Yesterday I caught the new Desi Goddess of Food TV. Barely Indian but quite worthy of being a Raja Ravi Verma poster goddess.She seems like one of those global people who are quite at home almost anywhere but are categorised as 'Indian' in the UK and 'English' in India. Lucky for Anjum Anand. It gets her a TV show on cooking Indian food.
Most people in India wouldn't recognise the food she cooks as anything particularly from this part of the world though it seems quite edible and, possibly, much tastier than the average British meal.
Shades of Nigella Lawson but less self concious, her screen presence is pleasant, not preachy or clever in the way several other Indian cook show hosts are. And the format of the show is a bit different. For one thing, many scenes are shot it outside the studio and the Iranian friend as the foil is a nice touch.
Sadly the food is not quite Indian.The samosas, sold at a fair, were made in a different way. It may have been delicious but could not have had the flaky feel of a Punjabi samosa nor the crispness of a Bohri kheema samosa.The naan produced on the show looked tough, heavy and some of it even sounded brittle. The raan ...well I think Madhur Jaffrey had a better recipe though I liked the explanation about the reasons British lamb tastes very different to mutton in India and that the only approximation could be had from a halal butcher. I remember, when living in London years ago, trying hard to make British lamb taste like Indian mutton -with little luck.Ugh.
Nevertheless the leg of lamb Anjum prepared was covered in a layer of fat. Nobody here would ever begin with anything like that. Mutton is about the leanest meat available in India. The goats here walk for miles to get a belly full of grass. They have no chance to put on weight in the form of fat .The butcher then proceeds to remove every bit of extra fat and gristle visible before itis deemed ready to cook.
What makes the show interesting is that it becomes apparent that recipes change with time and place, according to availability of ingredients and memory. Ten years on Anjum Anand's recipes might be considered "authentic" British Indian cooking and she might have brought more than a touch of spice to the island's platter.
(Anjum’s new series on Indian Food starts on the 10th of November on BBC2 in the UK at 8.30pm and runs for 6 weeks. Photo courtesy www.anjumanand.co.uk/)