Indulge in Delicious Vegetarian Cuisine With Aparna Balasubramanian of My Diverse Kitchen
Aparna started her decade old blog My Diverse Kitchen to document various recipes she learnt from the Palakkad Iyer community that she was brought up in. When life took her to Goa, she assimilated that culture and developed a lot more recipes blending tradition and modernity. That is why you can find amongst the recipes both Haseelback potatoes and Unakaya, Noreweigian Apple pie and Kothamalli thokku. Similarly, the blog is truly the ultimate destination to find multi-cuisine dishes which stands true to her vegetarian upbringing.
Today, in this interview, Aparna talks about her inspiration, her roots and how they all come together in her blog- My Diverse Kitchen.
What inspired you to start “My Diverse Kitchen”?
It started with a desire to document and share dishes from native Palakkad Iyer cuisine. This was way back in 2007 and I had just discovered the world of blogs. A food blog seemed a good and creative way to do this, talk about my food discoveries and virtually share the food I cooked in my kitchen. A little encouragement from my then young daughter and My Diverse Kitchen was born.
What would be a Palakkad Iyer dish that you simply cannot live without?
That’s a real tough one to answer because that’s almost like asking a mother to pick one favourite from her many children! I’m not sure I can pick just one. Perhaps it would be the ultimate comfort food combination of Thayir Chaadham (seasoned curd/ yogurt rice) with a side of Kadugumaanga (spicy baby mango pickle) or maybe Idlis and Mulagapodi (a spicy chutney powder).
What are your cooking inspirations?
I could be inspired to cook by so, so many things. It could be memories of food from my childhood, the food cooked by my mother, grandmother, other family or friends. It could be fresh and seasonal produce at the market or a new ingredient discovery. Maybe something that came up in discussions with friends, something I read in a book or the net, something I watched on television or saw in a cookbook…
What are some of the achievements that you are proud of?
My food blog opened up a whole new world of information and opportunities. I discovered new foods, met new people and made friends for life, became a good bread baker, discovered food photography, did photography workshops and shoots, organised an all India food blogger meet, earned accolades, found recognition, collaborated with brands…
Being a food photographer, do you have any tips to make food look more appetizing?
There are many things one can do to make food look good in photographs. Here are the most basic ones. Most importantly, before you style or photograph food, know and understand your food.
- Use the freshest ingredients you can find to cook your food and garnish it. Use the garnish to create a colour/ texture contrast.
- Plate your food neatly without smears and spills, unless that is the effect you’re creating.
- Make sure the light is right. The light falling on the food should throw up the texture in the food and create the right balance between highlights and shadows.
- Keep your styling simple. Remember the food is the most important thing in food photography. Using neutral coloured props will highlight the colour of food or make the colours “pop”.
- Choose the right angle to shoot.
- Photograph your food photography as soon as the food is cooked and plated. The longer certain foods sit on the plate, the less appetizing they look.
Could you tell us a bit about your family.
We are a small vegetarian family of three and love good food. Though our native Palakkad Iyer cuisine is what I mostly cook and takes preference at the table, we enjoy exploring other cuisines so long as they’re vegetarian. Originally from Palakkad, both as a family and as a community, we now live in Cochin in Kerala.
Finally, what should a new reader expect from your blog?
I have been blogging about food for over a decade so expect lots of recipes, all of them vegetarian, and plenty of food photography. There are also food photography tutorials and the occasional non-food photography.
The recipes on the blog are both Indian and from across the world, and a whole lot of them are simple to cook. You will find a bit of food history in the introduction to many recipes because I find history of foods fascinating. You will also find plenty of egg free baking and recipes for home-made breads, another passion of mine.