Ashia Ismail-Singer is a flavour genius. Her new cookbook, My Indian Kitchen, is filled with brilliant, yet easy, original and classic recipes. She seamlessly blends cultures and cuisines into her style. Drawing inspiration from her Indian heritage, with Persian, African and Western influences. This is truly a must-have cookbook, with recipes for all occasions.
Verve had the pleasure of talking food, inspiration and life with Ashia.
What can we expect to find in the book?
My book is full of authentic, home-cooked food, which has been influenced by the countries I have lived in and my Indian heritage.
Who is your biggest cooking inspiration?
My mum has been my biggest influence in my love for cooking. I come from a family of food lovers; my parents always entertained. I have memories of my childhood growing up in Malawi, being surrounded by lots of family, friends and amazing home cooked dishes. For me cooking for my family and loved ones means sharing your love, that’s how mum has always been.
How did you get started in the industry?
I started a blog called ‘Tamarillos for Chutney’ and approached New Zealand House & Garden magazine to feature my recipes. They were great, I ended up doing five features over the next five years. I was also featured in Taste magazine. I then started approaching publishers. In 2017 I signed a book deal with Potton and Burton, and My Indian Kitchen was published in 2018.
So many people shy away from Indian spices as they find them too confusing. I wanted to show people that using my basic spices you can create authentic, home-cooked Indian food with ease.”
What motivated you to write the book?
Having travelled and lived in different countries, I wanted to tell my story, but didn’t know how. In the UK I studied fashion and design. I loved being creative but didn’t like the industry. I went on to study nursing, as I really wanted to help people. Afterwards, I decided to travel and came to New Zealand. I fell in love with the country, the people and one kiwi in particular; who I then ended up marrying! I missed my family and their home cooking, so I started recreating the recipes. Nine years ago, we returned from the UK with a young family. I decided I needed to write my recipes in a book so my children could have a part of their heritage accessible and so I could leave a legacy for them.
What does a typical day look like for you?
I juggle work, being a mum to two teenagers 18-year-old Adam and 15-year-old Zara, and our fur baby, Holly. I work as a nurse four days a week, the rest of the week is spent on working on my ‘side hustle’, which is my food writing and hosting cooking workshops. I am also a member of the NZ Food Writers Guild. I am constantly recipe testing and sourcing props for my cookbook. My family always laughs at me, we can’t have dinner until I have taken a photo of the dish!
What is your favourite dish from the book?
My favourite dish from My Indian Kitchen would have to be my mum’s chicken biryani. It’s a beautiful curry dish with gorgeous complex flavours of saffron and spices, it’s just divine.
Why was it important for you to make quick and easy versions of classics amongst your own recipes?
So many people shy away from Indian spices as they find them too confusing. I wanted to show people that using my basic spices you can create authentic, home-cooked Indian food with ease, by following some simple steps.
Ashia has kindly shared a few of her winter warm up recipes with us in this issue of Verve. If you love them as much as we do and would like to try more, her book is available from all good book stores and from her website ashiaismailsinger.com