Richa is as comfortable sharing recipes for Indian curries as she is tips for making an easy pasta sauce. Her food stories are rich and varied, and include her journey as a food blogger in Bangalore. If you ask her about cooking Indian food at home, she'll tell you many of them can be done in under 30 minutes and give you a list of spices to stock up on. Find out why curry powder is not on the list.
Tell us about My Food Story.
I started My Food Story sometime in December 2014. It was just one of those weekends when I was bored, and decided that I wanted to take up a project, which was different from my work. I've always enjoyed writing and food has been such an important part of my life that a food blog seemed like a natural choice. My Food Story is a way of sharing a little about my life with my readers and the food that goes along with it. With the blog, I also want to encourage people my age to cook more often at home. It's become so easy to eat outside these days that most people have forgotten how tasty and healthy home-cooked food can be. I generally keep my recipes simple and quick so that someone can still come back home after a busy day at work and have a meal on the table in under an hour.
Why do you write about food?
I grew up in a family where conversations invariably revolve around food and what our next meal is going to be. And I absolutely love cooking! It's my way of relaxing after a long day at work. Plus I love experimenting with flavors, picking up a cuisine, trying to learn it and reading cookbooks. Writing about food comes naturally to me, and I love the joy that comes with creating a stellar recipe.
You are based in Bangalore, India. What should we know about Bangalore food in relation to Indian cuisine?
Bangalore is a cosmopolitan city, and there are people from various regions and cultures living here. So we are lucky to have restaurants serving great food and get a chance to sample pretty much everything. One of the most popular dishes in Bangalore are the dosas. They are thin rice and lentil pancakes which are usually served with a coconut chutney and sambhar (spiced lentil curry). Indian food actually changes every 100 miles or so within the country, so if you travel within India, you'll be amazed at the diversity in produce, culture, flavors and how food is prepared. For example, parts of Western India such as Gujarat are primarily vegetarian, whereas parts of Eastern India such as Assam are primarily non-vegetarian. In fact, food within a particular city can be vastly different as well because most large Indian cities have people from various cultures living in them, and all of them bring their own twist to the food.
How does your location in India influence the recipes you share?
My story in terms of the food that inspires me and recipes that I share on the blog is quite interesting. I'm from north India and my husband is a south Indian. Our cultures, cooking style and food is vastly different. He prefers rice, whereas I prefer chapatis (flatbread) with my food. Over the three years that we've been married, we've both grown to love each other's food, and that's evident in the recipes I share on my blog too. It's given me an opportunity to learn and appreciate a completely different cuisine. For example, the Fish Curry recipe on my blog is inspired by something that his grandma makes and is one of my favorite recipes!
What are some of the essential ingredients one should stock up on to make Indian food at home?
Indian food is a lot about the spices, or masalas as we call them, and the way you treat them while cooking. To cook Indian food, the first thing would be to stock up on ground and whole spices like cumin, chili powder, coriander, bay leaf, turmeric, garam masala and mustard. These are essentials that every Indian kitchen will have, and most curries or stir fries have some or most of these spices. I can't stop myself from clarifying here that we don't have anything called 'curry powder' in India. It's a western concept and curry generally refers to anything with gravy.
You write about your blogging journey on the blog too. Can you share with us some of the most important lessons you've learned from blogging about food?
I think one of the first things that hit me when I started blogging is that it's hard work if you want to become an established food blogger. Having said that, it's also tons of fun. As a blogger, I think it's very important to find your voice, be authentic and build an identity for yourself. It's the only thing that will set you apart from the rest, because nobody can copy YOU. That identity can translate into your recipes, your writing or your photography. It's also important to focus on photography, because I believe these days people eat with their eyes first. After I completed six months as a blogger, I wrote a post about what I learnt.
I'm currently juggling Will Write for Food by Dianne Jacob and The Flavor Thesaurus by Niki Segnit. I think it's a must-read for any food blogger or writer. I've also been reading a lot of Indian recipe books recently because there is so much about Indian cuisine that I still don't know. Blogs are my favorite easy reading material. Pinch of Yum is my absolute favorite and I've been following them for over three years now. A few others that I enjoy reading are Lady and Pups, David Lebovitz, Joy the Baker, The Kitchn and Food52.
What's your favorite recipe on My Food Story.
This is a really tough question, but I think I'll have to say my Whole Baked Tandoori Cauliflower. It's one of those recipes which tastes fantastic, looks stunning on the table and makes everyone love a boring vegetable like cauliflower.
Question from Kimberly of The Little Plantation: How do you edit your food photos? (Click here to read Kimberly's interview)
I edit my photos using Lightroom because I love its workflow! It helps me keep all my photos in one place, check the history and make changes as I go. Lightroom is perfect for those who don't need to edit pixel level detail. It also gives you the ability to sync edits, so if you have 50 pictures that have been taken with the same setting/environment, you can just edit them with one click.
A few features that I regularly use within Lightroom are to adjust exposure and contrast, adjust highlights and shadows and add a slight vignette to my images.