Cyrus Todiwala On The Food He Loves

Born in Bombay, chef Cyrus Todiwala developed his hallmark style of blending traditional Indian and classical French culinary techniques and flavours, with more unexpected ingredients.

This ethos quickly evolved further at Café Spice Namasté, the restaurant that he and his partner Pervin helped to establish in 1995, eventually taking over the business completely. Together, Cyrus and Pervin have built an award-winning institution renowned worldwide for a consistently innovative and fresh approach to Indian cuisine.

Mr Todiwala’s Bombay by Cyrus Todiwala (Hardie Grant, £24) is out now, Photography by Helen Cathcart

What’s the best thing you’ve eaten recently?

The best thing I've eaten recently is fresh crisply fried bombay ducks... yum!

What’s the one dish to make anyone fall in love with your new book?

I would say if made well then the papaeta purr eedu will smite right through your heart! Though there are more, you just asked for one....

What ingredients are always stocked in your pantry?

So let’s look at spices and condiments. Have to have cumin, both whole and powder. Coriander, all three whole. Turmeric powder, kashmiri, chilli powder, whole cardamom cloves, cinnamon, fresh ginger, garlic, and green chillies. Just with these you can have the world at your feet.

How do you balance tradition and innovation in your cooking?

Wow! At first you choose a key ingredient such as a type of meat fish or poultry, then you have your imagined dish in your mind to create, then you look at how best to bring it closest to a traditional form of cooking and then the idea of giving it a twist.

I have always done this except where the dish is a classic from any community.

TRY: Cyrus Todiwala's recipe for Jumping Chicken Samosa

Were you always destined to cook? What has been your path into food?

I know it sounds strange but I enjoyed cooking from a very young age. However it is wrong to add that I was also not very academically inclined but I was, however I did extremely well surprisingly in the Catering Institute where I studied and that set the ball rolling.

Once selected by the foremost hotel group in India The Taj Hotel group I could not look back and run. I just had to make it happen….I am still as excited as I always was and still learning every day.

What new tricks or ideas have you learnt?

I am always learning but never more than what an Indian Women can teach you if she is happy to do so.

More often than not I get asked questions and have to provide sensible answers, but for example when cooking a type of potato, I would part blanch and then sauté with a little oil and spices, until I was told to try them without par boiling and the taste and texture would-be better.

This was none other than my better half Pervin. Now our cooking style has bene changed for that preparation. Simple and yet very effective!

TRY: Cyrus Todiwala's recipe for Dahi ni Kadhi Yoghurt Curry

What is one kitchen tip everyone should know?

I think this answer is quite simple, It's KISS! Keep It Simple...Stupid.

Too often people try to create an impression but forge that to create great dishes one must approach simply. Sometimes simple is best and tastiest.

When reading a recipe and you find it far fetched, my rule is to read it like a text, then put a book mark and shut the book, return to it an hour or so later and the recipe will fall into place in your mind.

This gives your sub conscious mind that wishes to create a great dish time to absorb and fragment the complexity in your mind into doable tasks, thereby allowing to be creative and add your own signature to it and create!

What do you cook when you cook for yourself?

Not very often but I would create something with eggs for myself and really enjoy. Quick, tasty and soul satisfying.

TRY: Cyrus Todiwala's Recipe for Crispy Fried Sago & Potato Cakes

Where do you find inspiration?

Eating out, books, magazines, what people are doing, learning from Indian ladies if they allow you to, markets, farmers markets, new products, and so on including new products in supermarkets.

What is your favourite ingredient?

Actually I have 'favourites.'

I love cumin seeds toasted or fried, fresh coriander, and cardamom.

So using several in combination gives me the end result that I have imagined. For example making scotch eggs recently with pheasant mince and quails eggs, I knew that I wanted out of the taste and texture and managed it with very simple combinations.


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