HOW I STAY HEALTHY
British-Indian food writer and TV chef Anjum Anand shares her secrets to easy, healthy Indian food the whole family will love.
TV chef Anjum Anand explains just how healthy Indian food can be
Raised in Switzerland, we mostly ate fresh, homemade food, often Indian but local European favourites too. The food there is particularly good quality, which is the best way to eat — so I feel really lucky. Even today, I like my kids to eat the same way — healthy, homemade fresh food. My earliest food memory is making meatballs with my mum. I remember dropping them into the simmering hot curry, and being nervous I’d be splashed by the sauce. I learned the technique really quickly! My breakfast is always very simple. I’ll have a cup of warming and stimulating homemade masala tea, and wholemeal plain toast. Lunch is my biggest meal of the day, and in my ideal world it’s a pot of lentils, some vegetables and freshly made roti, and a crunchy but flavourful raita on the side.
Nuts or a piece of fruit is my go-to snack. And if I’m really tired, it’ll probably be something a little less healthy! I try to be healthy most of the time, so when I’m indulging it can be anything from pizza to a piece of chocolate cake. I do the cooking at home — my husband doesn’t know how to put the oven on! Dinner varies each day — anything from Indian to Italian to Greek — but something hot the whole family can eat together. Indian food is not just butter chicken and cheesy naan. Indian food is really regional, and changes depending on what grows there. We also have great tandoori food — the best street food in the world. Whether you’re a meat-eater, vegetarian or vegan, the food of India is so vast and varied you can eat something new each day. Unfortunately there’s a common belief that Indian food is really unhealthy, but we have plenty of steamed, grilled and stir-fried food. To be honest, a lot of home-style Indian food doesn’t need a ‘healthy’ makeover. It’s full of healthy ingredients anyway! Heavy cream and nut pastes are generally only used in the restaurants, but if you’re worried about your fat intake, you can use a little less oil when cooking, or bake things like samosas in the oven, instead. Most of us need to eat more vegies, and Indian cooking has the best vegetarian food in the world! It’s so easy to add a lot of flavouring with just a few spices! Another great tip is to make a quick tandoori marinade for your vegetables, then throw them onto the barbecue for a super-quick and delicious side that’s not just steamed or roasted. I often feed reluctant vegetable eaters a spinach and dill raita to eat alongside their meat. When I cook for friends, I like to make different street food dishes. One of my favourite meals is the paneer kathi roll, a hot Indian wrap inspired by street food. It’s really very easy because you can make the filling and bread in advance, then heat them up and combine them in a wrap within minutes when your guests are ready to eat. My favourite shortcut is to make chutneys (proper Indian chutneys, not sweet and sticky!) to keep in the fridge for when I need them. They’re a great way to add flavour to everyday meals, and they save a lot of labour in the kitchen. It’s easy to make healthy food in a hurry. I often make a quick curry using my chilli, garlic and tomato chutney (which simmers for 30 minutes, developing depth of flavour). All I have to do is fry up some onions and ginger, add in my spices, the main ingredients and the chutney, then simmer it until it’s all cooked through — which is often no more than 15 minutes!
India has the best vegetarian food in the world!
Discover real Indian flavours and easy, delicious recipes in Anjum Anand’s latest book,I Love India (Hardie Grant Books; $39.99). Available now in Australian bookstores.