In conversation with Mallika Basu, granddaughter of political icon Jyoti Basu. Mallika is the author of 'Miss Masala: Real Indian Cooking for Busy Living'.She is a foodie at heart and runs her popular food blog for many years. She is a Public Relations director by profession and currently settled in London with her loving family.
Enjoy this exclusive tete a tete with Mallika and know a bit more about her.
When did you realize that you enjoy cooking?
Mallika : It was sometime after my Master's degree when I started working. The therapeutic properties on chopping a carrot are simply not documented well enough. Everytime I had a bad day, I imagined the antagonist's head on the chopping block!
You run a very popular food blog quickindiancooking.com how did that happen?
Mallika : I started singing praises of Indian cooking and feeding anyone who would take up my dinner offer. In 2006, I decided I needed a bigger platform to communicate that Indian cooking could be done easily, quickly and with readily available ingredients. So my friend set up the blog for me. It took on a life of itself pretty quickly.
When you are cooking a new recipe is it always innovative or do you get ideas from other sources too?
Mallika : They are not very innovative at all. I cook what I love to eat and miss from back home. So my recipes are mostly classic dishes that I get inspired to create by leafing through cookbooks, calling my mother/granny and even browsing other blogs. The main difference in my recipes is that I write them with the experience of being a new cook and a busy professional, mother and wife.
Tell us something about your book "'Miss Masala: Real Indian Cooking for Busy Living" what is it about?
Mallika: Miss Masala is a lifestyle and narrative cookbook, sort of like an extension of the blog. So lots of stories, tips and tricks. Lots more than you would expect in a normal illustrated cookery book. And of course, the recipes. It's a tongue-in-cheek take on how I manage to fit Indian cooking into my life and a snap shot into what I have learnt..
You are now settled in London..please tell us something about your childhood.
Mallika : I grew up in Kolkata as the eldest of three daughters. My mother, an actress originally from Delhi, was more Bengali than anything and my dad, a businessman and a fantastic and very passionate cook. Our home was filled with dance, music, drama and divine food from far flung corners of India and the world.
You come from a very powerful political family in India...did you ever consider joining politics or do you have any such intentions planned for future?
Mallika : I took an interest in politics from the sidelines but was never tempted to join the world. I wouldn't say never, but truthfully I have my hands full as a PR Director, food writer, mother of two toddlers and wife to a photographer.
What would be your tip for those working women who think that cooking is a "waste of time"?
Mallika : At the end of the day, if you love food you will probably be tempted to cook it. I do understand how tough life can be and would never talk down to any busy people. Perhaps try one of my recipes that appeal and see if that changes anything?
How can our readers grab a copy of your book?
Mallika : My book is available at all good bookstores in India, UK. UAE and online on Amazon for those in the US.
A message for the aspiring food bloggers.
Mallika : It is as important to write about your food as it is to show an interest in other bloggers. I have made some fantastic blogger buddies that have become an incredible source of humour, delight and inspiration. Enjoy!
Please share one of your favorite recipes from your blog.
Mallika : One of my favourite recipes is the Prawn Pulao because it's really versatile, flexible and just as good for a TV meal as it is for when you have guests:
A special something that will never let you down
Something unusual happened to me recently. A new friendship turned ugly. Nasty accusations got made. Yours truly got to play chief antagonist in a real-life Lindsay Lohan drama.
Normally, I’d take a whiff and move on. But my testosterone levels have sunk to record lows lately. I blame motherhood. So I cried copious tears, while cradling a bottle of vino and ranting down the phone to an unsuspecting close friend.
A whole hour later I realised the poor man had slid off to watch TV. Not wishing to bother him with my theatrics, I plonked myself on the sofa pleasantly enquiring about the sword-wielding blonde gracing the silver screen.
It’s Kill Bill, he said. A movie about a woman who is betrayed by everyone she loves and trusts. Cue: more floods of tears followed by a prompt end to the day.
Sometimes in life you need things that just work. Like unconditional love. Solid friendships. Trusted kitchen appliances. Failsafe recipes. The things that you care for dearly. That take anything you throw at them. Last forever. And can be relied upon come rain or shine.
This recipe is one that has survived through thick and thin with me. Quick dinner for sister. Check. Lunch for toddler playdate. Check. Centre piece for dinner party. Check check. I’ve left the peas out once, taken the tomatoes out another time and used yoghurt instead, mixed in some fresh coriander and each time the result is tremendous.
The trick is to cook the rice separately while the prawn masala bubbles away and then mix the two together. This is cheating, of course (this isn’t), but it speeds up the cooking time dramatically and the end result is almost foolproof in its fluffy perfection.
To be eaten with true friends and plain yoghurt. Naturally.
- 350gm uncooked Basmati rice
- 250gm raw prawns
- Half pint glass of shelled peas
- 1 large onion
- 2 tomatoes
- 1 inch ginger and 4 garlic cloves
- 1 tsp turmeric powder
- Half tsp chilli powder
- 1 tsp whole cumin
- 2 black cardamoms
- 1 inch stick cinnamon
- 1 large bay leaf
- 2 tbsp oil (go on use ghee if you fancy it…)
- Salt to taste
Wash the rice and cook it in a large pan or rice cooker. In the meantime, slice the onion finely, mince finely or puree the ginger and garlic together and wash and clean the prawns. Unless they are ready prepared like the ones I use!
In a large pan, bring the oil/ghee to heat over a high flame. When it’s hot, add the whole spices and as they sizzle up the onions, ginger and garlic. Saute the whole lot for about five minutes until it starts going golden, then roughly chop the tomato and throw it in along with the turmeric and chilli powders.
Fry this lot for about five minutes, then simmer for another five. Next, stir in the prawns with the peas and cook until the prawns go pink and firm. Add salt now and check to make sure it’s well salty. Then simply stir in the cooked rice and serve.
You can add other vegetables like peas, potatoes, cauliflower just make sure they are cooked when you mix the rice in. Also, if using yoghurt use a full fat version and add it instead of the tomatoes.