True’s recipe repertoire mainly includes homestyle food like dal and curries, with a few fusion dishes.
Cooking Indian food has the reputation of being intimidating outside the country. The multiple ingredients, spices and complex flavours leave people feeling like it’s too complicated to achieve. Enter Torie True, who comes with over 20 years of experience of cooking Indian food. True’s recipe repertoire mainly includes homestyle food like dal and curries, with a few fusion dishes like strawberry and black pepper kulfi and tropical pavlova with cardamom cream. Her first book is called Chilli & Mint: Indian Home Cooking from a British Kitchen.
True is British and a food writer, home cook and cookery teacher of Indian food. She conducts cooking lessons in person and also over Zoom. She has learnt her craft over years from her travels to India as well as her husband’s Indian family who are based in the UK and Kolkata. In many respects she acts as a bridge between Eastern and Western cuisine, helping the uninitiated to navigate Indian cuisine. For the last 11 years, Torie has written the food and travel blog www.chilliandmint.com to chart her forays into cooking with herbs and spices, and her travels overseas. She has written articles for a range of food magazines, newspapers and online publications and is also a member of the Guild of Food Writers.
True is keen to dispel the myth that Indian cooking is difficult and tricky, and prove that recipes at home are very different from many of the ‘curry house’ favourites that have been served up to the British population since the 70s. Her book encourages people to bring spice into their diet and think that cooking with spices doesn’t necessarily translate to spicy food. True’s Keralan coconut chicken curry is an excellent example—it uses black pepper, cinnamon and even dried Kashmiri chillies but isn’t mind-numbingly spicy at all. Rather, it has a delicate flavour enhanced by the addition of coconut milk.
As far as her fusion recipes are concerned, True agrees that her strawberry and black pepper kulfi and tropical pavlova could be described as modern Indian food. “My tropical pavlova is clearly not traditional Indian, but I felt that bringing tropical fruits on top (alphonso mango would work so well when they are in season), would be colourful and bright like all Indian food tends to be. I brought spice into the chantilly cream by adding my favourite spice: green cardamom. It is light and not overpowering and the dessert works well at the end of an Indian feast,” she says.
A few fashionable ideas like dill dal and pomegranate raita have made their way into the book, too. Mostly, True’s recipes are meant to create food that is wholesome and nourishing, whilst being simple and homestyle. A lot of the recipes are vegetarian and she prefers to use locally sourced vegetables (like courgette instead of dudhi because it’s more easily available in the UK).
Recipes in the book cover regional cuisine from across India, with popular favourites like rasam and vada (which True calls Indian savoury doughnuts). The book draws on True’s experience of teaching Indian cookery and writing about her journey through Indian food, bringing a wealth of knowledge to this much-loved but often rarely homemade cuisine in the UK. It makes an interesting addition to a bookshelf that might otherwise be filled only with Ottolenghi or Jamie Oliver.