Since the recipe book Soul Spices came out in November 2016, Pescetarian Pleasures has seen Anjalina Chugani everywhere! We wanted to get an insight into what made this chef such a pioneer in cooking with spice!
Anjalina was born in London and moved to Bangalore at the age of 13. She travelled extensively and lived abroad until moving to Barcelona with her husband in 2000. A change in career path some years ago, led her to attend the renowned catering school (Hoffman school) where she learned the basics of French and Spanish classic dishes.
As you will see cooking has always been a big part of her family life, the kitchen being the centre of most of the homes she lived in growing up. Armed with the new culinary skills learned at the Hoffman school, she was ready to begin an exciting culinary journey of her own, leading her to be a kind of spokesperson for spice! Soul Spices was a labour of love that was 1.5 years in the making, but leafing through the colourful pages of unique recipes, we think it was worth the wait!
Anjalina works on recipe development for several restaurants here in Barcelona, who want to offer fresh dishes with an Asian slant. She says she loves listening to restaurants line of food and is quite intuitive about developing the dishes that they are looking for. As well as the cookbook she caters private events and runs masterclasses (teaching people to cook using spices). As she started to teach she noticed there were the same recurring questions around spice…where did she get them from, what should be done with them? The book was born out of this demand of knowledge. People wanted to know more!
You´ve been here for a while now, 16 years! What bought you to Barcelona in the first place?
My husband! We met in Bangalore, India where I lived… he was on holiday.. we met ( it was a semi-arranged situation).. and the rest as they say is history..!
Tell us about your first memories of food, was it an important event in your family?
Oh yes! Food was and is everything to us.. home cooking was always at the heart of all our gatherings.. I have such fond memories of watching my mum and my aunts in the kitchen, cooking up a storm.. and the kids, all of us running around and then enjoying every single morsel of what they cooked up… I come from a line of amazing cooks… My grandmothers were both stellar cooks… My paternal grandma taught me a thing or two, and those lessons have stayed with me..
So has cooking always been your passion? What led up to publishing Soul Spices?
I have loved watching people cook for so long.. I have always appreciated good food.. but cooking wasn’t something I did passionately.. I came into it a little late.. but once I discovered that I could actually do it, and do it WELL, I realised it’s what I wanted to focus on… the book came as a result of a few years of teaching cooking and finding that there was a gap and a void of info out there based on spices and Indian cooking…and basically I wanted to share my recipes…
Soul Spices is full of exciting recipes, are these dishes you´ve always cooked, or is your repertoire constantly expanding?
Yes, Soul Spices is filled with dishes I constantly cook and ones that my mum has taught me, and ones that have come from family and friends… it’s REAL recipes… recipes that even a novice cook can have a go at… I am constantly developing new ones though too..
We like the fact that your book highlights the health benefits of spices. Do you think some modern diets are lacking spice?
The modern way of eating is now actually incorporating spices, slowly but surely, as they see the benefits and health boosts that spices contribute.. yes, spices are rare in everyday occidental cuisine but I do see this changing… hopefully, more people like us are out there spreading the good, spicy word!
As well as the book, you teach cooking workshops, and consult on recipe development. What else are you involved with at the moment?
There are other projects lined up… I always have a bundle of ideas up my sleeve! I still cater as well… but yes, there’s a lot going on all the time, which is great! You can always check the links on my blog, which tell you where I will be.
There are so many great new eateries and pop up dining events in Barcelona at the moment, it seems like the foodie scene is really thriving here. Why do you think that is?
The city has become experimental, which is great. The fear of the unknown is slowly disappearing giving way to new flavours and culinary cultures.. The Barcelona people are opening their minds and palates. It’s a combination of social media and the new generation… Instagram is exploding with foodies and the rise of the food truck has really helped.. it’s helped bring world flavours to the masses… which is great!
Who inspires you in the culinary world?
Gosh, so so so many people.. the great chefs of course like Massimo Bottura who not only are brilliant but they are socially conscious too.. the mums who cook fresh meals for their kids everyday… the independent little cafes and restaurants that work so so hard in their tiny kitchens to bring out fresh, good quality food everyday… the food writers and TV chefs who constantly show people how to cook delicious meals with simple, seasonal ingredients.. and India.. that country just inspires me so so much… everything about it!
Are there any emerging spices or ingredients that we will see a lot more of in 2017?
I actually think it’s been happening a lot since last year… Turmeric has been a star ingredient in the western world for months now ( I’ve been consuming it since I was born!)… I think Asian food is really taking over the scene… and not just Japanese or Thai… I think Vietnamese, Filipino and Indian will come more to the forefront… As long as we keep incorporating spice into our cooking, I’m a happy girl!
It was great to get the low-down from Anjalina Chagani, for more info head to her website
(Photos by Sanjeev Nair and Jordi Domenech)