Keeping it simple

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Keeping it simple

One of television’s most loved chefs, Rachel Allen, is back with a new show ‘Rachel Allen’s Easy Meals’ on TLC. The Irish-born chef talks to Asha Chowdary about her love for Indian cuisine and her cooking mantra.

Keep it simple, keep it healthy. This is Rachel Allen’s maxim for good cooking, which has proved to be her personal recipe for success, both as a chef and as a writer. Her love for fuss-free cooking has earned her innumerable fans across the world, and today, whether she is rustling up an elaborate pear frangipane or preparing a simple dish of creamy mashed potatoes tossed in butter, she works at offering both health and flavour on a plate.

The Dublin-born, celebrity chef now comes closer home with her television show Rachel Allen’s Easy Meals that airs through the week on TLC. In this show, Rachel returns to her Irish roots and cooks simple and enjoyable dishes that a viewer will find both delicious and easy to make. Each episode is themed on a cuisine or an occasion with titles like ‘Sunday Lunch’, ‘Easy Indian’, ‘Speedy Sunshine Food’, ‘Oriental Food’ and so much more.

In an exclusive interview with Rachel, where she spoke about her passion for cooking, the TV chef was also delighted to talk about her love for Indian cuisine and the beauty of the ingredients that go into making the perfect Indian dish.

“I am doing a show called Easy Meals, which is really all about the kind of food I cook at home,” she begins, adding, “It is simple, good and nutritious. People often tell me that they want to be able to cook. So I give them recipes that are fuss-free and can be done in around 15 minutes.”

Indian connectionHer love for Indian cooking goes back to her childhood when she would eat Indian food in restaurants in Dublin, Ireland. “I just loved Indian food as I was growing up, and then I really got into it when I attended a cookery class taken by Madhur Jaffrey in 1990. That was when I found myself totally hooked to the cuisine. What is special about Indian food is the flavour. I just love the way that spices like cumin, cardamom and coriander come together in so much synchrony.”

As for her favourite Indian foods, she loves so many of them that she’s lost count. “Just last week, I taught my class how to make Madras curry. I love Indian biryani, Gujarati cuisine, tandoori chicken, rogan josh and so many more Indian dishes,” she says.

According to Rachel, easy and simple cooking lies in just two things — the produce and the ingredients. She explains, “The produce speaks for itself. If it is good and fresh, the dish often comes out well. Spices are the shortcut to flavour.”

In the show that is now on TLC, Rachel lets us into her life like never before, sharing her own passion, expertise and insight, as well as that of the close friends and family that she lives and works with every day, through location stories shot in and around Ballymaloe in Ireland, her home.

Her love for cooking can be traced back to the days when she learnt the basics from her mother. “I used to bake with my mother and then we would sit down and enjoy eating it together,” she remembers. “In fact, my parents understood my passion early and asked me to attend a cooking course so after school I did a cookery course in my hometown.”

Rachel enrolled at the world-famous Ballymaloe Cookery School and once she graduated, her life took on many new dimensions. Today, she is a busy TV chef, author, journalist and mother, and she still teaches at Ballymaloe. The now world famous chef has many tips and ideas to share with those who love cooking as much as she does. “One of the mistakes cooks make is not tasting enough while cooking,” she says, adding, “It is important to keep tasting at every step and to tease and tickle the flavours till you get the dish just right.”

A fresh takeAnother bit of advice for cooks is to think seasonal. “I think it is important to think of the seasons,” says Rachel. “Watch the local market and cook what is available in the market. Pick up ingredients that are fresh and of good quality and this is easy when the produce is seasonal.”

As for a well stocked kitchen, Rachel believes that a cook always needs certain basics at all times. “You should always have onions, fresh spices, green coriander and a lot of butter in your kitchen. You should also always have pulses in the kitchen like chickpeas so that you can easily make an easy meal when required.”

Her personal favourites, apart from Indian cuisine, are Thai and Vietnamese food. “I love these cuisines for their simplicity and freshness and the sweet, salt and hot flavours that emerge when they are prepared. I also love Italian and North African food. But when it comes to my favourite comfort food, I would say it is my mother’s roast chicken with its bread crumb stuffing and lemon zest. Whenever I make it, the dish always reminds me of home.”

As you watch Rachel working in her kitchen on television, you realise that she draws on years of experience to create delectable meals. Her approach to delicious and effortless food clearly lies in staying focused on simplicity, health and fresh flavours. Rachel believes that everyone should take the effort to cook their own food most of the time, instead of relying on fast food always. “I have noticed that when I eat too much fast food, I am low on energy and tired.”

When she is not cooking, Rachel loves running and staying fit. “I also enjoy reading and going to the cinema.” Currently, she lives in her seaside home in County Cork with her husband Isaac, sons Luka and Joshua and their daughter Scarlett. Her plans for the future include travelling extensively and writing. “When you travel, you soak in the experiences and the flavours, and when you come back and write about it, the writing is so very authentic. Travel and write — this is what I would like to do more of in the future,” she says as she signs off.

Rachel Allen’s Easy Meals airs from Monday to Friday at 8 pm, on TLC.


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