Meet the chef: Shilpa Dandekar

As one of London’s leading female Indian chefs, Shilpa's menus have made her restaurant, Pure Indian Cooking, one of the Capital’s most intriguing venues for sumptuous and creative food

What made you want to become a chef?
A lifelong interest in flavour. Growing up in Mumbai, I was exposed to so many fragrant components when it came to cooking; it was an interest in putting them all together that made me want to become a chef.

Working with Raymond Blanc must have been a great experience, tell us more?
Being appointed Head Chef at the first Brasserie Blanc by Raymond was a fantastic opportunity and learning experience. It was from working with him that I learned so much more about European flavour and execution, eventually going on to apply certain techniques to the Indian dishes I now serve in my restaurant.

Raymond emphasised the importance of fresh, seasonal ingredients and how they can alter the outcome of whatever dish you are working on, among many other things; his tutelage was invaluable.

Which other chefs inspire you?
My husband, Faheem, is a constant source of inspiration. In terms of new restaurants, Grand Trunk Road in South Woodford is headed up by Head Chef Dayashankar Sharma; his dishes involve traditional cooking methods to exquisite effect. We actually have something planned for the new year, but you’ll have to wait and see…

Tell us about the concept for PURE, your Fulham restaurant?
Pure was borne out of a genuine desire to see more creativity in Indian dining. From spending so much time learning traditional methods and continuing to see the same dishes repeated across countless menus, I really wanted the opportunity to offer something that was familiar, yet ultimately surprising and always delicious to the modern diner. By pairing the familiar with the experimental, I think that Pure Indian Cooking brings an experience quite uncommon in London’s other Indian eateries.

Your signature dish?
I’m currently loving out Citrus-candied scallops with coriander, almond and sweet spicy chilli; it’s part of our Christmas menu and is an absolute joy to create, as well as eat!

Current favourite ingredient?
I’m really favouring chestnuts at the moment; they are completely Festive and I use them to stuff with sultanas inside a tandoori chicken breast; very comforting and perfect to eat on London’s cold December days.

Kitchen soundtrack?
My own dulcet tones! I sing a lot while cooking, though usually concentrating too hard to hear myself!

Will you be cooking on Christmas Day? What will you be making?
I usually spice up a roasted chicken with red chilli, garlic and coriander, it’s perfect with Brussel sprouts porial with mustard seeds, curry leaves and dissected coconut. I prefer the classic combination of garlic and rosemary with roast potatoes – there’s simply no beating it.

Favourite restaurants when you’re ‘off duty’?
I genuinely love Wagamama! The Firecracker Chicken or Chilli chicken ramen is divine!

What would you be doing if not a chef and restauranteur?
I’d be a very happy housewife; I have a young daughter and spending as much time with her and my husband as possible is always my favourite thing – though I can’t imagine not being in the kitchen and creating even then. I love what I do and can’t wait to continue into the New Year with more ideas.

Shilpa Dandekar, PURE Indian Cooking, Fulham

Leave a comment