Jasjit Kaur is seen in her kitchen with some authentic Indian dishes, including saag rapini, paneer bhurji, gajrella and chicken achaar. She has produced her own TV series now airing on Rogers TV.

Jasjit Kaur is seen in her kitchen with some authentic Indian dishes, including saag rapini, paneer bhurji, gajrella and chicken achaar. She has produced her own TV series now airing on Rogers TV.

Growing up in an affluent household in Chandigarh, India, Jasjit Kaur used to bribe servants so she could cook for family.

“Servants don’t want people to enter their domain,” she explained. “I had to tell them ‘Go watch a movie, I’m going to cook dinner today,’ but I never knew where it was taking me.”

She went on to earn a college degree in “home sciences” and always enjoyed preparing meals with family and friends, many of whom encouraged her to open a restaurant.  

“I thought this would limit me,” she said. “I wanted to be out and about as a teacher and instructor, where I can go talk to people, show them this is how I do things and this is how I can teach you the authentic world that we lived in, where I grew up learning all these things.”

With her husband, Kaur eventually moved to Winnipeg where she began teaching cooking classes in the community. Her journey to Cambridge went through Alberta, where she worked as a freelance columnist, learned about organic produce and started her own catering business.

After moving west, she’d originally planned to enroll in a computer course.

“The moment the second day comes, I’m looking at the newspaper trying to find where is the food, where can I go and teach,” she laughs.

Kaur has also appeared on several television shows, including Breakfast Television, while continuing to teach and network in southwestern Ontario.

To her, Indian cooking is a passion with limitless creativity.

“There is so much food,” she said. “There is so much learning around this.”

About a year-and-a-half ago, Kaur pitched Rogers TV an idea for a cooking show as a community producer. Tadka – Kitchen Punjabi premiered on Rogers TV this past Monday. There are six episodes in all that will air in coming weeks.

“The first show is basically taking people to India with me – what I do when cooking at home,” Kaur explained. “I’m trying to tell people about how to start up with Indian cooking, what are the basics – the vegetables, the rice, the spices and bread you need to start.”

She also wanted to get the community involved and has reached out to local businesses and restaurants to create what she refers to as “fusion dishes”.

Tadka means “tempering, creating” with “spices, oil and caramelized onion”, she explained.

In the first episode, Kaur visits Sobeys to collect ingredients unique to Indian cuisine. She also makes butter chicken pizza. An upcoming episode features Mango Chutney restaurant and explores healthy Indian meal ideas.

“We talked about healthy food and how people are transforming food from the dishes we normally prepare that have a lot of butter and cream, and still get the flavour,” Kaur said.

A Caribbean inspired part of the series features a curry using green bananas and also incorporates papaya, mango and pineapple.

“I think the most common thing that I find when you go talking is that Indian food is very hot, it’s very spicy and it’s very complicated. That is the misconception, because it is not. I think I’m giving confidence to people to try it,” she said, adding that fusion meals can be great for entertaining with an Indian twist.

Kaur doesn’t get paid for the show and said it took her months to prepare. Most of the shows were taped in her own home kitchen.

“I think there is a sense of accomplishment and a proud feeling that I did something for the community. I invested my time into this and all that I’m looking for are the rewards that come back – the comments and feedback from people that will give me a chance to grow and learn.”

Kaur’s goal is to host her own cooking show and she’s planning to continue catering and teaching while preparing for her next endeavour – preferably a more stable job in the food industry where she could develop, test and market recipes and food ideas. She’s also working on her first cookbook as a co-author.

For more, visit www.kitchenpunjabi.com . Tadka – Kitchen Punjabi airs several times a week following its Monday time slot at 9 a.m., including Tuesday at 6 a.m. and 8 p.m., Wednesday at 11:30 a.m., Thursday at 11 a.m., Friday at 6 p.m. and Sunday at 8:30 a.m.

bjackson@cambridgetimes.ca