Rukmini Iyer: Celebrating Bengali & South Indian Flavours

Rukmini Iyer is on a mission to show how versatile, simple and delicious any meal can be. We spoke to Rukmini about why Indian cuisine is close to her heart and she shared with us her secrets and tips for minimum-fuss, maximum flavour cooking. 

Some of the recipes in her new book include:

  • Crisp-Topped Marinated Sea Bass With Green Chilli
  • Roasted Cauliflower with yoghurt and mustard
  • All-in-one Aubergine, Tomato & Nigella Seed Curry
  • Green Pea, Onion & Cauliflower Pulao Rice

Rukmini Iyer has created a collection of South Indian and Bengali-inspired recipes with a modern twist.

 

Shop Rukmini's top picks from her exclusive curated collection for Sous Chef.


Indian Express

What are the influences and inspirations behind the book? 

The influence behind the book is the amazing, everyday Indian food I had growing up, and my primary inspiration was my mother’s food. Somehow while working full time as a GP, she’d put the most amazing meals on the table - Indian vegetarian one night, a Delia or Linda McCartney recipe another (of course as children of the 80s there were plenty of potato waffles and chicken nuggets too!) 

What have your parents taught you that you use everyday in your cooking? 

How to pack flavour into food, and that it’s easy to have a varied, interesting vegetarian diet - you’d never miss meat or fish with the meals my mum makes. 

Can you tell us a little about the Indian cuisines you focus on and why? 

I focus on the food of Bengal and South India, as that’s where my mum and dad are from respectively, and those are the recipes I grew up with. All the regions in India have such vibrant and distinct food cultures, as South Indian and Bengali food aren’t as widely known here in the UK so I wanted to focus on them for my Indian book.

You mention that people might find the dishes different to Indian food they’ve tried before, can you expand on why that is?

Home cooking from both regions couldn’t be more different from the ‘curry house’ style of Indian food, which was created by Bangladeshi restaurant cooks in the UK in the 70s (there’s a wonderful Guardian long read about it, apparently when the wives of the chefs joined them from Bangladesh they were surprised at how completely different the ‘Indian food’ the chefs were serving the locals was to the home cooking they themselves had at home!)  

What is one recipe everyone should try in India Express first? 

Oh there are so many! One of my favourites is the Tamilian coconut rice with cashew nuts. We have the chingri macher malai (Bengali prawn curry) or the South Indian black pepper & fennel prawns every other week (the Bengali curry works particularly well with salmon as an alternative.) I love that most of the recipes take just minutes to put together for a flavourful weeknight dinner. 


Rukmini Iyer's Top Tips

What are five ingredients that are always in your store cupboard? 

  1. Crispy chilli oil
  2. Sesame oil
  3. Good tamari soy sauce
  4. Tilda basmati rice (min 10kg bag)
  5. Lemons

What are some top tips for pulling a meal together quickly? 

If not chopping everything and chucking it in the oven for a one-tin roasting tin meal, I always try to cook a sauce or curry that’ll cook in the same amount of time as the pasta or rice, to minimise the amount of time you have to wait before dinner!

And on the flip side, what is one weekend project that is worth putting some effort into making? 

I have to admit, I’m a big fan of deep fried food. Bengali prawn cutlets, home-made cauliflower or onion pakoras with coriander chutney - you can’t beat them as a treat at the weekend. 

What is one ingredient that you have been loving recently? 

I’m trying (unsuccessfully) to make kimchi as good as the jars you can get at my local farmer’s market - and obsessed with Palace Culture’s vegan cheese. (They have a kimchi cheese, a truffled camembert, goat style, feta and more, they’re made from fermented cashews and in a blind rest I’d pick them for taste and texture over ordinary cheese anytime)


Can you tell us about what you are working on next? 

I’m working on a new book which I hope will be all vegan - my publishers are doing some market research right now to see if Roasting Tin readers would prefer half vegan, half veggie or fully vegan, so do write in and let us know your thoughts! I’m @missminifer on Instagram. 



1 comment

  • Reference Rukmini’s new book we’re hoping it will be half vegan half vegetarian. Whatever! I will buy anyway because I love Rukmini Iyer’s books, her fail proof recipes and her person. 🙏❤️

    Zena Diamandis on

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