From mom's kitchen

From mom's kitchen
Amrita Raichand’s love affair with food began when she was only eight years old. She loved helping her mother out in the kitchen, and she believes she has been endowed with her mother’s excellent cooking skills. “As a kid, my birthday parties were legendary and were the most awaited because of the lovely spread my mother used to put out,” says Amrita.

As Amrita grew older, her love for food only grew stronger. She continued cooking for her two brothers when they moved to Mumbai from Dhanbad. She soon entered the glitzy world of modelling -- remember the iconic Whirlpool ads on TV a decade ago? Then, as Amrita says, life happened, and cooking took a back seat.

But the world of food wasn’t done with this foodie as yet. One day, chef Sanjeev Kapoor came knocking on Amrita’s door to ask her to host a cooking show for kids on his new channel. And Mummy Ka Magic was born on FoodFood channel.

Amrita initially found the task quite challenging, but she soon realised that she had to cook like a mother and not like a chef. And this helped her gain an audience mostly comprising mothers who wanted to feed their kids nutritious meals, but didn’t know how. Today, Amrita is busy with the show, her new YouTube channel and a book that she is writing.

Here are some excerpts from a conversation with the celebrity chef:

Tell us about your YouTube channel, ‘Being Amrita: Chef & Beyond’.
The YouTube channel came into existence after a lot of thought. I realised that I was working in a cocooned work space, and wanted to move away from my comfort zone. I wanted to create a brand for myself, where I could decide when and what to cook. For instance, it was the season of mangoes recently, and I wanted to create mango-inspired dishes. It has been a challenging task. But the channel has been doing well and has gained quite a following.

Is healthy eating possible in today’s age?
Yes, absolutely! We live in an age where there are so many options available to us. The only problem is that we aren’t aware of them. We don’t know how to transform an unhealthy meal into a healthy one. If I tell you I can make pizza base with ragi flour, you wouldn’t believe me. But I had actually made it for a Sunday brunch, and parents were surprised by the number of pizzas the kids had eaten by the end of the day. Once, I made tricoloured pasta with ingredients like carrots and spinach. When you want to make something healthy, you don’t have to delete things from the dish entirely. Instead, follow the recipe, and add in some healthy ingredients.

What are your favourite ingredients?
Since I primarily cook for children, the most obvious choice that comes to my mind right now is dark chocolate. For savoury dishes, I love to use some good quality cheese. The key is to use good quality ingredients in controlled quantities.

What are the most common mistakes parents make while cooking for their kids?
I think parents aren’t aware of healthy cooking, which is why ‘mistakes’ happen. They don’t use their creativity. They don’t know that even a boring meal can be presented in an appealing manner.
Also, a lot of pre-set notions about how kids don’t eat anything that their mothers cook, adds to the mess. When I became a mother, I realised healthy doesn’t have to be boring or repulsive. It need not be something exotic either. It’s all about presenting everyday food in a way that’s appealing for children. You also have to understand that kids will be kids at the end of the day. You can’t expect them to eat everything that you put in front of them.

How can we make everyday meals healthy and yummy for kids?
Firstly, presentation is the key. For instance, use silicon moulds to plate up regular meals. Use ketchup and noodles to make smiley faces on your child’s plate. These are just simple things. I would also suggest that you cook junk food at home itself because then you can control the amount of sugar, oil and spices in the dish. It’s not just about having healthy ingredients in your kitchen, but also about your approach to those healthy ingredients. For instance, the captain of the Afghanistan football team once gave me the recipe of a healthy milkshake with bananas, grapes, walnuts among other ingredients. But I realised my son wouldn’t be interested in it. So, I deleted grapes from the recipe and added some dark chocolate chips. My son gobbled it up! It’s all about tweaking recipes to your taste.

What are the must-haves in a healthy kitchen?
Lots of greens like amaranth, paneer, some seeds and nuts, a lot of fresh herbs, dark chocolate and hung yogurt. Even ingredients like butter and ghee are healthy when consumed in the right quantities.

Is it important to have a formal training to become a good chef?
I don’t think it’s absolutely necessary, but if you do choose to take it up, a formal training will help you out. I trained as a chef because I wanted to learn how a commercial kitchen worked. Professional training teaches you a lot of things, like shortcuts in cooking and some damage control techniques too.

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