‘There Are So Many Beautiful Dishes In India’

She didn’t win MasterChef Australia: Fans Vs Favourites,, but Sarah Todd has a fan following in India for all the lovely dishes she cooked on the show.

Her trip to Rajasthan inspired her first cook in MasterChef Australia Season 14, when she made Laal Maas with pickled mustard seeds and bajra ki roti.

On the show, she celebrated Goan cuisine with her overnight Pork Vindaloo, which was made over 18 hours.

When asked to make a dish in 10 minutes, she rustled up a plate of Bhel Puri that was zingy, tangy and slightly spicy. It made the judges’ mouth water and left the Indian audience bemused.

Sarah made Crab Xacuti for celebrity chef Rick Stein, and her fans back in India were glad that she was flying the Goan flag high in the MasterChef kitchen.

“One reason for coming back to the show is the opportunity to share some of the incredible experiences I’ve had over the last eight years,” Sarah tells Anita Aikara/Rediff.com.

This was Sarah’s second season. She finished in the Top 10 in Season 6 where she first showcased her passion for Indian cooking — remember the time she gave the humble aloo gobi a sophisticated twist?

Straight out of MasterChef, she moved to India to open her first restaurant in Goa in 2014.

She opened her second restaurant in Mumbai in 2018, and also published a cookbook showcasing Indian-inspired recipes — many of which she learnt from her son’s bebe (grandmother).

Having studied French cuisine, she combined Indian flavours into refined French techniques to create extraordinary dishes on the show.

Your personal favorite when it comes to Indian food?

I have a favorite dish for every Indian city I visit.

In India, there’s so much diversity and cuisine.

The more time I spent here, the more bigger my list gets.

Regional Indian dishes you love.

I love the Laal Maas in Rajasthan.

There’s the Chicken Cafreal in Goa.

There are so many beautiful dishes in India and they’re just so different from each other.

The toddy vinegar that goes into Goan dishes, and those beautiful, rich flavours from Rajasthan are all amazing.

What helped you face the challenges in the MasterChef kitchen?

Right from the start, I took it very seriously being in competition.

I wanted to do really well, cook beautiful dishes and show my growth from the first season.

I’m a very determined person. If I get knocked down, I can get back, put that moment aside and not dwell much on it. I think that’s a really important trait.

If you do have a bit of a blunder in the kitchen, you need to be able to get back up and move forward.

Was it easy creating dishes inspired by French techniques with Indian flavours?

It was really difficult in the early days.

Once I realised that was the style I wanted to be cooking, things began to click in my mind.

I started to be able to think in that direction, and it became a lot easier for me.

Your favorite Indian place to visit on a road trip?

Goa is always my favorite, but I have been exploring a lot of Assam. I will be going back there, later this year.

What was your son’s reaction when you finished second in the MasterChef kitchen?

For him, it’s about what makes me happy.

He was really supportive about the whole experience, and was excited to have me participate in MasterChef Australia.

Your most memorable dish in the MasterChef kitchen?

It definitely has to be the lobster dish with the flavours of India.

I added spices into the broth and combined my two loves of French and Indian cuisine.

Just getting the right reaction from the judges was absolutely incredible.

What made you think of making Bhel Puri?

It was a 10-minute challenge in the MasterChef kitchen.

It was crazy, running around getting all the ingredients from the pantry, and the equipment and completing the dish.

I think it was the perfect dish for the challenge.

In India, there are so many dishes packed with incredible amount of flavour, and I feel that being able to showcase that in Australia was a great thing.

Not many people know about it in Australia and I was glad to make it.

Where did you get introduced to Indian food?

I lived with my son’s Punjabi family and have been in the kitchen with his bebe.

A lot of times in Indian cooking, the dishes are not really written down in cookbooks.

You really need to learn that hands on from someone who cooks these dishes.

To be able to do that with my son’s bebe was something that I really relish.

That started off my Indian cooking journey.

A dish you wanted to cook in the MasterChef kitchen, but didn’t end up making?

Throughout the competition I really wanted to experiment with the dishes I was making.

I wanted to push myself out of my comfort zone and cook dishes I had before.

I tried to experiment as much as possible and used it as a opportunity to grow in the competition.

You also ended up making some really good friends.

Yes, Aldo (Ortado) and Mindy (Woods) are actually like family.

I think going through an experience like that is very tough and it’s important to have support around you.

I was really lucky to have two incredible friends that went along the MasterChef journey with me.

We’re now like family and spend so much time together. We talk every day.

Any tips for handling the pressure in this competition?

The MasterChef kitchen is a tough experience and it is important to remember that we’re just cooking food.

It’s not about saving lives. You need to take away that pressure and just put your heart and soul into the dishes.

Advice for home cooks.

It is just about giving cooking a go and experimenting along the way.

When things don’t work out is when you learn and understand more about cooking.

You just need to keep tasting as you cook.

It can be daunting in the beginning, especially if you haven’t cooked as much.

But there’s a point that you get to when it becomes easy and it becomes a natural thing to cook in the kitchen.

An Indian dish that’s close to your heart.

Kheema! It’s the dish that my son’s bebe first cooked for me.

It’s also the dish she first taught me to make.

You are in India right now. What’s the first dish you had since you arrived?

I had a fish thali in Goa. I absolutely loved it. It’s my favourite.

I’ll be having Chole Bhature in Delhi.

What’s your favourite dish in Mumbai?

I always have the butter garlic crab from Mahesh Lunch Home in Mumbai.

The first time I had Bhel Puri was in Mumbai at Juhu beach.

Your biggest learning or takeaway from the MasterChef kitchen?

To not take everything so seriously.

In the beginning of the competition, I put a lot of pressure on myself.

Putting passions ahead of pressure, and loving tradition is really important.

A message for your Indian fans.

I feel thankful for how much everyone has accepted me in India.

Being an Australian girl, moving to India, opening restaurants, I was very scared and nervous in the beginning.

It’s been an exciting journey and I’m glad that I am doing it in India.

What’s next?

I feel like it’s time to really dive into my love of my new cooking style.

I think I have found that niche of what I’d love to cook.

In life it’s really hard to find what you love.

People keep giving you advice to find your own personal style, and I think I did that throughout the competition.

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