I was interviewed by Lisa van der Knaap for a piece on cooks (and chefs) and the dishes that presented a sort of ‘A ha’ moment in their journey. It’s called “The dish that changed my life”. Now, I wouldn’t say the Prawn Madras changed my life, but it did help point me in a certain direction. I’m photographed here in our home, the apron a gift from my friend Anel from Spit or Swallow.
Easy Prawn Madras
I chose my Prawn Madras curry, one of the first posts I placed on Food 24 and which, as a total surprise to me, proved to be hugely popular. I think it is because it is so simple to prepare, the method has been pared down, but at the same time it delivers on all the flavours you expect: tamarind tang, heat and comforting warmth of spices in a tomato sauce.
I’m really proud of this image: I styled it with my props. I had just acquired the pan from a trip to Northern Morocco) – I don’t buy clothes anymore on travels, I buy food photography props. The grey cloth belongs to the photographer and helped pull the look together.
Food and Home Entertaining 2013
I’ve taken the liberty of attaching the questions in interview format, if you can’t read it in the document attached.
1. What was the dish that you chose?
A simple Prawn Madras, characterised by a deep red tomato sauce and the tang of tamarind.
2. Why does this dish have a special place in your heart?
The curries that my mom and granny used to make growing up where always rich and hearty. We enjoyed every type of ingredient in some sort of curry, from dry braised potato with black mustard seeds and dried red chillis to mutton ribs with cabbage in a rich sauce. Irrespective of the season there was a place on the table for a curried dish. I love my mother’s South Indian style prawn curry, in particular – tangy, tomatoey and perfect on a hot summer’s night. When I started my food blogging journey in September 2010, I wanted people to share in my family’s culture and traditions. I realised the challenges of time and ingredients might make it a bit of a stumbling block – which is why I added my own twist to the dish. I was surprised by the attention this dish got. In my mind it was such a simple version of the curry, but I think this is what appealed to people. A flavoursome, comforting dish that you can easily whip up after work. It is a thread that runs through most of the food I feature on the blog, even those with foreign ingredients- achievable recipes that are big on bold flavours and interesting textures.
I think apart from ripe, plump litchis in bunches from my grandparent’s tree, it has to be rice
with a little bit of butter melting into it. So simple but wholesome and delicious.
4. What do you love so much about working with food?
Creatively, it’s hugely satisfying and challenging to look at an ingredient and see the possibility
in showcasing it or combining it with others. Sometimes it works out beyond your wildest
expectations, other times not. The aspect about food I enjoy the most is the correlation between
food and culture or history. I travel as much as I possibly can, independently and I am
constantly researching and looking for the stories that link people to the food of a region. If I
could study food anthropology now, I would.
5. How (if at all) does your heritage come into play in the dishes you make now?
My Indian heritage plays an enormous part in not only the tastes I enjoy but in my respect for
food, my acute awareness of scarcity and lack of food security in the world and the strong belief
that bonds are tightened around the table.
My grandparents, like many people’s in South Africa, lived in horribly trying times with very
little. But, even as a five year old, I recall the daily spreads my grandmother put out for anyone
who visited. Unannounced visitors were always welcome at the table. She showed her love for
people not through words, but through her food.
6. What’s the one dish of yours that you’d like to pass on to the future generations in your family… and why?
I often joke that the aim of a food blog is to get your family to cook exactly what you like, from
your recipes when you are busy. This does happen and I am so pleased that it has inspired
people like my husband who have no cooking experience. More than sharing one special dish
with the next generation, I feel fulfilled knowing the food I love to share is being cooked and
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