What’s cooking in quarantine?

Now is the time to bring out the chef inside you and make some sumptuous dishes at home. Food enthusiasts from Amritsar teach you a thing or two about authentic delicacies; from Kashmiri to traditional dhaba style to typically Amritsari...

What’s cooking in quarantine?

Gayatri Peshawaria

Neha Saini

Cooking could be therapeutic, pure passion or merely a survival skill. But cooking during lockdown has become a fad, with its own hashtag! Quarantine cooking videos have proved that baking could be an effective stress-buster. While cooking videos have stormed the social media platforms during lockdown, a few culinary experts are busy reaching out to people with some knowledge, baked in health and flavours.

Zero-waste kitchens

Food enthusiast Gayatri Peshawaria has always believed in food education rather than just cooking up a feast for the eyes only. Sharing a special bond with food, she has been running ‘Farm to Form’ food education program for schools-kids, as also master classes. She recently started with Lockdown Series on Instagram featuring noted culinary experts, including Manjeet Gill, Reetika Gill, Sadat Hussain and Paul Newnham, director, SDG2, Advocacy Hub (Chefs Manifesto). “The series focused on healthy cooking, including recipes that use concepts of ancient Ayurveda to increase immunity. The objective is to propagate a sense of togetherness, joy and good health through comfort food. It comprises talks, demos; recipes with chefs, experts, authors, et al,” she shared. Introducing the concepts of different types of ingredients used in cooking, using organic produce to zero-waste kitchens, preparing vegan recipes using ingredients found in Indian kitchens, her series is a mix of taste and sustainability goals. Peshawaria had previously contributed to celebrity chef Vikas Khanna’s book Amritsar—Flavours of the Golden City.

Back to the roots

Expanding her knowledge of cooking beyond the conventions and taking her role as a noted culinary expert a notch higher, Jyoti Arora has been devoting her time to exploring heritage cuisine during lockdown. Penning her maiden book, documenting the lost recipes of undivided Punjab, or working alongside her mentor, celebrity chef Vikas Khanna, Jyoti Arora is a not a fan of fusion food. Precisely the reason why she has been dedicating her quarantine cooking Insta-videos and live cooking classes to teach people about authentic Kashmiri cuisine! “My husband belongs to Srinagar and every time I went there, it was like learning about the ingredients, the staple food and rich cuisine. There are still so many traditional methods of cooking and recipes that been lost to changing times. So, I try to explore and educate people about them,” says the former MasterChef finalist. Her latest recipe of Tilver, a traditional Kashmiri snack that resembles bagel or a doughnut and Khatte Moong Daal Laddoo were an instant hit with her followers. “These are recipes that are relatively easy to make and represent the traditional heritage food. Tilver is something we used to eat from local community kitchen (kandroo) in Srinagar.”

The simple twist

Using her experience at food reality show Masterchef and then turning into Amritsar’s youngest food entrepreneur, Drishti Nanda has been teaching her followers to turn simple, everyday recipes into fine dining spectacles. From traditional dhaba style daal tadka to butter chicken to baking chocolate cake, the difference comes with presentation.

“Since the lockdown makes it difficult to procure different ingredients for a complicated recipe, I focus on the demand to share simple, basic recipes. Whether it is pasta or daal tadka, one can always add their own twist through innovative presentation. I use easily available ingredients, Indian recipes with rich flavours to engage with my audience,” says Drishti. She also shares healthy replacement recipes for baking breads, both popular Indian ones as well as international.

Home-cooked indulgences

Shikha Chopra, a food vlogger, who has been curating Amritsar Culinary Tours, an initiative where she provides guided culinary tours of Amritsar, says that extended lockdown has made people miss the culinary indulgence that the holy city is famous for. “Amritsaris are known for their appetite for deliciously traditional food, whether it’s the ever-popular kulcha or the gur ka halva or the rich glass of lassi. So, the next best option is to prepare them at home. “The reason her social media space Amritsar Culinary Tours uploads curated recipes, stories behind the popular eateries and food of the city. “It keeps people engaged as well as gives them a lesson in the history of our food heritage,” says Shikha. Her page is dedicated to sharing information and recipes of popular Amritsari food.

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