In the Kitchen With the Spice Merchant’s Daughter

I love to write (good thing, since I do it all the time), but when I get to spend half a day cooking with an immensely interesting women who happens to also be a wickedly good cook, that’s just icing on the cake.
When I arrived at Christina Arokiasamy’s lovely home in Kent to interview her for The Seattle Times, she told me to make myself at home and served me a spicy-sweet milky cup of tea (like chai, but better). I took a few minutes to check out her wall of fame (she’s been featured in a number of magazines and newspapers since her first book, The Spice Merchant’s Daughter, came out in 2008).
The ingredients for the various dishes were not just set out and ready to go, but they were set out attractively. Christina has quite an admirable collection of trays, bowl, serving dishes and tasting spoons, which she uses in the classes she teaches around her huge kitchen island. These were some of the spices we used in the cranberry and pine nut rice pilaf flavored with spiced butter (cinnamon stick, star anise, cardamom pods, turmeric, curry, bay leaves and garlic-ginger paste):
For the laksa sambal we made to coat the seafood we broiled, we used lemongrass, galangal, garlic, ginger, tomatoes, turmeric, kafir lime leaves and dried chiles:

And the finished seafood (wild black cod, scallops and tiger prawns):

The finished oven baked potatoes and carrots tossed with turmeric, curry, rosemary, thyme, salt, black pepper and olive oil:

And the spiced butternut squash with kale (spices/aromatics included mustard seed, cumin seeds, ginger, turmeric, curry powder, chiles and onion):
Taking photos of people taking photos (Christina and the Times photographer):
Once all the food was prepared, and photographed for posterity, we sat down to eat and talk. One hot topic of conversation was cookbooks: Christina has 180 in her library, and was surprised when I told her I have more than 200! One thing some of our favorite cookbooks have in common is that the author shares something about themselves. I have a few favorite books (Molly Wizenberg’s A Homemade Life comes to mind) that are more story, less recipes, but the recipes are awesome.
Some of Christina’s favorite cookbooks are:

Disclosure: I participate in the Amazon Affiliate program, which means that if you buy one of the books mentioned in this post after clicking on the embedded link, I may earn a commission. This fact does not influence what books I mention on my blog. My opinions and recommendations are always 100 percent my own.