An Interview with Ashia Ismail-Singer

What is your earliest memory of growing up in Malawi?

Almost all my early memories were around food, birthday celebrations, and family dinners and religious celebrations, , every occasion had food. Some cooked by my mum and some as part of a community effort.

What aspects of Malawian, Indian, and British culture influenced your cooking the most?

The Malawian influence was more some of the ingredients we used ( which we use here in NZ) so sweetcorn, sweet potato, cassava, but i think  the whole idea of seasonal, fresh food, as stores were not as stocked with branded, packaged food, everything was bought fresh and cooked the same day.

The British influence was more with adding spices to traditional British food like the roast, or shepards pie, and masala baked beans. Since living in New Zealand and having married a kiwi, i have managed to blend a real east/west fusion, with my baking especialy , using rose water and pomegranates and saffron  to add an eastern twist to things like Pavlova and tea cakes.

Which of your recipes in the book is most sentimental to you and why?

It would have to be my mum’s chicken biryani, it holds so many memories, and no one cooks it like mum!

What is your favourite memory from the process of creating My Indian Kitchen?

I loved every minute of my journey, but i especially loved the creative side of it, cooking, finding the right props and the styling for the photography.

Imagine you’re hosting an evening with friends and you can only choose one recipe from each category in your book to cook for them. Which dishes would end up on your table?

That is a tough one,  it would have to be :
Samosas from Grazing & Bites
Burtho from Light Lunches
Slow cooked Lamb curry from The main event
Saffron Rice and homemade naan from On the side
and from A Touch of Sweetness it would have to be my Carrot Halva – A perfect dinner party right there!

What happens to the food after it’s been beautifully photographed for a cookbook? Did everyone, as it is in my imagination, get fed a feast?

Nothing went to waste while My Indian Kitchen was being made, the troops were fed lunch  and anything left over went with the team for dinners to share with their families.

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