Kumud Shah has been running our popular Indian Masterclasses here at Cookery School for a number of years and, more recently, we have added South Indian classes to the mix. Here, we ask Kumud a few questions about herself.
Tell us a bit about your background/where are you from?
I was born in Mumbai, India. At the age of four we moved to Mombasa, Kenya. I came to England in 1963 to study and have never left. I consider myself truly international though, as I travel a lot and take influences from wherever I go. My roots will always be Indian.
How did you learn to cook? Was there anyone who particularly influenced your learning?
Primarily I taught myself through experimentation and watching my family cook. I was surrounded by excellent cooks that were passionate about food so as a child it was instilled in me that good food was essential. It was only when I left home that I realised how well fed I was!
When I went to University I ate mostly salad as it was difficult to get hold of the right ingredients back then. Nevertheless I started improvising which eventually led to my first book which was published in 1967.
After this I started researching spices. I had done Biological Sciences at university so naturally was inquisitive about the physical effects. Years of study lead me to have a real understanding of the science in spices. Five years ago I published a spice bible (Feel Good with Food), all about the nutrition of spices. They are so high in anti-oxidants and anti-inflammatory goodness; they really do keep you healthy!
As to other influences, I have a lot of memories based on the food I ate abroad so would say that travelling had been a big part of my development as a cook.
What is your signature dish? Did you create it or is it a family recipe that has been passed down for generations?
Baby aubergine and potato curry is one of my favourite creations. I often teach it and it remains my first choice for demonstrations. The dish even made it to the cover of BBC Good Food 1984!
What’s the key to packing flavour into Indian food?
Best quality fresh spices. Try to source from Asian markets or grocers as often the supermarket spices are not good quality. It is also possible to freeze fresh spices in order to retain their freshness.
Are there any misconceptions about Indian food which you’d like to correct?
People think Indian cooking is laborious and very greasy. It’s not! I have been broadcast teaching Jenni Murray how to cook a meal in under 30 mins. I even wrote an entire book full of recipes that don’t take more than 30mins.
As for being greasy, that is down to the takeaways. Cook it yourself and you’ll see how un-fatty it is. The other great thing about cooking your own Indian food is that you can control the heat and thus teach your children about flavours. My grand-daughter is already enjoying cumin, and she is only a toddler. When she reaches 3 years old I’ll start introducing her to chilli.
What do you enjoy most about teaching?
I love showing people how uncomplicated it is. Everything we eat affects us, so why put in bad things? Learn to cook and you can control what goes into you.
We can attest that all Kumud’s food is absolutely delicious and packed full of flavour! For all Kumud’s classes, click here.