Cyrus Todiwala and Tony Singh have several masala tricks up their sleeves. Todiwala, a Mumbai boy who now owns a restaurant in London, and Edinburgh-based chef Singh, have combined their culinary expertise hoping to impress Indian and British palates with a crossover of spices on their latest television show, The Incredible Spice Men
Q. While India is known for its spices, what are the less-heard-of spices from the UK that can be used to experiment with Indian food?
A. (Todiwala) We managed to get fresh nutmeg with the whole fruit which we had not worked with for a long, long time. (Singh) The spices add vibrancy and colour and flavour to British cookery, but not heat. One of the things that we kept trying to tell our viewers is that spice is not about chilli and burning your mouth which is the usual expectation of eating spice or Indian food. This is a perception that we are trying to dispel.
Cyrus Todiwala and Tony Singh
Q. We are used to using Indian spices such as chillies, ginger, turmeric and cumin for Indian cuisine. In what way do you explore their compatibility with international food?
A. (Todiwala) We spiced up the cider and made a hot cider with wine, instead of mulled wine. We prepared mulled cider and added a little bit of twist to everything that the programme wanted. It was very exciting.
Q. Tell us a bit about your experiments with spices and desserts.
A. (Singh) We’ve done vanilla ice cream with cinnamon and chilli. We have used black pepper and vanilla with strawberries. We’ve also tried chocolate tarts with cardamom.
Q. You have been a part of the restaurant scene in India and the UK. What do you feel is the differentiating factor?
A. (Todiwala) The British understanding of Indian food is definitely getting better. Because they are travelling so much more, they have become more discerning. But it is a casual change, because of what has happened over the years, history has always undersold our cooking. Thus, Indian food is usually perceived as cheerful, making it difficult to fight that battle of constantly raising the profile of Indian food. So, it is gradually changing.
Q. What is your favourite spice to work with and what do you feel is the most underrated spice?
A. (Singh) My favourite will be star anise, I love it as it’s very fragrant and it can be used for its sweet pepperish and flavourful nature. (Todiwala) Cardamom.
The Incredible Spice Men airs on TLC, every Saturday at 8 pm.