Anjum Anand, TV series and cookery book success

Posted on In Focus Oct 2008 - by Tandoori Magazine
Anjum Anand, TV series and cookery book success

Anjum Anand proved a great success with her first TV series and cookery book last year. Now she’s back for more, as she tells Humayun Hussain.

With Indian Food Made Easy, of which both the TV series and the accompanying recipe book of the same name, proved to be one of the success stories of last year, the Indian cookery scene had a new star in its midst.

Anjum Anand was the first Indian cookery personality after Madhur Jaffrey to have made an impression on the public and even if the BBC is to be blamed for inexplicably not putting on an Indian face amongst its myriad of cookery shows over the years, it was still quite a coup for them. Not only was the series a success – pulling in two million viewers per show – but the cookery book of the same name made it onto the best seller lists. Anand as an overnight star.

“I was elated,” she admits. “But the funny thing is that you don’t anything for sure before it’s been broadcast. I had no idea whether I was going to be any good, bad or even gage how the public will react towards you. It was a very intense experience and I never took it for granted that it was all going to be a success.”

Nevertheless, just to get to the point of even being commissioned, was a frustrating experience for Anand.
“Nobody wanted to take a chance with a series on Indian cooking,” she notes. “I’d originally had meetings with the BBC four years ago, but it came to nothing. There are so many Indian chefs, food writers and practitioners out there, not to mention the huge interest in Indian cooking so it’s very short-sighted for the media not to recognise that and give them more exposure.”

In the end, when the BBC finally nailed her as the presenter, they were singing from the same hymn sheet.
“My mission,” as Anand puts it, “was to try and make viewers understand that Indian food doesn’t have to take hours to prepare, while at the same time being simple and flavoursome. Otherwise, I didn’t thinks that people would be motivated enough to go into the kitchen and cook.”

With the second series – scheduled to be broadcast on BBC 2 in November – the idea was to keep things straightforward in terms of the recipes and cooking methods, but with the proviso that it takes a more in-depth approach and with stronger regional leanings.

“Rather than focussing on chefs,” says Anand, “what we did was to look at the different communities that make up India, but here in the UK. So we looked at people living in cities like Leicester, Bradford and others, and what they cooked at home – whether it’s Kashmiri lamb or Goan-style pork.”

In the new book dishes range from mint paneer tikka to fish and green mango curry, Bengali fish stew, coconut chicken fry, Lahori lamb and green beans with lentils, along with desserts such as sweet angel vermicelli with orange cream.

Though it remains to be seen whether a third series will be commissioned by the BBC or not, Anand offers an interesting trajectory on how Indian cooking has taken off in the UK.

“Some people have been critical of the fact that when Indian food was first introduced to this country several decades ago,” she adds, “it wasn’t authentic enough. My own perspective is that had Indian food been totally authentic and robust, the indigenous people would not have taken to it in the way they have done. It was understandable that it was pared down.

However, as time has gone by and people have travelled more to the subcontinent and become more familiar with Indian food, their palate has also got more used to authentic and regional fare. That development has been very important so that new diners can be more discerning and gradually get to know what Indian food is all about.”

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