Taste Memory Talks: Series One—Tejasvi Chandela

Meet Jaipur-based Tejasvi Chandela, who is all set to take the baking world by storm. Here, she talks about her favourite desserts that she’s had around the world and gives us an update on her creative life.

Since the past few years, chef and entrepreneur Tejasvi Chandela took it all in her stride to excel in what she went on to do in life. From studying at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris to doing her masters in chocolate making at EPGB, Barcelona, she has come a long way to reach where she has. Today, she enjoys the sweet taste of success, as she is the proud co-founder of All Things—an artisanal chocolate label, and runs Dzurt (cafe and pâtissière) and Cut Chocolate Cake (a studio kitchen) for imparting workshops.

The current lockdown scene, however, has helped her push the envelope in terms of reaching out to more people and share her baking expertise with. Apart from doing tutorials on YouTube and on her social media page, she is busy reading (her current read is Macarons by Pierre Herme) and penning her first cookbook. The cherry on the cake is the time she gets to spend with her baby girl and family. “I’m trying to stay motivated as much as I possibly can. There are good days and bad days—but I’m sailing through it like everyone else,” says Tejasvi.

Know her signature style

Tejasvi likes to give her personal touch to everything she makes in the kitchen. She takes inspiration from her travels, experiments at her All Things’ factory space with the assorted bars of chocolate and finally, uses her mastered French techniques to lend her own touch to the recipes she’s had since childhood. “I like to stay true to what I love to eat, and bring that to the table. For instance, I love S’mores. So, I decided to get my own version at Dzurt (her pâtissière and cafe in Jaipur). I have got a S’mores Choux Bun, which is basically a choux bun with a chocolate cremeux filling, a brûléed marshmallow fluff on top with a house-made graham cracker stuck on the side,” says Tejasvi.

Debunking baking myths 

For Tejasvi, one should always have fun while baking. “Baking is therapeutic and I genuinely believe that the mindset in which the cake was made is exactly how it turns out in the end. Having said that, I find the cut-and-fold method while making a cake batter a waste of time. It means nothing and rather, incorporates air in the batter. Your cake should never be over-beaten once the dry ingredients go in, as that will make the cake even more dense. Just mix the batter with a whisk first and finish it off with a spatula,” she says.

A baking trick she swears by 

“Foil paper is my go-to buddy in the kitchen. It’s a fabulous thing to play with. Many a time, I use steel/aluminium rings (bottomless) to bake my cakes. While I do that, I just place a piece of foil underneath and scrunch it up from all sides and this gives me the perfect mould,” says Tejasvi, and adds, “If your cake is fully baked on the top, but, is raw from the inside, you can gently place a piece of foil paper on top of the mould and save the cake from burning or browning the top.”

Much-loved dessert moments 

Thinking about her favourite food memories, Tejasvi recalls, “Every Sunday, my father would make banana flambé for us kids. Even now, there are times when we pester him to make it.” She fondly remembers the first time she got to taste what she calls the best tea cake in the world—the Victorian sponge cake. “I had it for the first time next to the Windsor Castle, which was very close to my university in London. The feeling of sitting in the garden on an English summer day and eating a slice of that heavenly cake—I’ll never ever forget that taste,” says Tejasvi. When her classmate made Brigadeiro—a traditional Brazilian dessert—for her, she knew she could never forget the taste for a long time. “I was studying in Paris at the time. My Brazilian bestie, Lulu, and I took a weekend off and went to see my god mother at Les Sables-d’Olonne. I remember entering a grocery store, where Lulu picked up a can of condensed milk, dark chocolate, butter and cream. We went back to our apartment and she made Brigadeiro and it blew my mind,” says Tejasvi.

Predicting the future 

“Honestly, post-pandemic, I really hope our businesses can sustain. Looking at the current scenario, our industry is going to take a huge hit. Nevertheless, I hope chefs remain inspired and something amazing comes out of this. Wishful thinking can do no harm,” she says.

Taste Memory Talks: Series One — Shilarna Vazé

A passionate foodie, mum, TV host, author and co-owner of Gaia Gourmet (Bollywood’s most-loved catering label), Shilarna Vazé is an inspiration for many home chefs. Here, she talks about how she spends her self-isolation days at home and spills a few kitchen secrets.

Taste Memory Talks: How are you coping with the current self-isolation days?

Shilarna Vazé: “As a working mom, I’m using this time to do all those things I said I wanted to do but didn’t have time to. Now, I can hang out with my baby without having an agenda of what’s next, cooking for my family and doing yoga (not as regularly as I would like). I’m enjoying this time without the pressure of our usual go-go-go lifestyle.”

TMT: What do you love to cook the most these days?

Shilarna: “I love to cook what I call ‘simple’ home meals but might not seem simple to a layman. It could be ramen one day or poha the next or a flourless chocolate cake! We basically cook what we feel like eating on a day!”

TMT: At home, which are the kitchen tricks and tools you swear by?

Shilarna: “A well-stocked pantry is the biggest essential. You can’t cook interesting food if you don’t have interesting and assorted ingredients in your kitchen. As far as tools go, my blender and oven are really being used. A good peeler and mortar pestle and a salad spinner are essential as well.”

TMT: Tell us a few food memories that are close to your heart. Also, a few of your favourite books.
Shilarna: “Varan bhat and fried fish from my childhood. The fondue that I had in the Swiss alps (reminds me of my husband’s home). Also, I’m a die-hard fan of amazing dim sums. When it comes to books, I like Island by Aldous Huxley, An Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan and the Third Plate by Dan Berber.

TMT: Post-pandemic, what changes can you see in terms of food trends?

Shilarna: “I see everyone wanting to be more self-sufficient, wanting to cook more, grow more and come back to a slightly more holistic way of living.”

Taste Memory Talks: Series One — Garima Arora

Michelin-star chef and restaurant owner, Garima Arora, shares her thoughts on life under lockdown, her most memorable meals, and why her dad is her biggest inspiration.

She is in Bangkok, far away from Mumbai, her home town. With the lockdown in place, Garima has embraced well to a slow lifestyle. How’s a typical day at home? “I’m a routine kind of a person. Every day, I take my dog, Aloo, for a walk at 8AM for about an hour, followed by my daily chai and a couple of hours of work, and then chores and some reading. I eat an early dinner with a glass of red wine. Before I head to bed I FaceTime with the husband (who is now in Mumbai),” says Garima.

Home life

For Garima, her daily routine is all about living a healthy life. “Now that I have time, I take this opportunity to really focus on my health. It was challenging before when the restaurant was super busy all the time. These days, I enjoy cooking myself simple, healthy meals. My go-to meal is scrambled eggs with some good bread,” she says. Her local bakery, Salee, is her saviour when it comes to artisanal baked goodies. Garima is not at all into TV. She’d rather see something that inspires her to stay fit. “Of late, our PR manager has been sharing some good home workout videos on YouTube. I highly recommend Natacha Océane’s HIIT workouts,” says Garima.

Current reads

“I’m currently reading Curry by Lizzie Collingham and Butter, A Rich History by Elaine Khosrova. I just finished The Shining by Stephen King,” she says.

Kitchen inspiration

Her love for good food comes from the memorable meals her father cooked at home. “Being in the kitchen with my father as a child is definitely one of the most defining moments of my life. He travelled a lot and would bring back home (at the time) exotic recipes like hummus and baba rum. The reason I enjoyed his food so much was that he always cooked with pleasure and joy,” says Garima.

Food nostalgia

“My husband and I celebrated our first anniversary in Tromsø, Norway. One of the things that I remember fondly from that trip is the fish stew. The weather was really cold at the time and to have something hot and delicious like that was the best thing in the world. I pretty much had it everyday on that trip,” says Garima. The other dish she fondly remembers was prepared by the Filipino chef, Margarita Forés. “She whipped up this dish called Kinilaw—which is a Philippine ceviche—right in the middle of the market when we were in Manila last year. It was a salad—made with the freshest crab meat and coconut milk we’d ever had—tossed with palm vinegar and fresh chillies. I’m getting hungry just thinking about it!” adds Garima.

A home recipe close to her heart

“My father makes this pickled ginger that he always keeps at the dining table. The thinly sliced ginger is left in vinegar for two weeks at room temperature. It’s very simple to make and so versatile. It can be added to anything and will instantly brighten up any dish with some spiciness and acidity,” she says.

Post-pandemic trends

While home chefs are cooking day in day out to inspire themselves, what the future food trends behold is an unknown territory that’s tough to talk about. “Future predictions are guesses at best because how this all ends will mostly depend on how long this lasts. Right now, we are taking it day by day,” says Garima before signing off.

Let’s make some rolls

I’m at my mother’s place, and I’m constantly trying to divert my mind whatsoever. In spite of running around my toddler, I end up thinking a lot. But thanks to my cooking and baking expeditions, I rather plan to gamble with yeast and coconut milk instead of overthinking how life will be after a few months. We got to find hope. We got to calm our anxious minds. And yes, we got to save our pantry from using too many ingredients but it’s a bit tricky. How else will I divert my mind if I don’t try something new in the kitchen? I don’t mean baking a cake every day, but one or two baking expeditions in a month shall be fine?

I’m not a person who can use a weighing machine, let alone kneading a dough with yeast. These days, however, I feel like going all out there, without fearing the outcomes. It can cause embarrassment when my dough doesn’t rise or when a loaf of bread comes out flat, but who cares. Until and unless you keep going, there’s no point getting stuck and giving up. Now, I’m a basic person when it comes to food. So, I thought, it would be great if I could make some basic buns. Lockdown days don’t allow us to step out, and then I thought, what the hell, it’s high time I try making some.

So, here’s how I made some burger buns. Titli Nihaan of the Bread Kitchen came to my rescue. It is her recipe that I tried, but you got to see how it went in my kitchen.

Step one: You got to activate your yeast. If your yeast is not active, your dough won’t rise. You can never be in a rush with yeast. So, I added around two tsps of inactive yeast and two tbsps of sugar to 300 ML of homemade buttermilk. In Title’s video, her buttermilk became all frothy in ten minutes. But, it took me an hour to just see those bubbles and it almost was more than an hour when my buttermilk became all frothy. And, I was good to go to my next step. Tip: If your buttermilk is not frothy even after an hour, take some warm water and do the same process with it. It should activate in 15-20 minutes.

Step two: Knead the dough. Now, we need four cups of all-purpose flour or maida for this recipe. Maida is excellent when it comes to how soft are your burger buns, and if you have those occasionally, it’s better to eat the best ones that are risen well and that only a maida dough can help you achieve. But, I had only two cups maida with me, so I went ahead and took two cups of whole-wheat flour and two cups of maida. Added a tsp of salt, and slowly, started adding the frothy buttermilk to it. Now, make a dough. I added one cup of warm water too, as I couldn’t achieve a good consistency. After getting to a sticky dough, you need to knead it for 10-15 minutes.

Step three: Knead the dough. So, sprinkle some maida flour on a clean kitchen counter and start kneading the dough. I used some ghee and flour in between to keep the process easy. Watch Titli’s video for the technique. Have attached a link here.  Then, place the dough in a big bowl and cover it with a wet kitchen towel or plastic bag or cling wrap.

Step four: Now, for some, their dough goes double in an hour. But I took 2.5 hours. Once you know it has gone double, you need to start making the round buns and place it in a greased (I used some ghee) baking tray. Take the dough out of the bowl and knead it for a minute or two to remove the gas out. Take some flour on the counter or ghee on the palms of your hands to knead well. Now, make small balls out of it. Weigh each of the ball on a weighing machine and make sure all of them weigh the same. Then, follow Titli’s instructions and make your buns as she shows in the video. Now starts the second round of proofing the dough. Your bun balls should rise after about an hour. Cover them and keep the tray in a warm place. Tip: If you want to make pavs or Pav Bhaji, follow Nisha’s instructions in this video on how to go ahead.

Step five: After you know that the dough balls have risen, you need to bake them. With a silica/plastic brush, polish the top of each ball with milk. Once you do the milk wash, sprinkle some black and white sesame seeds on them. Bake the buns (I used the roasting option which makes the heat was on, on both the sides) on 200 C for 15-18 minutes. once you know that the buns are looking a bit brown on the top, remove the tray and check.

I was on cloud nine after this baking session. If you can activate the yeast well, chances are, your buns will turn out all right. Happy baking, you all!

8 Food YouTube Channels That Inspire Me 

I’m someone who’s been jobless for years (since I got married), and being at home can be really dull. That’s when I started using YouTube a lot, a hell lot in fact. I’m a loyalist by nature, so whichever video I liked, I didn’t mind going back to it time and again. Secondly, I and my husband are not much into travelling. Weekend getaways are fine, but we’re really lazy when it comes to long/international trips for many reasons, which is why when I see a YouTuber talking about their local food, it gives me a peek into their lives and that widens your horizon automatically. Lastly, I’m not into food fads, so knowing local people from foreign lands doing their local dishes is an eye-opening experience. I’m a vegetarian, so all the videos that I have seen are of the same category. There’s a lot of filtering that needs to be done, but I can manage. Here’s my list of a few of the channels/individuals that I follow on YouTube. 

1. Bong Eats

I was hooked to this channel from the first video itself. It was mind-blowing to see Bengali food being represented to perfection. From the measurements to memories—Saptarshi Chakraborty and Insiya Poonawala have done their job so well, it’s unbelievable. Whenever I miss home, I go to this channel and get lost into their music and their simple yet heart-warming way of featuring recipes. 

2. Food Wishes 

You hardly find chefs these days who are successful and yet levelheaded. Chef John of Food Wishes is a master when it comes to food tutorials. There are so many recipes that are in my list from this channel that I want to try in my kitchen! He’s the coolest chef I know! Chef John can do desserts, savouries, breads and so much more—with utmost ease. Plus, the humour of this American chef is the best part about him.

3. Pickup Limes

This Canadian nutritionist who currently lives in Netherlands is the one you’d like to follow for healthy and good-looking dishes. Her recipes score high on nutrition and overall appeal. My favourite is the one in which Sadia talks about Vietnamese Pho and why she loves it (the background score was so melodious I must have kept it on repeat for 20 times during my travels). If you’re into vegan food, you won’t be disappointed too. She always shares PDF version of her recipes and has her own ebook that can come in handy. She also does videos on minimalism and personal life talks that helps us viewers connect better. Did I say she has a gorgeous smile?

4. Maangchi

I’m not into non-vegetarian food so why do I follow this Korean food blogger? Her love for her native food is incredible. You get a good insight of all things Kimchi and more—plus her passion for sharing her food stories got me all happy whenever i watched her. I do have to skip many videos as I don’t eat non-vegetarian food, but I filter it up and keep going. There are so many cute moments—from the way she washes everything including her chopping board to the way she tastes everything that she makes in the end of the videos—that will make you fall for Emily Kim aka Maangchi who resides in the US but is totally Korean by heart. She has her own cookbooks as well, FYI.  

5. Pasta Grannies

Before I die, I want to learn how to make pasta for my husband and my family and relish it to the hilt. Now, I keep imagining myself strolling in the streets of Italy, looking out for the many versions of pasta, knowing their history and meeting a bunch of foodies too. But thanks to this godsend channel, I can see adorable grannies doing pasta. It’s such a tough task to make pasta from scratch but looking at their videos, I guess one day I might make myself some and go to sleep like a child. No wonder I keep thinking before getting carried away buying pasta packets at the gourmet aisles. 

6. Sukkari Life
Raoum is into yoga, zero-waste life/minimalism, vegan food and travel, which is why millennials should follow her. She is based in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, and this again gives me a glimpse of how’s life in that part of the world. Raoum keeps doing her routine videos and I love those. She doesn’t have a studio kind of a thing going on for her, so I find her videos raw and artistic for some reason. I like the way she has her tea, preps her day’s food, the way she keeps bringing her siblings in her videos to make it real, and does heart-to-heart chats about different lifestyle topics before the camera. 

7. Li Ziqi

She’s a young food blogger from the interiors of China but watch her videos and you’d know what her place is like. When I saw her for the first time, I couldn’t believe such a beauty of life exists. She makes food from scratch and does creative things where she’s making her own stuff. It’s like a fairy tale on play whenever I watch her. Imagine a girl climbing trees, picking fruits and flowers in her cane basket, drying them probably too, then cooking the same in food containers of varied sizes and storing them so well. Each activity offers a crisp sound—peeling veggies, plucking plants, tempering them and so forth. 

8. The Bread Kitchen

As a freelance writer, I spend a lot of time sulking. I remember being in Gurgaon (have spent almost five years in that Delhi NCR area), and exploring passionate foodies around the globe through YouTube. I and my husband had our version of tragedies and there was a time, anything that made me smile meant the world to me. Titli Nihaan brought me one big smile, and every time I saw her bake bread, I was happy. She’s like Julia Child. A passion for food is enough for others to fall in love with you. Who cares for the frills. Titli offers many bread varieties to her followers; her simple approach to things comes through. What a winner I tell you!