When Mallika cooked for Basu

TNN, Jul 23, 2010, 01.03am IST

KOLKATA: Tossing her cascading curls, as Mallika potters around in her squeaky clean kitchen, dicing cauliflower florets and potatoes and heating up desi seasonings with bay leaves, cumin seeds and red chillies, she looks the quintessential officegoer rustling up a dinner after a hard day's work.

As director of a PR firm in London, she leads a busy professional life, but loves doing her own cooking for the family after a long commute. There's a difference here, though. She is also doing it for the camera to teach busybodies on the net the secrets of easy and healthy Indian cooking. And now, she is all set to spice up India with the launch of her cookbook, "Miss Masala: Real Indian Cooking for Busy Living", based on her popular blog www.quickindiancooking.com, on July 23 in the Capital. It was launched in Kolkata on July 21.

Cooking comes to this eldest granddaughter of the former chief minister Jyoti Basu naturally. "In our family, everyone is a foodie, my grandfather loved good food. I never found him cooking, but my grandmother did and so did my parents. My father cooks awesome roast lamb. My mother is also a great cook. Actually, everyone at home loves to talk about food. So, we would be discussing what to have for dinner while having lunch," remembered Mallika who lives in London with her husband and a toddler. "Miss Masala" has already been launched in the UK. The anecdotal book, full of hilarious tales and frank tips, makes for a rivetting read.

During her university days in England (she did her masters in journalism there), she started yearning for home-cooked food. "I thought I must start cooking myself," said the 32-year-old, who had grown weary of takeaways during her student days.

Mallika's mother sent her a copy of the "National Indian Association of Women Cookbook". She also culled recipes from her grandmother's culinary oeuvre. The result was practical cooking, tasty and healthy. Cooking became a habit after some time and then Mallika wondered, how about sharing the recipes with others? In 2006, she started her blog, which became an instant hit. Every month, the blog had about 18,000 visitors. And then the idea of the book struck her. "It has yummy recipes, whether you're cooking to impress or kicking back on the couch. My stress is on available ingredients and to make cooking a stress-free exercise."

Mallika recalled preparing her first dish for her grandfather. It was Bournvita "cooked" in milk, with slices of banana and biscuits! "He had every bit of it and even said it was good. I don't know how good it was, but he was always very encouraging," recalled Mallika, who often prepared pasta, soups and salads for Basu when she grew up.

So, from Goan, North Indian, South Indian and Bengali (kosha mangsho, bhoger khichuri, chholar dal and bhapa doi) to Thai and Chinese, "Miss Masala" features a tastebud tickler from almost every region. "But no pabda machher jhal, please, because I don't like it." Mallika does not like using too much of turmeric either as it stains her nails.

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