Spiced up

Me­men­toes and vi­tal culi­nary tools from In­dia take pride of place in Vivek Singh’s kitchen ...

The Guardian - Cook - - A Cook’s Kitchen -

We keep threat­en­ing to move house, but in­stead seem to keep tin­ker­ing with it. We live in New Cross, in south­east Lon­don. We like to en­ter­tain, to fill the kitchen up with peo­ple, so we opened the room up and put in a glass ceil­ing to flood it with light.

The tiles (1) do cre­ate an im­pact, don’t they? They’re from Fired Earth and re­minded us of tiles we used to buy in Jaipur. The rest of the house was done in a quite aus­tere, Scandi style but our de­signer gave into our wishes to have this noisy splash­back.

Ev­ery In­dian house has a tava (2), no mat­ter how far you are from home. Ours is 18 years old. When my wife’s mum first vis­ited us in Lon­don, she rightly as­sumed we’d be bereft of one, and so she brought this. It’s been in ser­vice since. We prob­a­bly use it three times a week for lots of dif­fer­ent parathas, ro­tis, cha­p­atis ... The qual­ity of a tava is de­fined by the thick­ness of the iron and the cur­va­ture – they’re ever so slightly dipped in the cen­tre.

The brass pes­tle and mor­tar (3) is the one piece of kit I take ev­ery­where. Brass doesn’t re­quire elab­o­rate clean­ing or take on any smells – for dried spices this comes into its own and cre­ates a won­der­ful tex­ture.

It’s be­come a rit­ual to buy a knife from Jay Pa­tel of the Ja­panese Knife Com­pany each year. Here are two of them (4). I find sharp­en­ing with a fine­grade stone (5) very ther­a­peu­tic.

Like a tava, ev­ery In­dian home will have a masala dabba (6). Usu­ally it’ll con­tain seven spices, sea­son­ings or condi­ments. Most com­monly: salt in the cen­tre, and around it, turmeric, red chilli pow­der, ground cumin, ground co­rian­der, and garam masala. We have dried fenu­greek leaves in ours and our fam­ily garam masala, which prob­a­bly uses less cumin and co­rian­der and more aro­mat­ics such as car­damom, cin­na­mon, nut­meg, and black pep­per, and also rose petals, giv­ing it a lighter colour than is com­mon.

I love mak­ing birya­nis in the Le Creuset pot (7). I made a lamb one once when my mother was here. She said it was the best thing she’d eaten in all her life! For all my res­tau­rants and books, that was still mo­men­tous.

Roasted chick­pea flour (8) is one of my favourite things; it’s a rus­tic in­gre­di­ent found in the east of In­dia, close to Varanasi. It keeps for a long time, and is prob­a­bly the only in­gre­di­ent that can be made into a three-course meal. My dad used to make dough­balls with it, which we’d have with spiced yel­low lentil rel­ish.

To my left is Coco the cock­apoo. She’s bal­anc­ing on a chair, ter­ri­fied.

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