Kitchen diaries of a culinary queen
MASTER CHEF DIPNA ANAND TALKS ABOUT HER COOKING PASSION, TOP TIPS AND HEALTHY EATING IN LOCKDOWN
by MITA MISTRY
A MASSIVELY popular pastime during the Covid-19 lockdown has been cooking and many experts like master chef Dipna Anand have helped guide those wanting to learn new recipes.
Having been brought up among a family of chefs and restaurateurs meant the London-based culinary expert was connected to cooking from a young age and grew up being passionate about food preparation. That strong connection led her towards becoming a chef, helping run her family’s popular restaurant, writing books and running a cookery school. She has also been helping people get through self-isolation by sharing her culinary expertise on a daily basis.
Eastern Eye caught up with Dipna Anand to talk about cooking tips, healthy eating and the art of preparing the perfect dish during lockdown.
What has been the highlight of your cooking journey so far?
When my restaurant (Brilliant in Southall) won the ITV Food and Drink Award for Best Family Run Restaurant 2020. Having Gordon Ramsay over at the restaurant for two of his shows is another highlight. Launching my two cookbooks is also something that will stay with me.
How did you remain connected to cooking during lockdown?
A few days before the lockdown was announced in March, I started to video record myself cooking a dish. Ever since that day, I have not stopped and launched a new recipe for lockdown every day without fail. This means soon, I will have hit my 100th recipe! These recipes have enabled me to stay connected with fans and followers on social media.
With lockdown and self-isolation, how much are people becoming connected to cooking?
I have seen a surge in my followers and so many people are now more into cooking, and have been inspired back into the kitchen. I think it’s great as many are gaining new skills and enjoying cooking for their families, as well as posting their food related content to social media. Everyone seems to be loving cooking and it’s lovely to see that.
Tell us about your cookery school?
It’s called The Brilliant School of Cookery and is located at my restaurant in Southall. We run a course once or twice a month. Courses are suitable for all with a passion for cooking. You do not have to be a pro-chef to join the courses, which suit all.
Do you have any favourite lockdown recipes?
Some of my favourite recipes are, sev puri, desi egg in bread, jalebis, crispy baked wings and chilli garlic mushrooms.
What key advice would you give those who want to improve their cooking skills?
There is no such thing as a perfect chef. Even the world’s best chefs cannot make everything. Cooking is a journey and a new learning each day. As long as you have a passion and urge to cook, your skills in the kitchen are sure to develop. If the recipe doesn’t work the first time, question why, work on that ‘why’ and try it again, and you are sure to perfect it. Cooking should never be seen as a chore or a mission, have the mind set that ‘I will make this fun, simple and easy for myself’.
What key tip would you give beginners?
We all have to start somewhere. I did too. I used to wash dishes at my restaurant when I started working there officially from the age of 18. It’s all part and package of learning and adapting to new tasks, and gaining new skills. Don’t be nervous to try new things, be determined to try, and even more determined to succeed.
Will you share some desert making skills?
I have quite a few dessert recipes on my YouTube channel and all are quite different, from cake making to specialist Indian sweets, and cheesecakes. Making desserts most of the time takes time and patience, however, my style of cooking is quite swift and easy. Dessert making is also made easy if you have carried out your prep, before you actually start on the dish. Planning and organising is the key.
What is the secret of improving as a chef and becoming more confident?
Always stay humble and never be afraid to ask questions, and learn along the way. This will grow your confidence and improve your skills throughout your journey.
How important is it to learn about spices?
It is important to know which foods work with certain spices and when they are added to a particular dish, and how they are used. So long as you know what a spice is, adding or doing for your dish, that’s all that matters.
How much of great cooking is trial and error?
Quite a lot of it, especially if you are a person who likes to experiment with new dishes and recipes of your own! You can make a recipe better or improve it by making it a few times, tweaking it every time until it’s perfect. For example, I try a recipe at least twice before it’s perfect.
What’s the importance of healthy cooking?
In today’s society, healthy eating or actually hearty eating is very important. I won my first National Award for my low-fat Indian dishes for my A-Level Food Technology project, where I proved Indian food can still be tasty and flavourful, without using all that excessive fat and oil. With the health issues and concerns in relation to diet, it’s vital we eat a balanced diet, and understand why we need to look after our bodies.
Have you had any kitchen disasters?
I was cooking at my sister-in-law’s pub in Devon a few years ago and was making a masala chicken, enough for 80 odd portions. The service was to start within less than two hours. I had the lid on my masala and all of a sudden, the glass saucepan lid shattered. Inside my curry and all over the kitchen, and into the other dishes! We had no choice, but to start over, including running to the shops to get more ingredients. I have never cooked so fast in my life. Luckily, we were just a few minutes late for service. That was some pressure.
What inspires you as a chef?
My father has been my role model and mentor from a young age. I have always aspired to be just like my dad, and growing up have watched him achieve success after success in our restaurant business. His can-do attitude and positivity in the most challenging situations amazes me, up until today. Dad’s energy, drive and enthusiasm have much to do with what I have achieved to date. It also inspires me when I see others who are inspired by me and my work. This motivates me to work even harder, and I find it very inspirational that someone is actually gaining new skills and learning from me. It strengthens my confidence and makes me even more determined to succeed.
www.brilliantrestaurant.com, www.dipna.com, Twitter: @dipnaanand, Facebook: @chefdipna, Instagram: @dipnaanand and @brilliantrestaurantsouthall