Spice of life: local foodie’s book

Round & About

Pangbourne foodie Balwinder Kapila explains more about her new book A Pinch Of Spice.

That’s the first thing that springs to mind when you think of Indian cooking? The flavours? The colours? The wonderful spices and aromas, perhaps? Or do you think “I love the food, but I couldn’t cook an Indian meal. It’s too hard”? Trust me: it isn’t – and in this book, I’ll prove it!

For years, my friends in Pangbourne have asked me for the secret to Indian food, but, as a British person who grew up in an Indian family, I didn’t think there was any particular secret; it all seemed perfectly natural. The trouble sometimes seemed to be that people were using the right ingredients in the wrong way. When I was asked if I’d give cooking lessons to show how it was done, I tried to explain that it was easy. I think perhaps the idea of using unfamiliar spices and ingredients, coupled with visions of standing by the stove for hours on end made it all seem too much of a challenge for many. I hope this book helps dispel some of those myths and inspires people to be adventurous and enthusiastic about trying these recipes.

When I decided to write a cookery book in memory of our son (who was a student at Theale Green School), many friends were keen to help. The book has been eight patient years in the making. What was originally meant to be a little booklet for family and friends evolved into a full-scale project. A few hastily scribbled recipes eventually began to transform into a book. Cooking together, testing recipes in each other’s homes, sharing ideas of food and culture, photography masterclasses and proofreading all played their part.

I also wanted to share my experience of my Indian upbringing in Hounslow. As I put this book together it became clear to me that recipes and ways of preparing food for your family and friends carry with them stories and histories that are just as important as the ingredients themselves. They are about cultures, individual family members and memories, both happy and sad; about the everyday, special celebrations and love.

Most of the dishes are from the Punjab region of northern India. I have combined traditional Indian home-cooked food with other recipes that I have developed over the years. I hope you will enjoy serving your family and friends the dishes that I have so much enjoyed serving to mine.

   To contact me, or for more information, you can visit www.balskitchen.com, www.facebook.com/balskitchen or @balskitchen on Instagram.