To Mum, for she knew how to nourish,
love and innovate. Thank you for the love of food, inspiration, succinct
recollection of recipes and editorial support. Dad, appreciative of Mum’s
cooking, loved to share her passion by inviting one and all to celebrate her
creations. My children, Anouschka and Nitasha, my rocks who have stood by me,
testing my experiments or whims with unflagging enthusiasm. You all make me a
better person, and hopefully cook, each day.
My heartiest appreciation to Wally Kwan
for allowing me the privilege of including his poem, The Master Chef and
sharing many of his recipes such as chilli relish and meals over the years, an
Engaging in exquisite meals and
acquiring recipes from family and various friends was a bonus for this book,
although there may be a few recipes where the origin is uncertain or unknown. It
is an honour to have had people in my life who had wonderful culinary skills. My
sincerest gratitude to:
Maha Lakshmi, my paternal aunt, who was
one of the greatest and most versatile cooks. She was respectfully sought after
for huge wedding banquets where her competence was unsurpassed.
Ratna Krishnan, who to this day never
ceases to amaze with her novel dishes and ideas, indeed a pleasure to dine at
her home. Her food expertise across cultures is phenomenal.
Margaret Venkataya for her delightful
cake and biscuit recipes which were very much and continue to be part of our
lives. Graciously catering to all, she has quite a
repertoire of skills from baking to a variety of Indian dishes.
Sudha Chandra displayed her talents
whilst entertaining our family at her home and restaurant numerous times, always
loving and caring. Remarkable in her creation of an array of dishes, she has won
the affection of many.
The punchy carrot pickle complementing
curries is attributed to Rita Raylu, the exquisite American crunch to Dorothy
and Susan Walker, the light and fluffy scones to Kara and some very inviting
Fijian dishes to Tokasa Duanalesu and her sister, Vika.
My deep gratitude for the editorial
assistance and constant encouragement from Anouschka Akerman, Chris Hagan,
Bhagia Puran, Natalie Ritchie and Saroj Krishna – all willingly assisted,
applying their aptitudes. Anouschka took time out of her busy schedule to devote
to my needs. Chris Hagan generously provided guidance and support in innumerable
ways. Bhagia’s guidance with some recipes and culinary expertise was welcomed.
Natalie provided immediate attention on publishing, with many suggestions. My
family reminded me of some childhood dishes, with Padma Naidu reviewing my work
and keeping the conversation alive. Martin Taylor provided invaluable insights
into the publishing world, with admirable advice on book production.
I owe a great deal to my photographers.
Kamlesh Chand spent countless hours editing and valiantly accommodated my
various changes. My food has never looked better! Rikesh Krishna devoted much
time with cover and kitchen gadget photographs, creating
them with great finesse. Nitasha and Jan Akerman supported with photographic
ideas and layout.
Thank you for the journey and belief in
bringing me to this book.
I trust that I have given Fiji Indian
food the recognition it deserves. In sharing a meal, we exchange conversations,
forge relationships and discuss intimate matters in a trusting environment – we
must continue the enduring tradition vital for our wellbeing.
About the author
Nalini Naidu, originally from Fiji, attended Waikato
University in New Zealand and RMIT in Australia. She has established an
extensive career in Knowledge Management and Information Technology whilst
pursuing her enthusiasm for cooking, with a compelling interest in cultures and
their associated food.
Her interest in cooking sparked during childhood as she
assisted her mother in food preparation, memories that are relived as she
prepares food with her two daughters. Since then she continued to cultivate her
passion encompassing various aspects of food and cookery including nutrition,
creativity, entertainment and the sheer joy whilst endeavouring to experiment
with new concepts and explore food from a philosophical perspective.
Having participated in the art of various cooking styles
and philosophies, Nalini is a true foodie, easily inspired by ingredients of the
everyday and the less familiar, a journey that will no doubt continue for life.
‘One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has
not dined well’ (Woolf 1929, p. 28).
The words ‘India’ or ‘Indian’ are used to refer to what is
present-day India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Prior to British rule, such
countries did not exist and India was comprised of states and provinces. For
simplification, I have used India to include the other two countries which are
included in the subcontinent. With respect to the ‘Indian’ community in Fiji, I
have referred to them as Fiji Indians.
Cooking in India dates back centuries and constitutes the
intermingling of various nationalities. The result is a product which is often a
complex influence of cultures, religion, climate and preferences. It is
essential to trace the history of food and influences in India to appreciate how
present-day Indian food in Fiji is presented. Fortunately, food culture is
transportable. We can see that in Fiji, regional Indian food has crossed
boundaries in some instances and in others remained closer to their origin.
Nevertheless, a cuisine has evolved in Fiji that is quite typical of the
diaspora, which includes adopting of ingredients from the local surroundings.
The contribution of the Fiji Indians to Fiji’s growth and
development is endless, not to forget the unique cuisine that was introduced as
they assimilated in their adopted country – a cuisine thoroughly appreciated by
all communities in Fiji.
C e l e b r a t i o n
Food is a universal experience. For my readers, I hope this
book is a cultural journey that will be rewarded with recipes, cooking tips and
the history of Indian cuisine in Fiji.
In applauding the cooking and sharing of food, I invite you
on an adventure to gain inspiration to experiment and create. The recipes I have
in this collection comprise some family favourites rather than a comprehensive
collection of recipes on Indian cuisine.
At a time when it seems we have given up cooking, why write
another cookbook? For me, it is simply a celebration of my heritage.
Spices permeated my childhood home; the sensual art of cooking with different
fragrances, textures and colours combined to create intricate dishes. Aromas of
a hearty lamb or goat curry bubbling with curry leaves wafted through the rooms.
Dishes would be loaded with a concoction of spices such as fenugreek, cumin and
mustard seeds for vegetarian foods. Savouring the delights of the meal, we would
mop the flavour-filled sauces with remains of roti, as chapatti is referred to
It is useful to know what cooks are attempting to do with
basic flavours as well as textures in their creations. Understanding these
basics is an essential requirement to being able to cook. I am of the belief
that one can appreciate or write about food as long as there is a deep interest
and not necessarily a long tradition of the art with the female members of the
family. Food preparation on the whole was not always a female domain, as Dad
would visit the market and prepare fish or meat for cooking, not forgetting his
role as the best ‘taster’.
The copious feasts Mum presented in a ceremonious occasion,
whilst observing others enjoying them, gave her profound satisfaction. For the
guest, the feast was symbolic of love and devotion – food prepared meticulously
and with beguiling enthusiasm for someone special.