The Herald on Sunday

Only got 30 minutes to cook dinner? Serve up an Indian feast with Chetna Makan

The Great British Bake Off contestant tells Prudence Wade about her latest cookbook – and why it’s all about saving time in the kitchen


There are a lot of misconcept­ions around Indian food: that it’s a “cheat” meal from your local takeaway, or can only be made at home if you spend hours slaving over a hot stove. These kind of stereotype­s make Chetna Makan’s eyes roll. “People think it will take hours or sometimes days where you soak and you ferment – which is all true, but it’s not how we cook every day,” she says with exasperati­on.

Although it’s seven years since Makan appeared on The Great British Bake Off, she’s still roundly referred to as a “Bake Off favourite” and now she’s onto her fifth cookbook: Chetna’s 30 Minute Indian: Quick And Easy Everyday Meals. It’s her latest challenge to preconceiv­ed ideas around Indian food. In 2019’s Chetna’s Healthy Indian she turned the idea that “Indian means greasy and unhealthy” on its head, she explains.

There was also another huge driving force behind her latest book: the pandemic. Like so many cooks, Makan noticed a shift in our approach to food over the past year or so. She says her new cookbook was “written in the first lockdown [in 2020], completely at home. There was a big surge of trying all these amazing sourdoughs and breads at home, and what I saw with my friends was it started with a bang – and then after a few weeks, everyone was just like, ‘I don’t want to cook, and I don’t want to spend so much time in the kitchen.’”

This got Makan thinking more deeply about what kind of food people actually want to cook, and she had a lightbulb moment: “Maybe it’s a good idea if I could do something in 30 minutes,” she mused. The idea of whipping up a delicious dish in just 15 minutes makes her belly-laugh, but it would seem 30 minutes is the sweet spot.

And no, Makan says almost wearily, it’s not just a book of curries. There are some delicious curry meals catering to all different spice levels, but it’s got recipes for “everything – a bit of starters, a bit of snacks, some big meals, some small meals, for all seasons”.

This book was a unique experience, she says, because lockdown meant her children

(Sia, 13 and Yuv, 11) could see first-hand how it all came together.

Luckily for Makan, her kids ended up being a big help.

“They would be like ‘Mum how many recipes have you done? Mum, have you done 10 or not?’, because they knew my deadlines,” she says with a laugh. For Makan, one of the silver linings of lockdown was the opportunit­y to get her children to understand what she does for a living.

“I was glad because they saw how much hard work goes into writing a book,” she says. “It’s not just like, ‘Oh, I’m writing a cookbook’.”

They also ended up being her best and worst critics. “They definitely have 100% honest opinions,” she says with a playful groan.

“You know whether it’s good, whether it’s really good, not that great, or ‘I really don’t want to eat it’. They’ve got all these levels of opinions.”

Sia and Yuv must have eaten like royalty during lockdown, as many of the dishes in the book look truly sumptuous – there are generous plates of spicy paneer and crispy spinach koftas swimming in creamy curry sauce.

Readers might be surprised these dishes only take half an hour. Makan says her inspiratio­n was “literally the clock”, and she worked backwards from there.

“I was trying to think, OK, what can we make today in 30 minutes? It was what can I do in that time but also keeping a variety: some people might like it spicy, some people like lots of gravy.”

Makan gets excited when talking about her recipes, but she’s refreshing­ly honest and like so many people, she’s become sick of eating every single meal at home.

Speaking at the beginning of lockdown restrictio­ns easing in England, Makan’s project was researchin­g bakeries to visit – so she could try someone else’s cakes for a change.

Visiting restaurant­s is top of her to-do list: “Just to change your scenery and have nice food,” she says longingly. “I’m so looking forward to it. I cook good food, but it just doesn’t taste as good as if someone else is cooking it.”

 ??  ??
 ??  ?? And for those nights you aren’t at a restaurant, and need something delicious, fast and packed full of flavour? It might be time to try some of Makan’s new recipes.
Chetna’s 30 Minute Indian by Chetna Makan, £20
And for those nights you aren’t at a restaurant, and need something delicious, fast and packed full of flavour? It might be time to try some of Makan’s new recipes. Chetna’s 30 Minute Indian by Chetna Makan, £20

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United Kingdom