Light on calorie curries

Dipna Anand. Picture: PA Photo/Jodi Hinds.
Dipna Anand. Picture: PA Photo/Jodi Hinds.

For many of us, Indian food conjures up images of a naughty but nice takeaway with all the trimmings, or a quick and calorific curry ready meal.

But chef Dipna Anand is determined to prove that there are healthy ways to enjoy all your favourites.

From tandoori dishes to Bombay potatoes, the chef is on a mission to prove you can achieve big flavours without sacrificing flavour.

“A lot of people think Indian food is oily and greasy, and it can’t be made without a lot of butter and ghee, but that’s not the case at all,” She said.

The 30-year-old’s family has run the award-winning Brilliant Restaurant in Southall, West London, since the Seventies and she is following in their footsteps.

“You can still make, for example, a fantastic chicken tikka masala without using the butter and oils and fats. As long as you balance the spices, that’s what gives the dish its flavour and taste.”

Anand was inspired to research low-fat Indian cuisine as a schoolgirl after her father, Gulu, had a wake-up call after suffering a heart attack.

“He was eating a lot of oily, greasy food, so I wanted to do something aimed at people who were controlling their weight but still loved Indian food,” she explains.

After landing top marks for an A-level project on the subject, the low-fat options were added to the Brilliant menu and, says Anand, “they took off”.

She’s now written her first cookbook, Beyond Brilliant, which features healthy dishes among its more than 40 recipes.

“Some of the recipes in the book date back 65 years, they were passed from my grandfather to my dad and now passed on to me,” says Anand, whose favourite inclusion is the tandoori lamb chops.

The Brilliant restaurant has welcomed its fair share of famous faces over the years, from Sir Cliff Richard to the Prince of Wales and Duchess of Cornwall.

TV chef Gordon Ramsay also featured the eatery in his 2010 series Ramsay’s Best Restaurant, and spent a day learning how to cook on the clay oven.

“It’s not the easiest station to work on in the kitchen, he left here with blisters on his arms, but he still did a fantastic job and he grafted,” reveals Anand, who insists the notoriously fiery chef wasn’t at all scary.

“He’s very passionate and very funny as well.

“He was swearing at times, but when it came to work, he was getting the orders out.”

When she isn’t working in the restaurant or running cookery courses, Anand plays cricket and indulges her other passion: shopping.

“I’m a compulsive shopaholic,” she confesses.

“I love shoes, handbags, shirts, earrings, bangles, jewellery, everything!”

Anand’s family is at the heart of what she does, and there are photographs of them throughout her book.

“For the last 10 years my dad’s been saying, ‘Dipna you should write a book’,” she reveals.

“There were tears in his eyes at the book launch - his dream was accomplished. Just to see that smile on his face, there can be nothing more rewarding than that.”