
That's a hard one but I think my spiced lamb rack with a fresh fennel salad is pretty delicious. Family celebrations in Australia always involve a barbecue, so I use this technique in some of my recipes. The smoky goodness of grilled food over charcoal is familiar to both Australian and Indian cultures, but the flavours are all inspired by the latter.
Your food seems to have several influences. Tell us more...
When I studied French cuisine, we were taught the five Mother Sauces, which form the foundation of French cooking. And then, there's Indian food which is so diverse that it blows my mind. The quality of meat and produce in India is incredible, too. My cooking is all about combining Australian techniques, such as grilling and barbecuing, along with classical French techniques to highlight Indian produce. This is a style of cooking that I developed over time. There is a myriad of curries in India and each has a unique flavour. I utilise these curries, either as a sauce, gravy or marinade, but keep it light so the produce can shine.
Not everyone can embrace and adapt to a foreign culture this seamlessly. It's impressive to see the Australian native make Indian culture and cuisine her own and we can't wait to see what else Todd has in store for us.