Tuesday, June 28 2016, 03:45:37
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Priya Motiani

JWB Blogger

JWB Says ‘Kem Cho’ To The Gujju Woman Behind India’s First Digi-Cookbook

  • JWB Post
  •  June 21, 2016

When I first heard about the cookbook Gujju Goes Gourmet, I knew I had to get in touch with its author Sonal Ved.

Not only because there’s food involved. (That’s a pretty solid reason, though.)

Not only because her book happens to be India’s first ever digital cookbook.

But because her twitter bio reads ‘Gucchi and Gorgonzola lover’ and the not knowing of why this woman obsesses over Italian blue cheese irked me to the core.

Her book is a portable day and night feast for the vegetarians, and it sure is taking them beyond the paneer/pasta threshold. What’s more? She has been a food writer for 8 scrumptious years, working with Mumbai Mirror, DNA, and Vogue.

Could we let go an opportunity of minting some of her food experiences? HELL NO! Hence, followed a tring tring and a delectable conversation on Sonal’s mobile.

Me: Let’s begin with what’s trending – Your book Gujju Goes Gourmet! What made you pick the digital format over the hard-bound?

Sonal: It was a ‘Who’ rather than a ‘What’ that led to Gujju Goes Gourmet, a collection of 45 vegetarian recipes. When I spoke to my publisher Chiki Sarkar, who is every bit of a change-maker in the publishing world, she suggested that I write a digital cookbook. It also made sense, because when you lend someone a recipe book, it comes back with folded ends or worse, turmeric stains! Our phones have become an extension of our bodies. I still remember carrying my laptop to the kitchen to cook up a recipe from the internet. There will be no more of that.

Me: I have read that the book only deals with vegetarian recipes. Are you planning to write a non-vegetarian rendition anytime soon? You know, just to not have the meat-lovers feeling all left out.

Sonal: As a food writer, it’s in my interest to understand and observe international trends, and to be able to do my job, I have to be excited towards both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food equally. So if the subject of my next book demands meat recipes, I’ll be happy to do

Me: Speaking of the subject of your current book, I have some myths in my mind. Ready to confront them?

Sonal: Sure. Shoot.

Me: People say that Gujju food is unhealthy. True or false?

Sonal: Traditional Gujarati food is very healthy and mild. It’s not high on spices and vegetables aren’t cooked until they lose their essence. There is a lot of steamed food – dhokla, paanki, handvo.

Me: Gujjus are known to use a hideous amount of sugar in just about anything they eat. Is that true?
Sonal: We don’t use too much sugar, in fact, many dishes are sweetened with unprocessed, raw jaggery.

Me: Oooh. And what about the truck loads of khakaras, fafdas, theplas that are the essentials of a Gujju’s travel bag?
Sonal: Gujaratis, including me, always have dry snacks wherever they go. One major reason to carry theplas is that it’s a super portable food item, it stays fresh for long, and it’s healthy – so much better than opening a bag of chips on the airport! However, I don’t endorse
eating just that. One has to be open towards experimenting various cuisines. If you can’t eat meat, indulge in bread and cheese – every region has its own version of bread and cheese and fresh fruits.

Me: Speaking of myths, I’m also reminded of a very famous one that goes with vegetarians. Veggie-lovers are often associated with dieting. What do you think?

Sonal: It’s a big myth. Everything that’s vegetarian is not necessarily healthy. And everything that’s non-vegetarian is not necessarily fattening. For instance, grilled chicken is so much
healthier and richer in protein than pizza Margherita.

Me: Since your work is food, unlike others who work for food, do you ever have dreams in your sleep about it?

Sonal: I don’t have dreams about it, but it is always on my mind. My brain is constantly thinking up various ingredient combinations. For instance, most people would throw away jackfruit seeds, but I was like ‘What if I bake them and use them on my cheese platter instead of nuts?’ The idea worked excellently. My daily life is full of such moments.

Me: I, for one, have never eaten jackfruit seeds, or jackfruit, for that matter. Anyhoo, tell me some examples of your craziest combinations you have tried.

Sonal: In my book Gujju Goes Gourmet, I’ve done combinations such as beetroot and strawberries, peanut butter and celery, avocado and orange juice.

Me: Tell me about the ingredients that get you high.
Sonal: Truffle mushroom, a good avocado, and dark chocolate.

Me: One underrated ingredient that people should use more often?

Sonal: Kalongi or onion seeds. This ingredient is such a flavour bomb. Add a teaspoon to your paratha dough and watch it transform the taste. Even Islam recommends kalongi in a big way for its medicinal benefits.

Me: Hmmm. We sindhis use that a lot in kokhi. Next up, I want you to assign an ingredient to the following moods:

Passion: Saffron.

Anger: Maida

Happy: Dark, dark chocolate

Curious: Chocolate-dipped grasshoppers

Lazy: Mac and cheese

Me: Hmmm. One food blog/book that you worship?

Sonal: I’m in love with www.luckypeach.com. It feeds the food geek in me.

Me: Besides food, and writing, and food writing, what else are you passionate about?

Sonal: Fitness, but not the kinds that follow fads. I don’t believe in depriving myself of good, natural fat (I love ghee!). I’d rather be moderate and work out regularly.

Me: Before I let you go, is there any inspiration that you’d like to share with the aspiring food writers/chefs?

Sonal: Look beyond what you think is your culinary boundary – you never know what inspiration awaits. For example, in north-east of India chutney made out of red ants is common. Internationally, the world is going ga-ga over insect salads and smoothies. You and I won’t think of insects as food, but they are in fact a delicacy and a very nutritional one at that. So before you shun something because it’s not ‘normal’ to you, give it a good thought and explore it further, only then you will be able to write, taste, and cook better.

Me: I have waited long enough to ask this, and now my patience has worn out. What’s with the Gorgonzola? That word has got my tongue rolling in the deep (I should write about it to Adele).
Sonal: Gorgonzola is a kind of cheese – an Italian blue cheese, to be
precise. I love trying cheeses from different corners of the world. Cheese is my chocolate.

Well, now everyone knows what to get you for your birthday. Just saying.

Psst! Want to get Gujju Goes Gourmet? The book is exclusively available on the Juggernaut Books App. Download here.

Picture Courtesy: Pankaj Anand

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