CELEBRITY chef, host and media personality Anis Nabilah became a star with her cooking show Icip Icip that showcased traditional Malay cooking. Subsequently she moved on to other cooking shows such as Kuali Bujang. She has also been a part of travelogue series such as TLC Asia’s My Taste of Hong Kong and AFC’s Eating Wild.
A graduate of the Food Institute of Malaysia, Anis, in a recent interview with theSun, said: “I remember my mum and great-grandmother used to bring all of us to the kitchen to learn stuff.
“I remember starting cooking on my own when I was nine years old. I started with just telur dadar. I remember it was a success and I started going into the kitchen more after that to try other recipes out.
“It became something normal for me to do when I was in school. After high school my mum said: ‘You spend a lot of time in the kitchen. You love cooking so much, why not consider becoming a chef’.”
“I remember telling her it was not something I was thinking about, because cooking was something I really enjoy doing and it was more of a hobby. If I have to go to work and cook, and then come home and cook, I might lose interest in it.
“My mum told me: ‘Do you know how many people do not enjoy going to work because they don’t like what they do? Do you know how fortunate you would be if you have your hobby as your job?’”
“So I said I would try it out. I would enrol myself in a culinary institute and see how it went.
“I fell in love with cooking even more.”
Anis said that formal training has changed her approach to cooking quite a bit.
“I remember when I started I had to learn different ways to cut, I had to cut so many different vegetables. We have to learn the French styles of cutting vegetables, like julienne and batonette. I remember struggling in that particular class because all this while I was holding my knife the wrong way.
My mother and great-grandmother would hold their knife in whatever way that was comfortable, and I used to do that. I remember having to change the way I held my knife, and it was hard.
“Once I got the hang of it, it was just me having fun in my classes.”
While some of Anis’ shows featured traditional cooking recipes, most of her shows were about simplifying cooking.
“I wanted others to get into cooking, and to not see cooking as something difficult and intimidating.
“ I love cooking anything traditional, not just traditional Malay cooking. I also like cooking traditional Italian and traditional French cuisine.
“I think we must respect traditional cooking. That is what has shaped our culinary scene now, without that traditional cooking, we would not have been able to progress. Every time I cook something traditional I would spend time to execute it the best way that I possibly can, because I feel the need to respect the recipe and respect the cuisine.”
While she is a role model for many budding young chefs, Anis herself has many food heroes.
“The first would be my mother and great-grandmother. They taught me most of what I knew before culinary school. They made me love cooking. They are definitely my top two heroes.
“Then there is [Italian chef and restaurateur] Massimo Bottura, I just love his view that it is not just about cooking and feeding your customers. It is a 360° thing. You need to respect your ingredients, starting with the soil where you grow your produce, followed by how you use your ingredients and not waste anything. When you waste a lot you don’t respect your ingredients. When you prepare your food, there must be life in it. He also believes in teamwork. He is such a brilliant man.
“I love [English chef] Jamie Oliver and his approach to food. He uses very few ingredients and turns them into magnificent food, and he makes cooking really simple and easy.”
Right now she is creating online content for Ramadan due to the movement control order [MCO].
“ I am doing it myself. It is a bit rough but it is okay. I just want to teach people as much as I can.”
Anis has always seen cooking as therapeutic, as well as something fun.
“Sometimes I take a long time to cook a simple dish because I enjoy the process. I take my time. I enjoy the process of chopping, dicing and slicing. When I am cooking or when I am sautéing, I smell everything.
“During this MCO, I feel a bit different. I still love cooking … but it is such a weird time to be in, going grocery shopping terrifies me.
“Before this, it was something I love doing. Before this when I was feeling down or going through a rough period, I would just go to a grocery store and look at the ingredients, read the labels, check out the produce.
“Now, grocery shopping scares me and that sort of changed the way I feel about cooking at the moment. Cooking now is something I do to survive, that I do for my family so that we can all survive. It is not to say that I don’t enjoy it. I still do enjoy it, and I enjoy it when people love my cooking. But at the same time there is a little uneasy feeling behind it all.
“I know that once this is all over, everything will be back to normal. I do enjoy sharing my recipes with my followers, my audience. It is a coping mechanism for me, and people like me at this time.”
This is a simple recipe from Anis that is inspired by her observations at the grocery store, where she noticed bananas are always among the first items to be snapped up. Since bananas don’t last long, this recipe is perfect for overripe bananas.
Chocolate Banana Cake
190g all purpose flour
115g unsalted butter
180g castor sugar
100g plain Greek yogurt
175g semi sweet chocolate chips
1 tablespoon vanilla essence
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon of salt
3 overripe bananas
200g semi sweet chocolate chips
80ml whipping cream
2 ripe bananas
Heat oven at 180°C. Brush a bit of butter at the bottom and sides of a loaf pan, and line it with baking paper and set aside.
Using a cake mixer with the whisk attachment, cream butter, sugar and vanilla essence together until light and creamy. In a different mixing bowl, combine flour, with salt and baking powder, whisk lightly and set aside. In another bowl, mash overripe bananas using a fork or a masher, set aside.
Once your butter mixture is light and creamy add eggs, one at a time, until you get a fluffy mixture, make sure you scrape the sides of the bowl so all the butter is mixed well.
Now add the flour mixture in three batches, do not over beat, just mix to combine. Once all the flour has been added, add Greek yogurt and mashed bananas and mix well. Remove mixer attachment, and add in chocolate chips and fold using a rubber spatula.
Pour batter into prepared loaf pan and bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes, or, when you insert a thin skewer into the cake and it comes out clean (or with a few dry crumbs). Turn cake onto a cooling rack and leave it to cool for 15 minutes.
Prepare ganache by heating cream in a pot on medium heat until it starts bubbling on the sides. Place cream and chocolate chips in a bowl and mix well until all the chocolate chips are fully melted.
Let it cool for 5 minutes and pour ganache in a piping bag and pipe over banana bread. Slice fresh bananas and arrange on top of the ganache.