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Food blogger Dhanya Samuel: For the love of spice

On adventures with food, food photography, and food writing

Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

Indian-origin Australian chef and food photographer/stylist Dhanya Samuel believes spices are her arsenal in the kitchen. So much so that in the bio on her Instagram page, The Spice Adventuress, Samuel proudly calls herself a “spice afficionado”.

On her Instagram page and on her website (which goes by the same name as the social handle), Samuel explores global cuisines and showcases her culinary experiments through photography and styling. The result is a collection of gorgeous photographs, featuring well-plated recipes that are bound to give you untimely hunger pangs.

“My mom is an amazing cook, and growing up, I used to be her little assistant in the kitchen,” says the Kerala native. “I started exploring different cuisines during my college days which opened my mind and tastebuds to different flavours.”

Food blogger Dhanya Samuel
Zigni Ethiopian/Eritrean style beef stew (Source: Supplied)

Today, photography is as important to her as creating a dish. “Taking pictures is an integral part of food blogging,” she quips. “Initially, it was just about capturing the dish but soon I began to enjoy the photography process too. Soon I invested in a DSLR, did free online photography classes, and practiced a lot. It’s through this medium that I convey my food stories.”

The making of a foodie

While Samuel is from Kerala, she spent most of her childhood in Sharjah (UAE). In the ninth grade, she moved back to her homestate for higher studies. After finishing her education in laboratory sciences, Samuel became a medical scientist.

Cooking for herself started only after leaving home for work and then marriage. “But the real passion kicked in after moving to Australia,” says the 43-year-old food blogger.

Samuel migrated to Melbourne in 2013 along with her husband and her son. Initial plan was to pursue a PhD. “But since my son was very young, and I was in a new place, I decided to take a year off before joining the workforce.”

Food blogger Dhanya Samuel
Gujarati Prawn curry (Source: Supplied)

Samuel started The Spice Adventuress in August that same year after frequenting local markets and rekindling her love for trying out new dishes. “I was amazed at the different produce from all over the world available here (in Melbourne),” she recalls. “It felt as if I could travel the whole food through food.”

First, she started to experiment new cuisines and later shared them on food groups on Facebook. One of the readers suggested she open a blog to document her adventures. And that is how The Spice Adventuress was born. Ten years later, she has repeatedly featured in the top 10 best food blogs of Australia, and has close to 10K followers on Instagram.

Grilled oysters, curry leaf, chilli (Source: Supplied)

The world on Dhanya’s plate

Samuel doesn’t restrict her tastebuds to certain set of cuisines. She is up for trying everything new, and that reflects in her blog too. “Food can play a huge part in broadening perspectives and attitudes. It can help dispel myths, break down geographical and cultural barriers; make you more accepting and understanding about the world and people in general,” she says in response. Food blogger Dhanya Samuel

She provides as much information about the dish/ingredient/cooking technique so that readers from other cultures can understand more. She also encourages her readers to try out the dish or variations using local and seasonal produce.

“I often use Australian produce to create our everyday Indian dishes or incorporate Indian flavours like my signature zucchini pachadi (a spin off Kerala style pachadis) or oysters grilled with garlic, curry leaf, chilli,” she says, adding how people should ditch packaged frozen products for locally grown seasonal produces.

Food blogger Dhanya Samuel
Zucchini Pachadi (Source: Supplied)

Her life for crazy experiments is real. Take, for instance, her detailed documentation of zigni – an Ethiopian/Eritrean style beef stew.

“My fascination with spice blends is what got me interested in this dish. So when I heard about Eritrea and it’s fascinating cuisine with borrowed influences from Ethiopia, Sudan and Djibouti, I had to try this beef stew. And let me tell you, it’s fingerlickin’ delicious and perfect for our cold Australian winter.” Food blogger Dhanya Samuel

So what’s next for her, we ask eagerly.

“I have done a couple of pop ups and cooking classes prior to Covid, so hopefully I will do more of those in future. And a cookbook is definitely a dream waiting to come true.”

Read More: Dinah Samuels: Mum’s Jewish – and Indian – recipes

Prutha Chakraborty
Prutha Chakraborty
Prutha Bhosle Chakraborty is a freelance journalist. With over nine years of experience in different Indian newsrooms, she has worked both as a reporter and a copy editor. She writes on community, health, food and culture. She has widely covered the Indian diaspora, the expat community, embassies and consulates. Prutha is an alumna of the Indian Institute of Journalism and New Media, Bengaluru.

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