We’re thrilled to have chatted with Meera Sodha, the author of three best-selling cookbooks including Made in India, Fresh India and East. She shares inspiration that has helped her these past couple of years and ideas for moving the conversation about food forward.
‘I USE FALCON FOR EVERYTHING’
Can you tell us a bit about you and how you came to love cooking?
It started with a love of eating! I grew up very much enjoying my mother’s daily home cooked Indian food. I didn’t realise how special it was and how much I missed it until I left home aged 18 to go to university. The only way to eat it regularly (and share my love of it with anyone who’d listen) was to learn to cook it myself.
What's your favourite cookbook and why?
I’m afraid I don’t have an all-time favourite. Different cookbooks catch my attention depending on the season and how I'm feeling. The one that I'm into right now is Moro East. I love everything about this book: the narrative (food cooked grown from a plot of land in East London), the community around it, the evocative photos and - of course - the food, which is both simple and sophisticated.
You use Falcon enamelware in and around your kitchen. What’s your favourite product and what do you use it for?
I’ve used Falcon 12cm bowls ever since I started writing about food over a decade ago. Initially I used them for putting prepared ingredients into before cooking (mise en place) or making sauces in, but now, a decade (and two children later) I use Falconware for everything. I use the bowls for feeding my baby because they’re indestructible (she loves flinging them off the table for the sound.) I have a set of deep plates and tumblers for the children, their birthday parties and also for our picnics. I even use a 36cm old Falcon enamel basin to keep the children’s bath toys in!
What does 2022 hold for you?
I am working on a new book which will (hopefully) involve travelling across the country and, internationally to SE Asia to countries I long to eat in like Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam. And after two years of living a very particular way of pandemic life, I am trying to decompress and find my way back to the good life again. One that is packed to the brim with friends, family, dancing and really letting go.
Are there any local companies you'd like to shoutabout? Where do you usually eat, drink, and source ingredients in your local area?
Chef Alex Vines’s food at Lighthaus Cafe in Leyton is some of the best I’ve eaten. He has real mastery over his ingredients and can make something ridiculously simple, like celeriac and onion taste like all of your dreams have come true.
I love to drink in the garden at Gnarly Vines where the wine and vibes are always great. They occasionally have Chef Mary San Pablo come and cook. Her food is Filipino by way of the British seasons and fantastic.
How have you been keeping during this time? Do you have any tips for people starting out or struggling within the industry at the moment?
Like many people, I’ve found this time really hard personally and professionally. As a creative person, I’ve found the pandemic stifling. I need a stimulating environment to feel inspired and really thrive - but I do know that others found that limitation (or necessity) gave them wings.
To reignite the fire in my belly, I found it helpful to name the people, places, restaurants, cities, books and environments that gave me life, joy, excitement and inspiration - and to re-visit them. I also found it really helpful to buy ingredients that I was unfamiliar with (check out souschef.co.uk) and challenge myself to create a recipe using that ingredient. It allowed me to learn something new and put things together in a different way.
For people starting out today, I think there are many routes to success. You can try things out on social media to see what people think. You no longer need to wait for a book deal, you can self publish your words and videos on your own terms and platforms. How liberating!
However, it’s very crowded out there and my suggestion would be to spend some proper time thinking about what it is that you have to offer that is both unique and moving the conversation about food forward.