How Mallika Basu raises a kitchen storm with Masala?
• You have recently launched your book Masala in Kolkata. What is the book about?
The book takes a fresh look at cooking Indian food simply for busy people today. It’s very much based on my own experience being a corporate professional and mother of two, with a full social life.
• What prompted you to turn a chef and writer while being a corporate professional?
I have always loved writing and have a degree in journalism. In fact, I worked briefly as a journalist before switching over to communications. Quite early in my career, I discovered a real passion for food writing. Partly, it was to do with my own journey learning about our incredible cuisines and partly because I missed the food so much in my London home. I started writing a food blog, and the rest, as they say, is history!
• Share some incidents and anecdotes from your childhood that helped inculcate culinary skills and love for cooking
I was never actively encouraged to enter the kitchen and I was a very fussy eater as a kid. But I was surrounded with passionate food lovers and cooks. My dad is a great cook and my mom always took a deep interest in what we ate and has taken to cooking lots recently too. Once I made a chocolate milk with bits of banana and apple floating in it, which my grandfather ate with much enthusiasm. Although he rejected my offer of a second helping pretty quickly!
• Where do you share your kitchen secrets and recipes?
I don’t write a blog any more, but all my years of work can be found on my website www.mallikabasu.com. I have been writing about food, lifestyle and Indian recipes for the London Evening Standard for the last three years and my knowledge can be found on there as well as my latest cookbook.
• Being an NRI, married to a Brit and coming from a Bengali family, how far has the varied cultures influenced your culinary skills?
Very far. My cooking is very much influenced by the cooking styles and techniques of different nations. It gave me a global perspective that is so Indian any way. Look at how we have adopted the cuisines of other nations as our own; even tea! I try and bring a broader perspective and a nutritional bend to everything I cook.
• Does your book have recipes from Bengal? If so, are they heirloom recipes of your family?
I do have Bengali recipes but I tend to take heirloom recipes and make them accessible for our generation, without causing offence of course! The reality is that we don't live like our parents and grandparents, so we have to make allowances for our modern lifestyles. There is no shame in that if it gets wholesome meals on the table quickly and simply!
• How far do you think Bengal’s lost recipes and Opar Bangla recipes should be revived?
I think they absolutely should but evolving them, so they resonate with our lives today. If we stand still, we die.
• Any plans to pen down a book on that?
Not yet, but maybe when my children are older. I would love to!
• Kolkata is seeing a lot of experimental cafes, restaurants and pop ups in recent years. What’s your take on that?
Kolkata is a city of food lovers and I think it is wonderful that the food scene is developing. We need to take an interest in food, both at home and outside, so we preserve our incredible history and heritage.
• Any plans to work with Bengal’s cuisine?
I would like to think I already do, but there is so much more to learn! My mom taught me how to make Maacher Matha Diye Dal and I have been trialing it with lots of different types of fish! I am a resolute home cook, so I won’t be opening any restaurants soon, but I hope my friends and family will keep enjoying a taste of my new learnings in the years to come