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 Malhar 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.”
Bidisha Ganguly, a resident of Malhar Medley, 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.
Sahana Kashyap Singhania, a resident of Malhar Mosaic, who grew up with a perfectionist Paternal 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 Malhar 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, the kind that creates a special place in my memory account.”
Sandhya’s journey with Tastes of Malhar started when she moved in during 2020. She used to bake a lot of cakes and bread – just for her family at home. When a few residents actually tasted her bakes, they suggested that she should start commercially – and that’s how her journey began. When she sold her first cake and received positive feedback, there was no turning back and her baking calling took wings and soared. The love and positivity that she receives from the residents is what inspires her to continue. Sometimes when she strolls down the road, people tell her that her preparations were a part of their family celebrations and that’s the kind of feedback that makes every day perk up. She does try out new recipes to keep her menu vibrant – which can be stressful at times, as she has to perfect it before taking it to the world. Sandhya has to balance a toddler, the kitchen for her family and her cuisine offerings which can be a tough act. One of the most memorable moments that she had at Malhar was when someone reached out and it was an SOS where they needed a cake – with a very few hours to make it. She took up the challenge, despite the short notice period and the cake turned out absolutely fabulous – the entire family loved it.
Rosemary Dean, a resident of Malhar Resonance comes from a heritage of good cooking. Her family as well as that of her husband’s are amazing in the kitchen. She probably channels all that expertise into every serving that she makes. Her foray into food started many years ago when Malhar did not have restaurants and delivery services. They started with potlucks which evolved into people who had tasted her food telling her to get onto Foody Buddy. Since there were not many who were doing meat dishes, she did so, and there was no looking back. She was then called upon to do birthday parties and other get-togethers. During the time when a new family would move in to Malhar, they would want to know where they could get food from for the next few days, and Rose’s name would come up amongst the other 3 or 4 popular cooks in the community. To her, this is an element of bonding, and welcoming a new family into the fold. Once she was actually called upon by a friend to cook for her family that were internationally multicultural, spanning almost five different nations – each with different tastes and spice levels. She did so with gusto, and the best reward was the family eagerly asking her what would be next on the menu. There have been days when people ordered for a single dish and instead of them just walking away, Rose has invited them in (total strangers at times) to dine with her family. Today, despite restaurants, delivery services and multiple other options opening up, Rose’s menu is still in demand with people consistently asking her when is she going to put up a dish. What touches Rose the most is the love and appreciation that she receives from the Malhar community. The genuine outpourings are what keeps her spirits high. Her kitchen has opened up doors into people’s hearts and souls.
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.