Shobana Rao – Food Blogger & Recipe Curator


Shobana Rao describes herself as the quintessential home maker, but she’s a lot more than that, as you will see on her blog, Cooking with Shobana. A blog that features in the Top 100 Indian Food Blogs and Websites – sharing space with legends such as Tarla Dalal, Sanjeev Kapoor, Nisha Madhulika, and other tall hats in world of cookery and frontline cuisines.

Cooking With Shobana was also on the list of The Top 74 Food Blogs with Delicious Recipes You Should Follow Today – written by Tiana Matson on her website, Yum of China.

Wait, there’s more.

Shobana also made it to the Top 35 Indian Cooking Blogs- 2018 by Easy Recipes Depot. And here’s a quotation from ERD – “A visit to Cooking with Shobana might remind you of a comforting visit to your mother’s kitchen! Shobana offers delicious recipes with lovely photos, plus she provides a wealth of useful tips for making Indian food at home. Step-by-step instructions are easy to follow, ingredients lists are carefully outlined, and delicious results are virtually guaranteed!”

So, what is Shobana like, to people who follow her on facebook and her blog? She is Shobana, Shobana Aunty, Shobanaji, Shobana Di, Shobana Garu, Shobana Chechi, Shobana Akka, Shobana Pachi, Shobana Mayi, and yes, even Shobana-San . (“I feel in some way I am part of their lives and I couldn’t have asked for more,” she says.)

Shobana and her husband, Prem Rao, live in Bangalore and are at that enviable “empty nester” stage. They have two children and are now happy grandparents.

So here we go, to find out more about those wonderful aromas coming out of her kitchen.

When it comes to cooking, are you influenced by early exposure at home?

Most certainly – during my childhood I was exposed primarily to our vegetarian Gowda Saraswat Brahmin(GSB) cooking. That was what we cooked and ate at home. While that does indicate a preference, I usually cook vegetarian food at home with an emphasis on health. By this, I mean trying not to use too much oil and avoiding deep frying as much as possible. (At our age we have to be more concerned about health than most!)

My blog though, is wider in scope and perspective – you will find at present, over 600 recipes from varied cuisines, and from different parts of India.

When did you take to cooking in a serious and inspired way?

I became interested in cooking after I got married – aged 21, and had to run a house on my own. Come to think of it, there was no choice in any case (laughs). My husband and I lived alone and since he knew less about cooking than I did, guess who had to manage the kitchen?

Those days there was no internet, and Google wasn’t even thought of, I guess. Newly married girls like me eagerly looked out for recipes from magazines such as Femina, and Woman’s Era – popular in those days. We used to cut out recipes and file them (sometimes, painstakingly copy them out to notebooks for future reference.) As the years went by, it was common to see our recipe scrap books with additional embellishments – friendly stains from spice powders, and later, doodles by our infant kids!

In my early years of being married, I frequently remembered what I had seen my mother do and say. These were fond memories and gave me a lot of inspiration and encouragement. My mother was an accomplished cook, but sadly, I didn’t get to see her at her cooking best – though she had a reputation for being expert in traditional cuisine. (She was not in good health during the latter part of my childhood, and her role became one of managing the cook rather than cooking herself.)

Do you like to experiment with new cuisines, cooking styles, methods?

That’s a multi-part question, but let me start by saying that I prefer to stay with the tried and tested. Within the broad gambit of Indian vegetarian cooking, I like to try out dishes from different parts of our vast country with its diverse cultures – but I haven’t really experimented going beyond this. In that sense, I am more conventional. For example, I am not likely to try out dishes way beyond my horizon such as Middle Eastern cuisines, or traditional European fare.

When it comes to cooking methods, so much has changed over the years. Over time, gadgets have come to ease the manual element in our cooking – making it that much easier. For example, the microwave oven has become the popular idiot box of the kitchen – making things quicker and more efficient. Like many others, I too have started using the microwave to cook traditional Indian food with amazing results.

When I first began cooking, we did not have many of the modern-day conveniences one takes for granted. We had to grind the batter for idli and dosa manually, using our time tested grinding stone. Likewise, spice powders needed to be pounded and powdered fresh – virtually from scratch, each time you started a cooking session.

When did you start your blog, Cooking with Shobana?

I took to blogging in March, 2013 – at a stage in my life when I had a little free time on hand. My husband had retired by then, and my children had gone to pursue their own careers My blog is my passion and since it is about cooking, the two are closely intertwined. The more I cook, the more I blog, so to speak.

As far as I can recall, it started off as an album in my personal Facebook page called “I Love Cooking.” I began to share pictures of dishes that I had made and these were just images without any recipes. Friends who liked the album suggested I share recipes along with the pictures.

As the name suggests, Cooking With Shobana is about sharing a collection of recipes, some cooking tips, and useful hints. The recipes largely cover Indian vegetarian cuisine, and I love to share whatever I know or have learnt over the years.

Looking at site visitors, I have logged 2.2 million page views or hits as of now. I hope it will cross the milestone of 25,00,000 or 2.5 million in the days to come!

Who is your support system for the blog, in keeping it updated?

My husband has always been a major source of inspiration and support. An author and blogger himself, Prem thought it would be useful to set up a blog for sharing, interactions and being visible in the big wide world. He took me through the entire setting up process, and got me up and running.

He continues to be my partner in the blog and is my biggest supporter. I do all the cooking while he does the photography. I suggest the plating and presentation and we sort of do this and the content generation and uploading together. It is a team effort we are proud of.

Are your recipe formats easy to cook with? Especially for young enthusiasts / couples trying their hand at cooking for the first time.

I like to keep things simple. The objective is to help even a novice with a set of easy to understand instructions and guidelines. We don’t use fancy expressions preferring simple, basic kitchen terminology. I recognize that readers from all over the world may not be familiar with many of our terms, so I do take pains to add helpful comments wherever possible.

I also think people (men and women, these days) would find my blog working like a companion guide. That’s why it is useful to see things from the reader’s point of view – in order to make the recipes easy to follow, right down to the final stage of serving the dish.

One of the things about experienced cooks is the effortless / instinctive measuring of cooking ingredients, or estimation of cooking time – how does this happen?

Like most people of my profile, I too started cooking using approximations. It was only when I started my blog that I began to measure out quantities for each ingredient – which is essential when you are documenting a step-by-step method. That was when I appreciated the value of precise measurements and their outcomes.

Over time, it’s usually rule of thumb – and more often than not, these approximates come close to the recommended weights and measures. I guess a lot of this comes from experience. For example, seldom did my mother dwell on the quantities she used on each ingredient. Yet, by observing her, I got a good feel for portions and consistency – which I refined over time.

What plans do you have for the future? Where do you go from here?

I have no specific goals as such. I would like to continue the way I have been doing for the past few years. At this stage of my life, there is not much that I expect. I hope the blog has helped and will continue to help others.

Many young ladies (including Indians settled in different parts of the world) have told me that they are reminded of their mom’s kitchens when they go through my blog and I find this very gratifying.

I feel particularly pleased when young people these days (in India and abroad) mention that they use recipes from my blog very often – or that they consult my blog when they have some doubts. Some have gone so far as to say that they couldn’t have cooked without my blog.

I guess they are being far too kind, but encouraging enough to sustain my interest in something I am really passionate about – cooking.

Paneer Amritsari

Paneer Amritsari by Shobana Rao
(Right click on image for recipe on her blog)
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Primary Links

Features, interviews and blog rankings
From mothers to daughters – five traditional recipes from across the country

My husband, Prem Rao’s website


Adam Scott Carroll – Illustrator / Artist


I’ve been interacting with young designers over the last few years, on methods of working and preferred tools of the trade. There is a clear weighted shift towards digital software and tools – easy to use, easy to correct, and easy to share.

But Adam Scott Carroll likes to do things the hard way. He is probably the youngest artist I know who is really passionate about working with traditional rendering methods – using pencil on paper, brush on canvas. In other words, media that can be clipped on to his drawing board, or easel.

Rare these days, and ever rarer among young talent of his generation. After completing his tenth at Frank Anthony Public School Adam did a foundation course in visual art at the Kalamandir School of Art – a school that allows young artists to explore individual lines of expression. What Adam plans to do next is a degree in fine arts at the Chitrakala Parishat – a logical next step, he says.

Adam has participated in several art competitions and talent shows – one that he came first in was a televised award ceremony at Bal Bhavan in Bangalore. Even in the group exhibitions at college, what set him apart, was his choice of theme and medium of expression. According to him, there is a hard-to-match tactile appeal here that is an experience in itself.

Q – How do you describe your current focus area in art /illustration? (What do you like, or don’t like.)

Right now I would say literal realism in traditional mediums is my current focus area. And although I am interested in all the movements of art, I am attracted to the work of classical painters. Personally, I dislike photorealism and hyperrealism because in the attempt to achieve realism you merely reconstruct every minute detail – with a brief to resemble the original, as closely as possible. Well I might want to say that this can be limiting in a sense, because you can only make a comparison with the original – nothing more.

Q – What is the individual/unique technique that you bring into your work? (Style, treatment, rendering.)

Whether it’s in-depth knowledge of anatomy for arrangement of tones or good composition, one must understand that these fundamental concepts are paramount – skill or technique is secondary. It’s really hard to develop an individual technique without a thorough understanding of the aforementioned concepts. Having said that, I have been told that my style resembles the chiaroscuro technique of oil painting.

Painting as a subject of discovery, or study is something I haven’t explored adequately – there’s a whole lot I need to do, learn and discover in terms of style and technique. I’m still early in that curve, and currently happy in the world of acrylic, poster and watercolor painting – with adventures in clay sculpture, collage, woodcut prints, pen and ink.

Q – Instinctively, what materials would you like to reach out for? (Considering digital is not your go-to option.)

I prefer paper or canvas as it was also the preferred medium of the masters who attained levels of perfection that no degree of technology has achieved. What I reach out for eventually turns out to mixed media in some way or the other. Almost always, pencil lays the foundation that may be built upon with paint –shaded, or simply left as a line drawing. I love the magic of charcoal where the size and shape of each stroke follows the applied skills of individual expression. Deft variations in pressure can turn the most mellow greys into intense blacks.

As you can gather, there is no digital here. And looking at both historical and contemporary art from that perspective, you will find many people who share my view. There are artists who never did digital and have found success in today’s highly evolved and competitive world.

Q – Where do you usually draw your inspiration from? (Favorite artists, painters, illustrators?)

Yes, I have been lucky enough to have both my parents as artists. So the inspiration starts there, and competing with my sister who is brilliant at watercolor, makes me work harder. My dad is an avid collector of art books and images which have added to the learning experience and inspired me to a great extent.

Favorites include Francisco De Goya, Caravaggio, Claude Monet, Paul Gauguin, MF Husain and of course Michael Angelo and Leonardo da Vinci. But Mother Nature is undoubtedly my biggest influence and inspiration. I am constantly trying to improve upon my work to meet her unrealistically high standards.

Q – Is there a wider choice for art students these days? (What can you do after college?)

In terms of a career, the scope is wider than most people realize these days – even with a simple Bachelor of Fine Arts. It opens doors in fashion houses, advertising agencies, and maybe in the film industry as well. With an ever increasing demand for good visual content, the possibilities are almost infinite.

I think that the concept of a starving artist is finally fading away.

Q – What do you see yourself doing after graduation? (Have you made any plans?)

Working with a boutique art studio would be nice, but I’m sure, very hectic. I think a publishing house is nice too, and freelancing being the way to go. I guess I will need to evaluate all opportunities that come my way.

To answer your question, I might pursue painting and drawing over the weekends on work that is assigned to me. And during the week, you’ll find me working in my tattoo studio.

You can’t sign off on a tattoo, but hopefully I will make a name for myself.


Adam’s charcoal impression of Ah Keah Boat / Two Hatchet – a Comanche Warrior, and member of the The Kiowas. The Kiowas are a tribe of Native Americans.
















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Adam on Instagram
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Archana Baikadi – Revival Artist of Traditional Cuisines


For this interview, we go Down Under to chat with Archana Baikadi, who runs the food portal Hebbar’s Kitchen with her husband, Sudarshan and her friend Shreeprada. Hebbar’s Kitchen is all about cuisine elements from South India and Udupi – we’re talking about authentic, traditional, vegetarian fare.

Archana tells me that she’s from a small rustic town in Udupi District in Karnataka. Hometown to her brings back memories of a tiny population of friendly people, charming temples, and an unlimited repertory of food ideas.

Udupi is known the world over for its distinct and unique flavours, also made popular by restaurants going under the “Udupi Hotel” banner.

“The whole idea behind our portal is to share a little tradition and history through recipes handed down generations,” says Archana. “We have translated cooking methods to a simple, step-by-step format. Believe me, if you have the right ingredients you could be cooking something special in minutes.”

Q – Before we get to the other questions, how do you really explain the huge following on your facebook page and website?

There’s probably a very simple explanation. Our blog is a lifesaver for Indian expats abroad, and a good destination for tried and tested vegetarian recipes. Especially for the younger generation of housewives, and motivated young husbands.

Hebbar’s Kitchen now has a wide global appeal and we seem to be on a high when it comes to authentic Indian recipes. At this point, we have 3,555,457 followers on Facebook, around 150,000 on our YouTube channel, and over 80,000 on Instagram.

Last year a report was published by analytics and video intelligence company Vidooly, relating to Indian channels and videos on Facebook. Vidooly ranked us Number 5 overall and Number 1 in the Health & Lifestyle category. For us, this is not just a numeric high, but a growing indication of following and support from our readers and viewers – and we owe a lot to them for this achievement.

Taking this forward, we decided to launch a mobile app version for both iOS and Android, to keep our readers connected with updates posted regularly.

Q – Now, getting back to the question I wanted to start with, how early did you start cooking?

Most people find it hard to believe that I actually got around to serious cooking after I got married. And all those years before I got married, my cooking skills did not go beyond rice, rasam and dal – all because my mother would spoil me pretty with her wonderful cooking. And dad would always be supportive, “If you can make authentic udupirasam, I’m sure you can make anything.”

Like most young girls from my part of the world like to say, my mother was my first teacher – and dad was the other keen team player in the kitchen. He was patient, understanding and helpful. As a small child, I sat on the kitchen counter and watched them cook with a unique chemistry that was magical when it came to the senses – aroma, taste, colour and appetite appeal. My mother brought in the art of cooking, and dad brought in the science. Looking back, I think it was an amazing partnership.

Q – Was it plain survival at first in Australia? Did you like cooking 24/7?

When we initially moved to Australia, my husband Sudarshan would look longingly at images on facebook – of recipes and food from Udupi. And that got me thinking – how could I recreate that for him eight thousand miles away?

I’m a Software Tester, which is light-years away from traditional cooking. I also have a tough and hectic work day and am constantly looking for ways to de-stress after working hours.

And then I discovered my comfort zone – my kitchen. I soon found that one good way to unwind was change roles, and wear an apron. I also found I began to enjoy hearing the sizzle as it happened on my gas hobs. Cooking the kind of food we enjoy has a calming effect on me – and even though it seems like an extension of my work day, I really enjoy every single moment.

Q – How much do you identify with “Udupi” in terms of cooking styles?

To answer your question, we work hard at translating traditional Udupi vegetarian recipes and cooking methods – in a manner that the new generation will like and relish. While I do experiment with other regional cuisines, I always come back to Udupi food, because it’s so familiar and comforting when you’re thousands of miles away from home.

Luckily, we manage to get all the ingredients you need at local supermarkets, or at one of the Indian kirana stores. But a lot of our utensils came from India – there are some things in the kitchen that you just cannot replace, or swap.

Q – Do any of your relatives own or run a Udupi restaurant in India or abroad?
Do you think you will start one sometime – in the years to come?

My grandfather used to run a popular Udupi restaurant in Guntoor, in Andhra Pradesh for more than three decades. His restaurant, called Sri Rama Vilas was a family-run business, and in the heart of the city. And later in Vijayawada (Andhra Pradesh) my uncle continued the tradition for another decade with his hotel Sri Rama Lunch Home. Though these ventures were managed by the family, the prime movers behind these businesses chose to head back and settle down in Udupi.

And the answer to will I start an Udupi restaurant in India? I have always been asked this question when people follow my blog for a while. My eyes twinkle at that prospect, because this is in my blood if you can see what I mean. Sometime in the future – can’t tell you when – Sudarshan and I might just start an Udupi restaurant in India. And if that happens, you know what we might call it: Hebbar’s Kitchen.

Q – You and Sudarshan seem to be a great team on the project

Well, the good thing about the way Sudarshan looks at food and the way I have learnt to cook, is that there is a comfortable meeting point. We’re always speaking the same language when it comes to food, or most things that we want to do in life. What has probably helped here is that we have a lot in common in terms of traditions and background.

There’s also a thin line between us when it comes to the way we approach each day, the way we plan things for the week, and the way we have been looking at the future. Strangely (and easy to see) food is a key ingredient in all of this.

Q – Your visual representation of food is really slick – how did do you guys tackle food styling and photography?

We are not professionals in food styling or photography. My husband and I spend a lot of time reading articles online to implement newer ways of doing things. My allocated department is recipe development, while my husband works on technical aspects such as web design and all the back-end work that keeps the electrons buzzing on our blog. Completing our team is Shreeprada, who handles content and manages our facebook page – she writes key articles, cooking tips, and all the health capsules you see on Hebbar’s Kitchen.

At the end of the day, it’s a lot of work – we’re often short of time but not short of ideas as you can see.

Q – Have you found instances of people ripping off content and images from your site?

Along with success and popularity, I guess you’re bound to face other challenges. I find people reproducing our effort – recipes, images and videos – on their own blogs, and claiming it as their content. While this is not unheard of on the Internet, it needs to be addressed and tackled.

We are making some very concerted efforts to tackle this menace, with legal opinion and robust online measures that will take these offenders to task. This will be on our priority list, and we are committed to getting to the root of the problem.

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Blog & Social Media Links
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Hebbar’s Kitchen ranked # 5 in Vidooly’s Top 10
(Based on number of video views on facebook)
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Vivek Mathew – Fine Art Photographer

Ask Vivek about his mantra as a photographer, and he will sum it up in one phrase – capturing the brilliance of a moment. Considered as one of today’s “Young and Unusual” photographers by India Today Magazine, Vivek has been featured in The Times Journal of Photography, Time Out, Design Today, Better Interiors, National Geographic Traveller India, Forbes India, Smart Photography, Bangalore Mag, The Times of India, Femina, and Women’s Wear Daily -New York.

His exhibitions in the city’s art circuits have also given art lovers an opportunity to see and admire his work. I.Opener in October 2005 at the Renaissance Gallerie focused on subjects ranging from still life & portraits, to exteriors. Waterborne in November 2007, at Industree, presented a whole new perspective, with an interesting showcasing of ripples, reflections and patterns from everyday life. Vivek’s third exhibition was at Sublime at UB City in February 2011 – his theme, Canvas Wall, was inspired by rustic elements in the world around us. His fourth and most recent exhibition, Perfect Imperfections in February 2015, was at the ‘Art of Delight’ – taking you through a picture-book treatment of nature and man-made patterns.

Vivek’s work has also been part of two popular coffee table books – by The Laidlaw Memorial High School, Ketti, Nilgris, during their centenary year, and the Best of Bangalore Innovation Edition – Volume II.

Q – How did all this begin? How did you get interested in photography?

As a kid, I was fascinated with the concept of being able to capture pictures in a magic box. In junior school I always played around using my pencil box as a camera to take make-believe pictures of friends. My fascination and interest in “taking pictures” became serious in my growing years. At the age of 12, my uncle, Avijit Dutt gifted me something I will always cherish – my first real camera, and a dream come true.

As a child I also found photo-albums fascinating – flip through the pages and you could go back in time. Take for instance the pictures from your parents’ wedding album, your third birthday party, a vacation you went on with your folks, pictures with your friends from high school – these are moments that can never be recreated.As the years rolled by, deep down, I wanted to pursue photography as a career – didn’t want to do anything else.

Q – What formal training do you have in photography? Did this help you learn skills and specialize?

Well, here’s what I did straight out of school – I joined the Light & Life Academy in Ooty in 2002. This was my first serious career-defining step. In the year I joined, I was the youngest student at the academy. Many of my batch mates were graduates – some even had work experience. Ooty gives you just the natural backdrop for landscape and street photography – it is truly an amazing place to learn the craft and get inspired to take beautiful pictures

I remember we had Pallon Daruwala on our faculty for architecture and interior photography. And he introduced us to an unusually interesting approach to visualizing a frame – a perception of architecture from a documentary point of view. I found this very inspiring – and an eye-opener to different viewpoints and perspectives. Light & Life also gave us the opportunity to interact with other big names in the field – including Paul Liebhardt, Jonathan Kingston and Rudy Loupias – names that conjure up magic when it comes to talent and expertise. There’s something about exposure to really professional talent – just being around them during a session is a learning exercise.

Q – Is there something you are always drawn to, as a photographer?

Life in itself is inspiring. The beauty in this world and the things around us inspire me to capture life’s special moments – water, reflections, walls, patterns, people, emotions. In a sense, it’s a wonderful canvas showcasing what a wonderful world we live in.

Like they say, one picture speaks a thousand words – and depending on when you took that picture, it can take you back in time, or transport you to the future. At the end of the day, a picture does last a lifetime.

Having said that, there’s one thing that I always like to stress upon when I am discussing photography – the picture has to speak for itself, without you having to explain, or describe it. It’s got to communicate, without a caption – and that makes a good picture for me.

Q – You do seem to have a symbiotic relationship with architectural elements – especially when it comes to photography?

I find architectural dimensions interesting, and modern buildings are works of art in themselves – especially in terms of building profiles, detailing and overall perspective. I usually approach a building project from the architect’s perspective with an approach that is original, straight forward, simple and documentary in nature. I concentrate on lines, shapes, patterns and also on how lighting can alter and enhance perspective. I also work hard at making the image clutter free, to do justice to the architect’s vision and design emphasis.

While modern design is appealing I also like to work with old monuments, churches and temples – this is entirely for my personal folio. Old colonial architecture for instance is a great source of inspiration for me – especially if it has withstood the test of time. And this is where I experiment with newer view points and techniques and this effort includes shooting abstract and careful detailing.

While I do love taking pictures of buildings, I’ve done travel, nature, people and interiors. I guess would also like to be known as a fine art photographer.

Q – How would you then describe fine art photography?

Even to the common eye, fine art photography is visibly different from conventional portrait or landscape photography – it presents a different canvas. Art photography calls for an artist’s eye – a unique visual sense that needs to come from the person inside you. It’s about the way you see life and the world around you. It’s also about a thought process influenced by careful observation, assimilation of art forms and the work of artists.

With fine art photography your mind’s eye outlines focus points, framing and emphasis – unlike commercial photography where you are largely working within a brief from a client or art director. I enjoy fine art photography because it brings out the best in me – almost revealing my inner thoughts and reflections.


Vivek’s website and portfolio links
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Prasanna Hede – Food Blogger & Recipe Curator

Meet Prasanna Hede – dedicated food blogger, and multi-cuisine home chef. Coming from a small town in Goa and migrating to career-routed locations, she is now is re-discovering her roots. A qualified software engineer, Prasanna is currently a dedicated home-maker and a full-time mom.

There’s something about Goa that drifts you into a world of gastronomy, she says – the city presents a confluence of some of the most exotic cuisines in the world.

Growing up as a child in Goa, Prasanna learnt something new every day from her mother’s repertoire of traditional and across-the-border recipes. She also loved making notes about the way her mother cooked – notes that eventually became the starting point of her food blog.

Q – What is your cuisine of preference? Is going back to your roots important?

Sometimes, where your family originates from can influence what you like to cook, or the way you work in the kitchen. Right from traditional cooking styles, the availability of local ingredients, and preferences that grow on you.

My interests in cooking are a melting pot of what I have assimilated over the years – as we moved from city to city, across time zones. And coming home was always special because it brought us back to the familiar sights and aromas of India.

At my mother’s home, we were exposed to Mangalorean and Maharashtrian cooking, in addition to our staple Goan diet – which was rice, fish curry, sol-kadi and fried fish. Our stay in Bangalore brought me closer to the flavors of Karnataka – thatte idli, puliogare, benne dose, chitranna, ghee roast, chako and dalitoy. Enough to make your day.

Q – Can you describe your journey down memory lane? Who pointed you in the right directions?

Over the years, I have managed to learn about traditional cuisines from elders in the family, who have been only happy to share ideas, methods and recipes. Add to this my own research along the way to create a growing body of work.

My mother has had a big role to play in this journey. She’s been my mentor, idol and master chef – bringing a rare passion into the kitchen every single day. An important part of her cooking lesson was a narrative spiced with history, geography and grandmother stories. So the learning had a fun element to it, as well.

I am keen that my daughter too, is familiar with her grandmother’s art of cooking – Aarvi is four years old and has a mind of her own. But I guess she can add miles and smiles to this journey.

Q – What kind of support do you get from your husband ? More than an extra pair of hands?

My husband, Abhijeet, is my QC head in the kitchen – in other words he is an honest and unbiased food critic. He is the first to taste my food, and usually has the last word. I take his feedback seriously because it’s constructive – not just stray comments on salt, for instance.

And I must say he’s also a great support system – helps with the kids, helps with the shopping and also helps me choose the right kind of cooking accessories and props. At the end of each cooking session, he lends a hand in the clearing and cleaning up process. That’s a relief because it’s nice to see a spotless kitchen first thing in the morning.

Q – Do you like cooking up something special for festivals? For Ugadi & Ganesha Habba?

The food menu during festivals was always carefully planned in our home in Goa. For Ugadi we would make a bitter-sweet drink with neem, and a host of specials the family looked forward to – including Sakharbhat, Sweet Rice Pongal and Puran Poli. This year I tried out a new version of Puran Poli and it came out really nice.

Ganesh Chaturthi is another big highlight on our festive calendar and I usually try out some traditional Goan recipes during the festival. Khatkhatem is a delicious mixed vegetable curry, Moonga Gathi is sprouted moong curry. Manganem is a sweet dish with split gram, jaggery and cashew. Our Chathurthi menu also includes Rice, Sol Kadhi, Mixed Vegetable Pakoras, Nevryo and Modak. Enough to make Ganesha happy, and the family ecstatic over the wide choice of festive food.

Q – What plans do you have for the future? Do you see new directions?

While going back to my roots has been interesting, I have also been in touch with the current culinary landscape. I admire and follow the cooking styles of Hubert Keller, Rick Moonen and Vikas Khanna. These are legends in their own special way and can inspire you to look at things from a whole new perspective

I also plan to take my food blog to the next level – with organized streams of content that include both traditional and experimental cuisines that I wish to explore – currently looking at French and Italian cuisines as windows of learning and delight.

Oh yes, a cook book is on the cards, but I need to work on it as a long-term project – need to explore the publishing cycle and ways to make the book pay for itself.


Apple Mawa Kheer
Usually made by us during Holi. I start with finely grated apple, fried lightly with ghee. This is then ground to a paste and cooked in a sauce pan that has milk, sugar and mawa till you get a kheer-like consistency.







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Prasanna’s blog & social media links
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Riya Patel – foodie, blogger & aspiring chef

Riya Patel is the tiny, shy girl behind Yummy-Inside-My-Tummy – a blog for food enthusiasts, from Mumbai to Mantua. She was nominated for the category of Best Debut Blog and Best Restaurant Review Blog at the 2015 Indian Food Blogger Awards. At 20, she’s among the youngest food bloggers in town.

Riya likes cooking, baking and dining out – not entirely in that order. She is a huge fan of Italian cuisine – loves her pastas and pizzas more than anything else in the world. She calls herself the ultimate Dessert Queen because of her weakness for anything soft and sugary.

Currently a third-year Mass Media student at Sophia College for Women, Riya says that life in Mumbai has been a truly amazing journey, but Bangalore will always be home for her.

Q – You’re so passionate about food and food writing – did you have any other career in mind?
It now seems strange that not too long ago, I visualized doors opening for me at a lawyer’s office – I had seriously considered life in a black tux. But I guess my love for writing and describing food overtook my interest in the legal profession. And when the time came for the big move, I headed straight to Sophia’s in Mumbai for a degree in mass media. This was my calling – to take it to the next level and express my love for writing, and eventually writing about food.

Q – This is interesting – where do you draw your inspiration from?
I do not come from a family that has a food or hospitality background but both my mother and grandmother are great cooks. So from the age of 8, I’ve been immersed in pots, pans and the sweet aromas of cooking. I remember the first thing I tried out from this kids’ cookbook was “fish cakes” – a project completed with help from my dad’s mother. Later on, she helped me bake cupcakes and brownies for my school bake sale – she has so much patience with me. And always being around her and seeing how much she enjoys cooking has been very, very inspiring.

My mother on the other hand is a natural cook and believes in quick and easy recipes. I am invariably her official ‘taster’ giving her my little comments and feedback. She is a real superwoman and works late in the kitchen – till the last dish is washed, dried and put away. I don’t know where she finds all that energy, but can always make cooking to be fun and relaxing. (And that’s a useful thing to remember when you’re writing notes to yourself.)

Q – Do you have any famous chefs in your follow list? What do you admire in them?
My follow list is awe-inspiring and includes names such as Heston Blumenthal, Jamie Oliver, Marco Pierre White and Nigella Lawson. These are masters of the craft and names that truly are up there. My idea of ending a hard day’s work is relaxing on my couch and watching their shows – and what they can do is like poetry in motion. Even though I’m still early in the curve, I guess I can chart my own path and destination – because I hope to explore the far corners of the world – in search of authentic cuisines that made way for modern interpretations.

Q – Doing a food review and getting your hands greasy are on opposite sides of the table – where would you rather be?
Doing food reviews at restaurants is one aspect of the kind of work I currently do, in addition to giving kitchen crews some very useful feedback – on aspects like taste, discernable flavors and how food can be served in an interesting way. I also like sampling food experiments at the kitchens of friends in my foodie circle who are serious about cooking. All of this can be tedious but it keeps me on my toes and helps me track the latest trends.

At the end of the day, I love being in my own kitchen – this personal space is my biggest stress buster and has a calming effect on me. I feel like a whole new person in my kitchen and love getting my hands messy trying out new cooking styles. I also love being creative and experimental with flavors, and can come up with the most randomly creative dishes you could think of – my Fusilli-in-Curry is nice I must say, with generous toppings of potato crisps, herbs and cheese.

Q –Did you ever think of food styling as a professional interest?
Today’s career seeker in food styling has two avenues – food styling for photography, and food styling that ends up on your plate at a restaurant. It’s all about looking good. But I think I might explore the path of styling food that looks good on your plate. You’re working with real ingredients and not cosmetic sprays – you’re also working at making something truly appetizing.

I am a perfectionist and for me, everything has to look good and taste great. That’s why food styling is a natural extension of my love for cooking – I also have an eye for detail and sprucing up. If the right doors open for me in food styling I wouldn’t mind taking it up as a career – it’s hard work, but there’s a creative element out here.

Q – You’re aspiring to become a chef, food writer and critic? Where do you go from here?
I graduate in a few months, and working for a year or two will be nice. I might also want to do my masters in journalism, along with a few certified culinary courses. I would have never imagined following this path before I came to Mumbai. This city has taught me a lot and given me wings. I now know what it means to be independent and forward-looking – with a focus on what’s on your plate.

The one thing that never stops me from doing what I want to do in life is my heart and soul. So don’t be surprised when I send you an invite to the opening of my own little bistro – that’s another dream in the making.


Riya’s Chorizo Noodles – A fusion of flavors with hakka noodles, smoked pork,red pepper and paprika – usually served with an authentic Mangalore curry and coconut milk.

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Riya’s blog & social media links
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Mitra Farmand – cartoonist & illustrator

Meet Mitra Farmand – cartoonist and illustrator living in Brookline, Massachusetts. In 2013 she graduated from the Center for Cartoon Studies in White River Junction, VT – so don’t worry, she’s certified to draw cartoons.

Mitra has a degree in History from the University of Colorado at Boulder, and her work has been published in The Funny Times, The Nib, Seven Days and yes, The New Yorker as well.

I chatted with Mitra about discovering talent, and finding your sweet spot – which is a confluence of what you’re good at and what you’re interested in – and here’s her side of the story. She tends to be understated about her work, but anybody can see that she’s big on talent.

Q – Did you want to become a cartoonist as a child? Were your doodles “inspired” in your growing years?
As a child, I never thought about being a cartoonist. I liked to draw, but I had no special aptitude for drawing. I wanted to draw things exactly as they looked and was frustrated at my inability to draw realistically. For years, the extent of my drawing was doodling in school and the occasional art class.

Q – Is there another side to Mitra Farmand? What makes you funny?
People often ask me if I have a cat and if I’m a vegetarian. No to both those things. Apparently I look like a cat-owning vegetarian. I don’t like the zoo or buttons. If you see someone wearing a button down shirt at the zoo, that is not me. I like supply closets, dogs, and bicycles.

As for being funny, I do think I am kind of funny, just naturally. I think you can get funnier if you are funny, but if you aren’t funny in the first place, I’m not sure it can be learned.

Q – For most artists, a life-changing moment is when you recognize that you’re talented? When did that happen to you?
I don’t think I’m talented at drawing. I’m not the sort of person who can draw everything and I’m constantly Googling things to find out what they look like. I’ve grown somewhat proficient at drawing things I like to draw (like cats and dogs) and struggle with things I’m not good at drawing (like buildings and cars).

I envy people who can just draw something simply and be done with it. I think that gives their art a really easy quality and it looks like they had fun making the drawing. I try to get my drawings to look like that, but I often fail. I get caught up in the details. I think the reason I can draw some things is that I’ve worked hard at it. And the computer really helps.

Q – When did you realize that you needed to zig, when your peers chose to zag? What steps did you take to move in that direction?
I’ve always wanted to zig instead of zag. I just didn’t have anything that I was interested in enough to zig for until I started cartooning. So I don’t think it was something in my life that made me go back to school – like being unsatisfied with my job. It was finding something that I loved to do that made me go for it.

Q – What was your second life-changing moment? Your enrolment at The Center for Cartoon Studies? Your cartoon for the New Yorker?
The New Yorker has been kind of life changing. It’s validating. It gives me more confidence. Even though I was trying to get into The New Yorker for two years, it still seems amazing to me that they published one of my cartoons.

Q – Tell us something about your store on Etsy? What products do you feature?
Lately most of my attention is on my shop on Etsy. I sell cards, stickers, magnets, dioramas, tote bags, garlands, prints, and temporary tattoos. I sold about 250 items in my shop in 2015, but that doesn’t mean I’ve made a profit. I’m hopeful that this year I can take in more than I spend.

Q – How would you take your talent to the next level? Where do you go from here? 
Lately I’ve been trying to Google all the things I do manually in Photoshop and I’ve found that most of the things I do manually, Photoshop will do for me. It’s kind of great and kind of awful to find out that something you’ve been doing manually, you can do with one keystroke. Oops.

Oh yes, I want to get another cartoon into The New Yorker.

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Mitra’s store on Etsy >
Mitra’s website >


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