TV chef, actor and cookbook author Madhur Jaffrey shares her thoughts on how childhood influences adult cravings, why being a perfectionist is useful for chefs, and yet keeps a tight lip about her latest book.
Lara Picone

15 Mar 2014 - 1:13 PM  UPDATED 2 Jul 2014 - 3:54 PM

You learnt to cook after moving from Delhi to London to study acting and missing your mother’s recipes. How do you think food plays a part in keeping us connected to our roots? Memories of childhood play such an important part in what foods we want to eat. We crave the foods we grew up with, partly because of their familiar tastes and aromas, and partly because we associate those tastes and aromas with warm emotions, comforts and happy, innocent times. Has your cooking style changed since your first cookbook, An Invitation To Indian Cookery, was published in 1973? It has, in some ways. I am much more confident, I have a much larger repertoire and these days I look for easier ways to do complicated traditional dishes.

You began writing food articles to supplement your income as an actress. Did you ever think it would become your main profession? No, I never dreamt that it could be my profession. I did not even think of it as a profession. I thought cooking was just something that every woman did. Do you think you need any of the same traits to be a good actor as you do to be a good cook? Well, you need to be a bit of a perfectionist to succeed at either one of them. If you want to be a TV chef, then all the training as an actor helps a lot.

After 30 years of writing curry recipes, do you have an all-time favourite curry? No, I really don’t. It would be like picking a favourite child. In your latest book, Curry Nation, you reveal how it’s now possible to experience the full range of Indian cuisine without ever leaving the British Isles. Was this true when you first arrived in London? Not at all. There were just a handful of Indian restaurants then, and none pleased me at all. Why do you think Britons have embraced curry so wholeheartedly? I think they have curry in their blood from four centuries of common history.

Do you have any new cookbooks/projects coming out? Yes, I am working on a new book for Ebury. But we are keeping that to ourselves. All will be revealed in due time.


Madhur Jaffrey’s Curry Nation, publised by Random House, rrp $49.95, is out now.

As seen in Feast magazine, Sept 2013, Issue 24. For more recipes and articles, pick up a copy of this month's Feast magazine or check out our great subscriptions offers here.

Madhur Jaffrey's Curry Nation airs Fridays, 6pm on SBS ONE.