Veena Gidwani: I Want To Make Cooking Fun, Not A Task
Veena Gidwani and the cover of her cookbook (left).
As a working woman, she absolutely loves experimenting with recipes. So after retiring from a full-time job and career spanning four decades, Veena Gidwani followed her passion and wrote a cookbook.
The "I've No Time To Cook" Book is all about simple and quick recipes for working professionals.
We caught up with the India Food Network chef and now cookbook author on kitchen advice and more.
When was the first time you cooked something on your own?
I used to cook for my brother when I was in college. My mother, who was good in cooking traditional Indian food, would be at a loss to whip up continental dishes and this is when I would step in.
Most of us learn the basics of cooking and also some of the first recipes from our mothers. How was it for you?
Although we had a cook while growing up, I would love to watch the women of our family who would occasionally prepare traditional Sindhi meals. I learned most of the Sindhi recipes from my mother and aunts.
How did you chance upon the idea of writing a cookbook?
Life for a working woman is not easy. You realise being in a full-time job demands long hours at work, multi-tasking and at the same time cooking healthy and delicious food for the family.
Given the situation, most of us tend to ignore what we eat and in turn compromise with our health. It is tougher for a working mother who needs to ensure her kids eat well. The “I’ve No Time To Cook” Book was born from this very insight.
Apart from that, I have been a food columnist for several publications, a blogger and have produced recipe videos for India Food Network under Simply Sindhi. All this and my passion for food led me to finally pen a cookbook.
What are the kinds of recipes one can expect in The “I’ve No Time To Cook” Book?
My book gives access to simple, nutritious, no-frill recipes for people who live busy lives. You don’t need any fancy gadgets or too much time to cook these recipes.
The purpose is to cook with what you have in the kitchen rather than step out to fetch the ingredients. It has recipes for every meal of the day where the high points are ease, speed and taste. The purpose was to make cooking fun and not a task.
Back in the day, what would you usually cook after a long day at work?
I had a cook, so I would usually supervise weeknight dinners. On a daily basis our menu would comprise a balanced and nutritious diet.
At a time when YouTube recipes and TV food shows rule the roost, how do you think cookbooks stand out?
I think the convenience of having a cookbook in the kitchen while you cook is incomparable. And for some it is about the pleasure of holding a book and reading it!
What kitchen advice or cooking tips would you give to the busy 9-5er?
Cook some extra dal and refrigerate, and temper it differently on different days. In the same way, boil some extra potatoes and make alu parathas on one day or a simple alu bhaaji on another.
Make your ginger-garlic paste in bulk preferably over the weekend and use it as and when on weekdays.
Any tips for aspiring cookbook writers?
First, think of a niche or an interesting differentiator to make your cookbook stand out from the rest. And second, ensure that you have attractive pictures to support the recipes. After all, it is a cookbook!
Recipe for Peas Pulao (serves 2-3)
1 cup Basmati Rice
½ cup shelled green peas
2 green chillies chopped
½ inch piece ginger chopped
½ tsp cumin seeds
¼ tsp turmeric
½ tsp coriander powder
1 medium size tomato chopped
Salt to taste
2-3 tbsps oil
A few coriander leaves chopped (optional)
1. Wash and soak rice in a bowl of water for 15 - 20 minutes.
2. In a thick bottomed pan heat oil and add cumin. When cumin splutters, add ginger, green chillies and peas and mix well. Now add all other dry spices and stir for a minute or two.
3. Add chopped tomato, cover pan and reduce flame. After about 5 minutes, mix well.
4. Now add rice, salt, coriander leaves and 2½ cups water. Cook on high flame with pan uncovered, till all the water dries up and you see holes in the rice.
5. Reduce flame, cover pan with tight lid and cook on lowest flame for about 5 minutes. Open lid, mix rice well, cover and cook for another 5 minutes till rice is done. It should be steaming, soft, yet not lumpy. Serve hot with pickle, raita and papad.