Hope and Spice is a heartwarming story. It is a cookbook of recipes from the slum communities of Delhi. It was created to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Asha Society charity in 2018.
Asha is an advocate of social justice and provides healthcare and education supporting the slum communities that have very little money or literacy. As you delve deeper discovering the food and the people behind the family recipes, never before written down or shared, it really is so much more. Dr Kiran Martin, an Indian Paediatrician founded the charity in 1988 providing support as part of her barefoot clinics from humble beginnings sitting beneath a tree in the Delhi slums.
Asha has grown and blossomed into a network of community volunteers, empowering and showcasing women, giving a voice to those who were invisible. Community groups get together during regular potluck lunches. These events and other projects provide an outlet for creativity, breaking down the barriers of caste and religion as food, stories, and knowledge are shared and enjoyed together. Asha means hope in Hindi and this work is a great example of the power of the community getting together and helping each other. Amanda Clegg has been visiting several slum communities over the last ten years working with the volunteers. She came up with the idea of writing a cookbook to celebrate the anniversary and raise awareness and support. In 2017, with co author Victoria Byrne, Amanda visited twelve slum communities sampling 112 dishes over two and a half weeks. Definitely a labour of ‘food love’ tasting dishes from 10:30 to 17:30 every day then enjoying more fabulous food during the evening prepared by Dr Martin at her home. Every day Amanda & Victoria would visit people’s homes, watching and recording how dishes were prepared, asking questions through a translator, and sampling the amazing food.
The diversity of dishes reflects the family histories from different regions across India. There is a common theme throughout the book that many of us try and follow today as part of a healthy lifestyle. Fresh ingredients, locally grown, bought every day from the market with lots of vegetables and pulses used. This is a necessity as cooking areas are small, basic and with no refrigeration. The dishes eaten every day are mostly vegetarian however meat may be eaten once a week or fortnight and also on special occasions and family celebrations. Amanda and Victoria commented on the spices, freshly ground & wrapped in tiny twists of newspaper. They were added with a deft touch, not usually measured, with evocative aromas wafting around the room. Beautiful dishes with layers of flavour from the small number of ingredients expertly prepared always with a smile and proudly shared. These recipes are authentic and many are easy to make. A few of the recipes have been tweaked with a small number ingredients changed to ensure everything is widely available to re create at home. What really makes this a special cookbook are the sixteen profiles of the people that contributed the recipes and how their lives have benefited from their connection with Asha. The food and background bio is an insight into their lives and a wonderful collection of recipes from inspiring people. Amanda re created the recipes and Victoria wrote the stories of the people who cooked them. The cookbook captures both wonderfully well with beautiful pictures of the food and the people.
Hope and Spice was launched in UK in October 2018, with all proceeds going to Asha Society charity. The book is doing really well with the third edition about to be printed. An American version was launched in September this year. In October Amanda and Victoria were invited to the British High Commission in Delhi to launch the book primarily for the expat communities and supporters of the charity in India. There are plans to launch the book in Australia next year. If you are interested in buying Hope and Spice, the links are provided at the bottom of this post.
Another exciting development has been the Hope & Spice Supper Club , with the inaugural one held in Twickenham, Greater London on 22nd November. Anjula Devi (@anjuladevi), a chef and supper club organiser discovered Hope and Spice via Instagram
(@hopeandspice) and had been looking for a charity to support. She met up with Amanda and Victoria, excited at the prospect of bringing the recipes to life and to a wider audience. I attended the Supper Club and had a fabulous night, with 62 people sharing delicious food and stories. There was a wonderful community spirit which echoes the whole ethos of Hope and Spice and Asha. In attendance were a couple of students from the slums who are sponsored by Asha to support their education, which otherwise wouldn’t have been possible. They have worked hard achieving degrees, Masters degrees and now studying for PhD’s, a great achievement and inspiring to hear their story and personal journey.
The next Supper Club will take place in London in March 2020 so watch this space.
To whet your appetite here is a recipe for Muttar Paneer from Anandi, a Community Health Volunteer at the Zakhira Slum.
A bigger picture of finished Muttar Paneer dish is at the beginning of this post.
With so many amazing community members and recipes perhaps another book in the future too, I certainly Hope ( & Spice) so!
Hope and Spice would make a great gift for Christmas, Chanukah, birthdays, foodie friends and family to enjoy the recipes and most importantly to support Asha charity and slum communities.
Hope and Spice is available via Amazon in UK, link below.
In USA via the following link:
@hopeandspice ( Instagram & Facebook)
@ashasociety ( Instagram & Facebook)