Cartoon image: Thaakirah Jacobs
Raised in Port Elizabeth, Aneesa Mansoor grew up in an Indian-Muslim family where food was an important part of her upbringing. Now Aneesa works as an audiologist by day and food artist by night creating elegant Kulunji and food art shared on her Instagram account @Aniseeds.
As part of an ongoing series to feature local South African women in food, we asked Aneesa to share her process with us.
What is Kulunji (aka Kalonji):
Kulunji seeds are also known as Nigella sativa, which are black cumin seeds or nigella seeds that are widely used in India and Middle Eastern countries as a spice in cuisines, because of its earthy flavour.
How did you get into this practice?
My love for all things art is a large part of my life. As a child, I used to play with my food as most children do and I would use pieces of fruit and salad to create pictures. I’ve been creating food as art for as long as I can remember, from sesame seeds to coriander leaves; kulunji seeds to strawberries and any other ingredient that would inspire me.
Its only when I started my Instagram account a few years ago that I was able to share these artworks with my friends, family and followers. I find it to be an incredibly therapeutic exercise too.
How long does it take to complete a picture?
The Kulunji seed art can take anything from an hour to 2 or 3 depending on the detail of the piece.
Where can you get the seeds? Can you use any seeds?
You can find these seeds at any Indian spice store or use seeds you may already have at your disposable such as black sesame or even chia seeds.
Who has inspired you to cook throughout your life?
I come from a family of avid home chefs thanks to my mom who instilled the love of cooking and baking and decorating in us at a young age. Everything I know, I learned from her by watching and observing and inevitably learning. She is well known in our community in PE as a culinary trendsetter with an artistic flare and that love for food and all things creative has clearly rubbed off on me.
Even though I enjoyed both cooking and baking, it was only during my varsity years that I began to explore this interest on my own in a bigger way and found my passion for all things edible and this is when I decided to showcase my creations via social media on a very informal scale.
Tell us a little bit more about yourself? Your job, your love for food, your home life.
I am an audiologist by profession and I enjoy everything that allows me to express my creative side. I love painting, sketching, designing, cooking and baking and any sort of art form I can explore. At the moment I enjoy spending part of my free time creating art using fresh ingredients or kulunji seeds in particular. In addition to this, I love enjoying the outdoors. Anything that entails adventure and an adrenalin rush appeals to me greatly!
Any tips for someone who might want to start ‘playing with their food’?
I think playing with food comes quite naturally to many. The skill would have already begun with your attempt at beautiful plating or cake decorating, however simple or elaborate it may have been, so the experience is there, the skill just needs to be refined. I would suggest choosing an ingredient you love and know would lend itself to shaping and movement; this comes with trial and error. Invest in a flat, round serving plate to use as your canvas and let the games begin!
What’s your favourite dish to make at home?
My favourite dish is quite traditional one called khuri kitchri: a yoghurt based gravy dish served with rice that originates in Gujeraat. Almost every Indian household has their own version. It’s eaten with a variety of side dishes that also vary from home to home such as masala pumpkin, spinach curry or potato fry. I could eat it every day and even though I make it so often, I never tire of it. My family all enjoy my version of it as well and it’s the dish they request whenever I visit at home. I also adore making bread! The fun is in kneading the dough and my favourite part has to be enjoying the gorgeous aroma that wafts through the home.
What would you like to see more of in terms of women in food?
I would like to see more female chefs being represented and celebrated in South Africa and abroad, especially in the restaurant industry which is typically a male dominated domain. There are so many talented female cooks and chefs out there that I’d love to see in the spotlight. So often women are found behind the scenes as stylists, bloggers and recipe creators so it would be incredible to see these women leading the culinary charge so to speak. —
We couldn’t agree more!
WOMEN WEDNESDAY: Supporting women in South Africa and abroad by buying and engaging in women run, owned, operated, and staffed businesses. Begin by turning your average Wednesday into a conscious effort to support women and highlight female entrepreneurs and leaders.