For food blogger Renu Dalal, daughter of the renowned chef and cookbook author, late Tarla Dalal, cooking is in her DNA. With childhood infused with gourmet lessons, Renu’s inclination towards the culinary world comes as no surprise. And, hence, despite trying her hands at the family business, her heart couldn't resist the call of the kitchen. “I have been surrounded by food since childhood. When friends or relatives visited, the menu was never repeated. Food was often a topic of conversation with my mother: Menu planning, how to serve, and what new to add to the table,” Renu recollects.
Following her mother’s death in 2013, Renu began innovating with recipes and started documenting them. And on June 3, 2018, she paid a tribute to her mother by releasing her first recipe book, Modern Vegetarian Recipes, which she followed up with the second one, Simple & Delicious Vegetarian Recipes. A year later she launched her website. One visit to Renu’s YouTube channel is enough to make foodies drool over the lip-smacking dishes she whips up. Here, she recounts her journey. Excerpts:
Who introduced you to cooking?
My mother, Tarla Dalal, introduced me to cooking. When I was a kid, there was always delicious food being prepared in the house. There was always something new and delectable on the table. Her culinary lessons were renowned and there was a huge waiting list for them.
At what age did you first step into the kitchen?
I entered the kitchen when I was 14 and I distinctly remember I made chocolate cake.
Did you have any cooking disasters?
Not that I was aware of or remember, as my mother was there to guide me when I was young and that did make all the difference.
What was the first dish you made for your parents?
I made spinach and baked beans pizza for my parents. The combination of spinach and baked beans is really yummy.
A favourite dish you like to make frequently?
I like to make baked yoghurt. It is one of my favourite dishes. You can flavour it with either peach, mango or chocolate. Serve it in small glasses so it makes a delicious bite.
One dish you liked which your mother made?
I loved my mother’s Baked Alaska, a combination of cake, ice-cream topped with meringue. I simply adored it.
Did you begin cooking /blogging for your passion or building your brand name?
My joy and passion in life are cooking. It brings me a lot of delight when my dishes bring nourishment and joy to the tables of my readers and supporters. The positive response I receive for my recipes inspires me to create something innovative. And adding an extra tablespoon of love to your recipe makes a difference to the taste. I am now in the process of building a brand name.
What is your culinary expertise?
My culinary expertise is in inventive and fusion cuisine. Everyone is searching for something new to put on the table and my recipes provide just that. Some of my most popular dishes include idli waffle delight, chocolate pani puri, spaghetti with lentils, khakra pizza, and asparagus samosa with cheese sauce. I also like to bring new ingredients to the table, so there is a ‘wow’ element in the meal.
Food must both taste and look well. Food presentation has risen to prominence in recent years. I travel a lot and search for fresh concepts and ideas while doing so. Vegetarian and vegan cuisine is currently popular across the world. Even in the most distant locations, vegetarian cuisine is accessible.
Are you partial to Gujarati food?
As I am a Gujarati, these dishes are always in my books and on my website. I aim to write and explain my recipes in a lucid fashion so that anyone can make them.
What gave you the impetus to start a food blog?
Social media is a highly interactive platform, and following the publication of my first book, I veered towards it.
What has been your most successful post? Why do you think it was appealing?
One of my Instagram Reels on Panki did get a lot of views, compared to the number of followers I have.
Describe your writing process, from concept to publishing.
I draft my recipes, test them a few times, photograph them, edit them, and then post them on the website. I’ve written two books, so the editing and proofreading have become easier.
A memorable feast you organised?
I've organised a lot of memorable feasts, such as tasting menus, tea parties, dinners, and lunches. When the whole dinner discussion focuses on the dish, you know it's a hit. Perhaps, the colour, flavour or presentation or a combination of the three does the trick.
How do you attract new readers?
By posting and interacting regularly via photos, videos, reels and recipes.
No Bake Oreo Chocolate Tarts
This simple and easy-to-make tart tastes divine, Oreo cookie lovers, especially, will find it irresistible.
Preparation time: 5 minutes; Cooking time: 10 minutes; Refrigeration time: 3½ hours; makes 9 tarts
250 ml cream
40 grams chopped cooking dark chocolate
For the tarts
24 crushed Oreo cookies (crushed in a mixer)
5 tbsp melted butter
For the tarts: Mix the crushed Oreo cookies with the butter. Place the crushed cookies on two-inch loose bottom tart moulds. Press firmly on all sides to form the shape of a tart. Refrigerate the moulds for 30 minutes.
For the chocolate filling: Heat the cream in a vessel. Add the chopped chocolate. Mix thoroughly till the chocolate melts.
How to proceed: Pour the filling in the tart moulds. Refrigerate for two to three hours till the filling sets. Remove the tarts from the moulds. Keep in the refrigerator and use when needed.
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