The beauty of food lies in its pure and ‘simple flavours’. Every element in nature’s raw produce, is rich with its own aroma, taste, colour and texture. As my mother used to tell me, ”to enhance these unique flavours, just add minimalistic spices and savour the most delicious dishes”!
I hail from Kanpur, a vibrant and culturally rich city in the northern part of India. We grew up with a lovely kitchen garden at home, from where mom would pluck fresh vegetables in the morning, and make simple yet flavourful lunch for us to carry to school. And although as a kid, I was not particularly interested in cooking, I have always been a die-hard foody.
On Sundays, we used to be treated either to ‘aloo ke paranthe’, Indian wheat bread roasted with spicy mashed potato filling, or ‘aloo kachori’, Indian bread stuffed with flavoured potatoes and deep fried…. just writing about this makes my mouth water! But the recipes for these delicacies will come soon.. 🙂
I left home as a student and moved to Pune, a city bursting with youthful energy in the state of Maharashtra, where I lived in a students’ hostel. And as human tendencies go, we value something a lot more once we are deprived of it.. I truly missed my mother’s home cooked food and from these cravings, my culinary journey began.
My learning and informal cooking lessons were limited to holidays, when I would go home to be with family. And I would ask all sorts of questions when mom was cooking, such as ”why don’t you use jeera (cumin) in bhindi (lady finger) and instead add ajwain (caraway)?”. She would simply smile and say, ”to enhance the natural flavours!”.. and I must say, yes there is a method and a process for cooking. But at the end of the day, cooking is an art and art is all about creativity and personal expression! That is why, it is important to discover and know what flavours YOU really like. When I try any new dish at a restaurant, I often ask the manager or staff what would it taste like – will it be tangy, spicy, sour… and that’s how I select the dish I would like to order.
I’m sure you can see by now that I am a true foody and how my passion for cooking began. I would cook a range of dishes for my friends and family, and when they would appreciate my creations, it would fuel my passion further and encourage me to take the next step forward in my culinary journey… I never get tired of this because cooking is therapeutic for me and helps me truly unwind!
Deepti was a colleague of mine and soon we became good friends. Both of our tastes in food are quite different, and that’s where the magic happens!
To begin with, I am a lacto-ovo vegetarian, which means that I’m a vegetarian who eats eggs and dairy products. Deepti on the other hand is a non-vegetarian and that opens up a much wider range of ingredients in her cooking. Deepti has a more modern style of cooking with lesser / milder spices, while my style is more traditional or contemporary.
I would often ask Deepti for her unique and creative recipes that have different ingredients.. I would learn from them, add my own twist to the dishes, and my biggest critic (and fan) would gracefully be the masterchef tasting panel for these culinary experiments!
The idea of this collaboration is for Deepti and I to bring together the best of both our styles and share with you a wide range of healthy, flavourful and simple recipes! We hope you enjoy being part of our journey and relish some of these delicacies…. And maybe even find your magic ingredient in there somewhere!
Food is an integral part of our lives, but it has never been as essential as it is to me today…. in my role as a mother of two beautiful children! Having been an ‘eat-to-live’ kind of person, I would pretty much eat everything without any fuss. I have always relished my mom’s cooking and the aroma wafting from her kitchen. After school, I would sit on the counter top next to her as she would make fresh ‘phulkas’ (soft indian bread) for me to eat along with sabzi (vegetables), dal (lentils) and that dollop of ghee (clarified unsalted indian butter) floating on top of that cup of dal…! Drool-worthy indeed….
Growing up as Punjabi’s in Uttar Pradesh (UP), mum’s kitchen had a good amalgamation of delicacies from both these states. When I left home as a student to the grand capital city of Delhi, I missed the hot and fresh meals that my mum would painstakingly prepare for me each day. She would very generously send across some homemade sweets and savouries to tide me over this lean phase.
In this phase, I also found myself surrounded by foodies and sampled the gems of culinary delights Delhi had to offer – we traversed the length and breadth of the city in search of authentic food – from dhokar dalna and poshto (Bengali food) in CR park, to chaat at Nathu Sweets in Bengali Market; from momos in Chanakya Puri to Anda parantha at Airport road; from Paranthe wali gaali to Defence Colony and Grub Pub in Haus Khaz to a range of delights in CP… We really cranked up our food trail to a whole other level!
I started recreating my childhood memories via food, after moving to London and being unable to find the flavours that my palette craved (also the fact it was criminally expensive for a sloppy curry!). I also delved a bit into the Chinese cuisine at this time (can’t resist the greens), baking of course (as I had a built-in oven at home for the first time) and ‘on-the-go food’ for work. BBQ’s became a big part of our sunny summer days and I have fond memories of time leisurely spent around the BBQ stations! When I got married and moved to Dubai, I discovered the mouth-watering Arabic cuisine which I absolutely adore now! It’s so similar to Indian cuisine and yet, the flavors are so different.
As is evident by now, I have explored food in various ways at different stages of my life. However, so far, I wasn’t particularly diet-conscious or obsessed with healthy food. And this changed entirely when I had my kids, as I wanted them to experience the best of what ‘the world of food’ has to offer! So even if they wanted cookies and cakes, I chose to bake it for them and rather than buying them from bakeries or patisseries. Also, growing up, we ate what grew in that particular season – lauki, toorai, kathal (range of gourds) in summers and carrots, peas, cauliflower in winters. Now that pretty much all vegetables are available through the year, I yearn to make food choices more suited to the weather and for my kids to understand the traditional Indian Ayurvedic concept of hot and cold foods.
I look at food differently now; not just what was healthy, wholesome and organic, but also what is appealing, delicious and appetizing. We started working on a small kitchen garden where we learnt how to grow vegetable and fruits in the desert. We are now (after many failings) adept at growing herbs like coriander, mint, basil, fenugreek leaves, curry leaves, a range of vegetables such as spring onion, carrot, radish, zucchini, okra, chilly, tomato, eggplant (or aubergine), cruciferous vegetables, and various fruits such as pomegranate, mulberry and figs.
Another very personal and vital reason for this healthy food journey is that my first child has food allergies – tree nuts, egg white, soya (completely alien to where I come from!) This further prompted me to look for ingredients and dishes across cuisines, with allergy-friendly or intolerance-sensitive alternatives that could be re-created at home, from scratch!
Shweta and I are both foodies at heart and were brought together by chance! We have truly connected over our mutual love for food; we are more like yin and yang and complement each other cooking style and this is the beginning of our culinary collaboration! 🙂