Aarti Sequeira, the effervescent chef who won season six of Food Network Star, hosts her own cooking show, Aarti Party, which airs on the Food Network channel. She shares some of her food memories.
My most nostalgic food memory is dhal. It was a simple staple my mum made every day. The aromas of spices and curry leaves immediately transport me back to my childhood home.
Growing up, I loved to sneakily eat ice cream. I come from a very healthy family but when no one was around, I would creep into the kitchen, grab a spoon and dig a few chunks out of the ice-cream carton.
If I was a food or drink, I’d be coffee. Everyone’s so happy to see you in the morning; it would be wonderful to be so loved. It’s a drink that can be enjoyed alone as well as in a social setting and it’s great for bonding.
Onion and garlic sautéing in oil is my most evocative food smell. It signals the beginning, like the opening credits of a movie.
My most romantic meal is breakfast. My husband and I love brunch. We met 16 years ago at university and this has become a really significant meal for us. It’s wonderful to be able to share the first meal of the day with someone you love and it can set the pace for the rest of it. We love pancakes, French toast or even a big fry-up.
Whole fish frightened me as a child. I grew up on the coast and my mum would make a curry, with the whole fish, on a regular basis. Often the eye would come loose and end up floating in the curry; I refused to eat it!
My favourite food changes daily but for my last meal I’d choose my mum’s rogan josh – I always requested it on my birthday. I also love her pilau, and to end I’d dig into a huge vat of ice cream.
My mum has had a huge influence on my cooking. She always takes so much pride in what she makes and acquires endless joy from exploring. She is constantly writing to me with new ideas. My husband has also been an inspiration; he loves to play around with flavours. I think truffle oil has become overdone. I love this ingredient and it’s a wonderful luxury to have at home but I think it has become a bit gimmicky in restaurants. That being said, I’d never turn my nose up at it!
I am a very emotional cook. I take comfort in culinary escape. I have to be careful if I’m in a foul mood when I enter the kitchen as this can have an effect on my food. But I enjoy the process of chopping and prepping; it’s cathartic.
I think cabbage is such an underrated ingredient. I have recently developed a love affair with this often-hated vegetable. The small ones are sweeter and if you just chop them into four wedges and simply grill them with olive oil and seasoning, their nutty sweetness shines.
My ceramic knife is currently my top tool in the kitchen. It’s always so sharp and enables me to cut thin, delicate slices. Having a sharp knife is so enjoyable but I have to be careful as I’ve already snapped one!