Garnish cooking with research, experiment

Published: February 22, 2016


LAHORE: Collecting recipes of delectable cuisines is an art, and who can reveal the technique better than Madhur Jaffrey, a guru of Indian cookery.

Dressed in hot pink and green, Jaffrey engaged the audience with anecdotes as she spoke one-on-one with chef and cookbook author Anissa Helou at a session, titled The Woman Who Took Curry Global. “I am like a woman with a begging bowl. I don’t like to bore myself; hence I am always researching [recipes],” said Jaffrey.

She said that while some people were good at sharing their recipes, others were not. Some are quite reluctant to share theirs, she said. “I [usually] find people generous. If not, I find a way around it.”

Jaffrey said in order to obtain recipes from “difficult people”, she asked the same questions from different people. “If you ask 10 people the same question, everyone will leave out something… all you then need is to add the remaining ingredients,” she told an amused crowd. Jaffery said she strongly believed in passing on knowledge. “Don’t tell me your recipe, but please, don’t kill it,” she said, suggesting that cooking enthusiasts learn by watching.

She said when she ventured into commercial chatni-making, she had to make some compromises such as adding artificial flavours and using preservatives. “You either remain a purist and poor or you make a compromise,” she said.

Jaffrey, an actress, said she had found it difficult to change her eating habits in order to stay fit. “Eat carefully, exercise and all that rubbish. It’s same for me like others.”

For Jaffrey, who is decked in saaris during her cooking shows, cooking in her own kitchen was all about “kitchen disasters” in the form of splattered spices and hands smelling of garlic. “A good plate of daal chawal with some yoghurt is something that lands me in heaven,” Jaffery said.

Author of nearly 20 cookbooks, Jaffrey said precision, enthusiasm and honesty while writing were the key factors that engaged people and made cuisines popular.

“If you are aware of where one could go wrong, you can suggest a solution that gives people confidence to start cooking,” she said citing Julia Child’s cookbooks. She said her love of exploring was fuelled by her desire to learn something new. “I love to travel which is why I don’t think I will ever retire. I will keep discovering.”

Published in The Express Tribune, February 22nd,  2016.

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