One of the UK's top Indian chefs, Vivek Singh is the founder of the Cinnamon Club restaurants, where the original - set in the impressive former Westminster Library - opened in 2001. A regular TV presence, Singh is also the author of several cookery books, focusing on seasonal Indian dishes with modern techniques and Western influences. Here, he discusses his love of a warming lamb rogan josh curry and his dependence on a classic pestle and mortar for the freshest-tasting spices.
What would you make for yourself for a simple evening meal?
I love to fix myself a Kerala-spiced seafood linguine. I sweat some onions with mustard seeds, curry leaves, chillies and tomatoes, then add whatever seafood I have to hand, such as prawns, crabmeat, or tinned anchovies; a dash of coconut milk and then the pasta. It's quick, easy and rather flexible.
What is your favourite kitchen utensil/gadget?
It has got to be my brass mortar and pestle. I've had it for almost 15 years and still love it more than any other gadget. It's great for pounding or crushing spices just before adding them in - the textures and flavours are so much better when freshly roasted and ground.
What is your favourite recipe from your cookbook?
I love making a rogan josh curry with lamb during the winter months - the warmth of spices is the perfect antidote to the cold, wet nights. I like to turn the leftovers into a rogan josh pithivier for a perfect lunch the following day.
The one item or ingredient that you’re currently obsessed with?
I don’t know whether it's old age creeping up on me but I'm currently obsessed with fenugreek seeds. I didn’t like the bitterness before, but have recently taken a shine to it - the pungent bitterness I find very attractive in my dishes. The fat chilli filled with bittergourd, fenugreek and raisin at The Cinnamon Club this season has to be one of my favourite dishes this year.
Fenugreek is basically a superfood: it purifies the blood, cleanses and detoxifies the body, lowers cholesterol levels and is believed to be an antidote for diabetes. I also sprout the seeds and use them in salads, which makes it much less bitter, more fruity, and adds a depth of flavour and complexity.
Your favourite London restaurant?
The Palomar [in Soho, serving "the food of modern-day Jerusalem"]. I love the friendly vibe and accessibility of the place. My favourite place there is to be seated at the bar, watching the chefs cook simple but great-tasting food. There's an interesting story behind every dish.
How do you approach your own diet?
I don’t think about diets much, I am still very much the greedy kid that fell into the world of food 25 years ago. I will always be hungry, looking for the next taste. Taste is more important than how food looks or whether it is good or bad for your body. If the taste is superb, then I can train my mind to enjoy it in moderation! I understand good taste, good food, and also understand bad food - what I refuse to understand is "indifferent" food.
More from Vivek Singh:
Spice at Home by Vivek Singh, published by Absolute Press, £25, hardback. Photography © Lara Holmes.