Creating the perfect blend of spices has become a labour of love for Daksha Narsing.
Every day, Narsing and her husband Bhaskar set off to their warehouse in Saanichton to sort through pounds of spices, including cumin seeds, red chillie powder, black and white peppercorns, coriander and garam masala, imported from around the world.
First, Narsing cleans the spices by putting them into giant sifters to get rid of stones and sticks. Then she puts the spices on trays to be sorted into jars.
Bhaskar is responsible for grinding them to create 13 different blends to be used for Indian-inspired meals.
It’s a long process that has become methodical for the Saanich resident. It is also the same process that her grandmother taught her when she was a child.
Narsing grew up in Africa and attended boarding school in India for two years. During the holidays, she would spend time with her grandmother, who was the naturopath physician in a village in Gujarat, India.
Narsing and her grandmother would go to the village market where she taught her to buy spices by tasting and smelling them — the same way one would buy fruits and vegetables.
“We would go to the market and she would taste or smell for example the cinnamon bark or the cloves or the peppers and by looking at them — that they’re clean and the peppers are plump,” Narsing said. “I basically learned how to cook all the way down to how to pluck and cook the chicken.”
By the age of 10, she was cooking full meals including vegetable curry with roti and chutney.
Over the years, her love for cooking grew and after a stint in London and Williams Lake, Narsing and her family moved to Victoria in 2010, opening Daksha’s Gourmet Spices.
For Narsing, the most rewarding part of cooking is creating new dishes for people to enjoy.
“I really love doing it, I find it the most satisfying,” she said.
Now, Narsing has released her fifth cookbook, Daksha’s Gourmet Kitchen — Indian Fusion Cuisine, with roughly 100 recipes featuring a mixture of old and new meal ideas.
Recipes include butter chicken pizza, lamb linguini, spicy breaded chicken, spicy kale chips and chai panna cotta. Some of the recipes are gluten and dairy free or vegetarian as well.
The cookbook is available at Munro’s Books and Bolen Books in Victoria and online at spicesgourmet.com.