Tastes of Malhar

Tastes of Malhar

GoodEarth – August 12, 2022

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It began as a WhatsApp group within a suburban residential community, just before the pandemic struck our lives in early 2020.

It was formed by an enterprising young resident, a fine cook herself, with the objective of bringing GoodEarth Malhar foodies and professional and aspirant cooks on a common platform, laying out a buffet of manifold cuisine types.

It soon became a culinary lifeline with our outdoor activities practically coming to a standstill, amidst fear and social distancing.

It created the much needed bonhomous bonding, bringing us closer as a community in uncertain times.

It has now more than a dozen chefs and bakers who contribute regularly for commercial consumption, within and outside of Malhar.

From healthy salads to consciously crafted Mille-Feuille, with continuity and innovation in styles, Tastes of Malhar is a thriving delish of a space.

A resident of GE Patterns, Geeta Kamath’s cuisine is ‘a bit of everything’, from Turkish pizzas to Korean baos , from Odisha’s chhenapoda to Maharashtra’s kothmbeer vadi, dal varan and zhunka and the flavours of her hometown Mangalore, with its lovely chicken curries, the fish, the vegetarian fare of dals, upkari or sautéed veggies, neer dosa and coconut rice. “For me, the joy of cooking is reflected in the smiles and repeated servings that my family takes at the table and the intense satisfaction that comes through the appreciation of my friends and neighbours here in Malhar.” As the early morning sun touches her kitchen, #paetpuja by geeta sets out to make her friends and customers happy. Her Korean Bao, as one resident wrote, “…with its juicy chicken filling and the softest and sweet bun …is simply superb !!!now I wish I had ordered more as it’s vanished from the table, my family pounced on it before I could come up with a sharing strategy.”

Sahana Kashyap Singhania, a resident of GE Mosaic, who grew up with a perfectionist maternal grandmother, is a home chef and has been successfully running her cloud kitchen #homemadebysahana for several years. She specializes in Indian, Continental, Mediterranean and Asian vegetarian cuisines. A self-taught inspired cook, she believes in sharing her skills freely. Planning her menus for the community is a critical part of her kitchen discipline, one she finds particularly enjoyable. Her delectable and authentic cooking style has got her raving reviews from the community, every single time.

And as we talk of the delectable, Dr. Nafeesa Saifuddin from GE Patterns, whose foray into baking desserts began during the lockdown, is genetically and thankfully for Malhar, blessed with a sweet tooth. As with many others, when there was no option to eat out, she decided to try making whatever she felt like eating at home. However, she never knew that she would enjoy baking so much. In her own words, “The process of how a handful of ingredients changed to bring out something so delicious really intrigued me.” Her cranberry loaf, brownies and “blondies” are absolute favourites of Malhar and it is no surprise since she enjoys the process of measuring, mixing, thinking of new combinations with every new recipe she tries. As one of her happy neighbours recently shared, “ …it was absolutely delicious as a cake is meant to be. Not surprised that my entire family enjoyed this more than the cake that was next to it, bought from the fanciest cake shop in Bangalore. Nothing against it. But it did not give that warm fuzzy feeling that a birthday cake is meant to give, he kind that creates a special place in my memory account.”

We cannot talk of conscious and alternative baking (eggless/vegan/gluten free) using locally sourced whole grain flours and natural ingredients, without mentioning Abha Jain, a resident of GE Resonance. She also specializes in vegetarian cuisine from Rajasthan, Gujarat, Punjab and Uttar Pradesh.

Apart from preparing various dishes that her husband grew up eating, she found solace in baking while living in the U.S. After moving back to India, baking for her family changed into taking orders for designer cakes from her home. The beauty of the cake from outside was so mesmerising that she didn’t see what all was going inside the cake. On the occasion of her son’s 2nd. birthday, she saw his mouth turn completely blue due to the bright blue frosting he ate. That was the day she promised herself that she will never bake something that she can’t feed her child or anyone else’s. As Abha says, “It has not been easy to convince people as to why I don’t use maida, white sugar and artificial ingredients. But with the support of mothers who are on the same page, I am happy how well whole wheat cakes with minimalistic decoration have been appreciated over the years. It does take time to get used to the difference in the taste and texture, but it is totally worth it…during the lockdown the idea of educating them gave me the opportunity to start my community, Conscious Baking Collective, where we help each other to substitute harmful ingredients to more wholesome and natural ingredients that are not only delicious but also have immense nutritional benefits.

Seema Chowdhary, another resident of GE Resonance, has been the Good Samaritan all through the pandemic days, reaching out to friends and neighbours who needed homemade food and were too unwell to cook for themselves. However, in all honesty, she admits that her journey has been driven by a ‘selfish motive’ to hear her happy customers describe her food as their ‘Maa ke haath ka khana’. Her typical day begins as she steps into her kitchen and peeps into her fridge to check for available veggies which she can use, ensuring that she does not waste anything. Her North and East Indian fares are much coveted within the Malhar community.

Bidisha Ganguly, a resident of GE Terraces, enjoys cooking because she enjoys eating. It really is as simple as that. She grew up in Calcutta, a city known for taking its gastronomic urges to the level of decadence. And so, she cooked… from street to swanky, with a little bit of Calcutta and Bangladesh (formerly East Bengal) in every dish she tries her hand at from her home kitchen. What began as a therapeutic journey during the pandemic, soon became aspirational, with the encouragement from the community, giving her the confidence to expand beyond Malhar. She cooks a range of vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes from East and West Bengal regions, has a weakness for Chinese cuisine and plans to open a very ‘fishy’ cloud kitchen soon in Bangalore. She enjoys the reading and research, from etymological origin of various culinary phrases to common myths and practices across Indian kitchens. As they say, “Cooking is love made visible” and one of the greatest delights for her during the dismal days of the pandemic, was to read her customer feedbacks, drawing inspiration from their kind words to carry on with her kitchen story.

Bharathi Pradeep, a resident GE Patterns, is the Co-founder of Fluffy, specializing in organic and healthy bakes. “All my first few attempts were failures. At one moment, I thought I would never be able to bake anything good. The failures put a fire in me and I did not want to give up baking. I decided to get trained and learn the foundation of baking. I did but that opened up a can of worms in to how baking happens in the commercial world. A lot of preservatives and chemicals to hold the bread the way it is for long. I was shocked that this is what we were feeding our kids without knowing. Me and my co-sister, Meera, took this as a challenge and started trying to bake bread with only organic milled wheat and millet flour and jaggery. No preservatives, no emulsifiers and no bread improvers which are all unhealthy. This is how Fluffy was born.” For Bharathi, baking is a form of meditation and the Malhar community, especially its young residents, are Fluffy’s brand ambassadors, energizing them to fulfil their vision a good quality, good taste and a sustainable way of baking. Discover them at https://www.instagram.com/getfluffy.in/ mydukaan.io/getfluffy.

Rahel Nathan, a resident of GE Orchard, is another professional baker with an advanced level graduate degree from the Academy of Pastry and Culinary Arts, an international pastry school. She is trained in the French method of pastry making and just begun an internship at Smoor Chocolates, when Covid played spoilsport and she had to return home. Greatly disappointed and at a loose end, she started offering some of the things she had learnt in pastry school on Malhar food group. To her amazement, the response was phenomenal and there has been no looking back and her clients kept coming back for more.

Pooja Punjabi, resident of GE Mosaic, who explored different cuisines, finally chose ‘salads’ taking into account that this is an unexplored area and is still struggling to have its space on the menu in the gamut of food offerings today. Also, with the present trend of health consciousness among the new gen, she feels a salad can surely become a main course item and sees her CRUNCH contributing to that change. The process of creating a perfect salad – the correct cuts of veggies, the flavours, the colors, creating the right amalgamation of all these give her immense joy, making it an colours amazing experience since she began in early February 22. The variety of stories that have got created have been countless already. As for her, the youngest gen emerged as a complete surprise genre. She frequently receives voice messages from the little ones who have enjoyed her salads, where otherwise they would not even look at veggies. CRUNCH reached the first 100 salads in less than 10 days of launch and then over 300 in less than a month.

Conclusion:

And so, Malhar’s kitchen stories continue to flourish, with more chefs and bakers joining in since its inception in October 2020. What holds this group together beyond their love of food, is the community’s support and motivation for the contributors to constantly move out of their comfort zones and experiment with new genres of cooking. Innovation is definitely the secret ingredient in the Tastes of Malhar.