After a career in the commercial world, Kumud Gandhi went on to pursue her life-long ambition of working with food by re-training in food science. She now runs a very successful Cooking Academy and catering company The Saffron House. She offers a unique insight into the diverse world of cooking and a very grounded understanding of the nutritional and medicinal value of foods.
In April 2009, stunning canapés created by Gandhi debuted in a sophisticated cocktail party scene on TV screens alongside actors Ray Winston and Parminder Nagra in the compelling ITV drama “Compulsion”.
Kumud has also worked closely with Fashion TV and recently catered for the launch of “The World’s Most Expensive Suit”. She is currently leading Britain’s Biggest Curry Party, a campaign to raise awareness for the James Whale Fund for Kidney Cancer.
Gandhi studied Economics and International Marketing at the London School of Economics. She went on to work as an investment analyst for the Bank of England, Microsoft Great Plains and the Ceridian Corporation. In her final year in commerce, Gandhi juggled both motherhood and a demanding career. With one young daughter and a second on the way, she decided to follow her passion for cooking and gave up the corporate world for good. Her passion for food grew from her Indian heritage as well as her own experience of British fare. Her ancestors were spice merchants in India and her parents, who emigrated from India in the 50’s, passed on their love of both Indian and European dishes.
Kumud is a firm believer that “we are what we eat”, and is campaigning to bring nutrition and food science as a core module and healthy cooking skills into the classroom so that schools teach fundamental everyday life skills, especially since this is no longer necessarily passed down from parent to child.
In 2006, Gandhi set up The Cooking Academy; a unique cookery school that teaches how to cook real food while exploring the chemical composition, nutritional and herbal values of food so that recipes look and taste great and are quick and easy to make and encourage well-being. We spoke to Gandhi about her passion for food and her belief in the role of Ayurveda in cooking.
How did you first get started in this area?
I’ve always been interested in food from a very early age but at the tender age of 18 couldn’t see a career in food as such and thought of it as a hobby or a passion. After I had children I decided not to return to my previous career in banking and finance, instead I chose to study food science to satisfy a deep yearning to learn more about food and its effects on the body. Having completed my food science studies I wanted to share my knowledge of the important of food and diet on our well being. So many people have a misconception of food and what they should eat etc…It can be very confusing. Eating well is so fundamental to feeling well and being at our very best physically, mentally and spiritually. Getting that message out there is my mission in life and since I am such a foodie and love great food I also wanted to share the fact the you don’t have to compromise great food to be healthy.
What made you decide to run a cooking academy?
With my passion for food and love of sharing recipes and family and friends were always asking me to show them how to make things and I use to demonstrate in front of a group of friends at a time. At the same time I completed my Science degree and felt I wanted to share my knowledge of food with others, not just in a cooking sense but also about general well being, what sort of things to eat for breakfast.
The idea of teaching in schools came when I gave a presentation to a group of 11-year-olds at my daughter school. It was very well received and the school got some great feedback from the parents about it really made the children think about what they eat and influenced their choices at home; so they asked me come back and roll it out throughout all the various age groups at school. And we charge for these services except for the inner city deprived schools where they may both have the budget but certainly need the information.
At the cookery school we don’t just teach the mechanics of how to cook but why to cook with certain ingredients and what they do for us from a bio chemistry point of view. Lots of people know the capsicums and tomatoes are good for you but why – what does it do. We know the Ginger is good for you but why? Why do we use turmeric in food? Why should we cook with Mustard? All these areas are really important to know if it encourage us to cook with them for better health and well being.
Can you talk about the role of ayurveda and food?
I really believe we are what we eat and as everyone bio chemistry is different it’s important we eat what is right for us. Knowing what chemical composition of food encourages us to eat the right to self heal and self defend from potential harm from the atmosphere and environment – including a stressful job or home life. Food plays a critical role in balancing our bodies to cope with these stresses and strains – Food is medicine and medicine if food…those were the words of Socrates in the 5th Century and he is absolutely right. Scientists and drug company companies use living matter and organism to find solutions to health problems which is exactly what herbs, spices fruit, vegetables and other ingredients do.
How can moms incorporate this way of cooking in their meals?
It has to be a way of life, it has to be a shift in your mind set and mums have to start very early. Children’s eating habits form as early as the high chair and you will definitely influence a child’s lifetime eating behaviour by giving them everything to eat from an early age as 12 months. Allow children to feel the texture of food, every sensory motion is important, to taste sour, sweet, tangy, hot, spicy is all part of their early development and journey in food. Parents should talk about what they are cooking and why, talk about food and ingredients,
What are some of the health conditions thistype of cooking can help alleviate?
Being aware of the chemical values of food and understanding what certain food can do will help you to eat right for your body. Eating fennel aids digestion, eating chillies and garlic and good for the metabolism, eating ginger and turmeric is good for inflammatory conditions, arthritis, rheumatism, blood inflammations etc… You can actually control the extent of your condition by eating correctly.
Here’s Gandhi’s favourite recipe:
200g Chicken thigh de boned cut into 4 pieces (Use breast if preferred or thigh not available)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp finely chopped garlic
½ tsp finely grated/chopped fresh ginger
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
¼ tsp dried chilli flakes
1/8 th tsp salt
¼ tsp fennel seeds – lightly smashed
¼ tsp whole fennel seeds
½ tsp paprika
Small pinch fresh coriander
1. Place all the ingredients except chicken in bowl and mix well and taste
2. Add chicken and set aside to marinate for at least 1 hour or up to 48 hours
3. Pan fry on a very low heat for 12 minutes – turning once after 7-8 minutes or place on a baking tray in the oven at 180° for 20 minutes
Cooks Hint 1: To make a basic mix for long shelf life (refrigerates for up to 3 months) leave out the lemon juice if using freshly squeezed and fresh coriander; store in a glass jar in the fridge and use in the same way as pesto or a marinade sauce.
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