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'The keywords of cooking today are 'speed' and 'easy''
Vaihayasi Pande Daniel

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October 01, 2007

Karen Anand is one of India's top food consultants.

Apart from marketing her own line of food products that range from jams and preserves to sauces and other gourmet items, Anand has anchored food shows on television and run gourmet food stores.

She has also offered catering advice to Jet Airways [Get Quote], Domino's Pizza, the Radisson and Hyatt hotel chains, multinational Hindustan Lever [Get Quote] among others and written a series of books that offer simple, tasty cooking for aspiring chefs.

Her latest book, titled Simple Cooking for the Desperate Housewife, released recently, showcases easy recipes for the harried homemaker.

In an e-mail interview with, Anand proffers a variety of tips to ensure that busy career people eat home-cooked food:

What led you to put together a cookbook titled Simple Cooking for the Desperate Housewife?

Westland (the publishing arm of Landmark book chain) commissioned me to do a series of 12 small format books and I wanted to do something out of the box and a little different, so I decided on titles (and chapters within) to suit specific needs rather than topic-wise.

Obviously, Desperate Housewives is a catchy title but also very clearly explains who it is for and the chapters within address those needs.

Why did you choose to include so many non-Indian recipes? Will a book with non-Indian recipes work only in the main metros or in smaller metros too?

The book, since it is in English, is designed mainly for metros.

I am known for international recipes made easy and when we did our research, we found people were looking for a global look and feel. There are plenty of Indian cookery books in the market.

In fact, one of the last titles in the series is Simple Cooking from Grandma's Kitchen, where I look for really simple, home-style regional Indian dishes. It will be interesting to see which does better.

India is famous for its cooking and hospitality traditions. Can that be said of the younger generation too? Is the newer generation of urban Indian comfortable with cooking?

They definitely want to try, but the key words are 'speed' and 'ease'. They don't want to spend hours looking for ingredients and slaving over a stove.

They are also interested in presentation, style, table settings and so on. They watch TV and have money to spend on a lifestyle.

So many modern Indian homes rely on a bai's cooking, who cooks at 20 houses before coming to theirs and in 20 minutes has put together a substantial but unappetising meal. Do you have any tips for young folk who don't have the time to cook themselves but need to organise healthy, tasty, daily meals?

Get organised and into the kitchen yourself. Nothing is worse than insensitive cooking and re-heating Indian food is the pits.

I have gone through all this myself recently when our cook and housekeeper of many years left us. We tried all the usual solutions but I have decided that even though I am busy, run a business and have several other responsibilities, I am not going to be subjected to bad food.

You can eat well. You have to take matters into your own hands and share the responsibility with children/ husband and so on and it works. You just have to organise yourself -- get a decent fridge/ freezer, go shopping, get yourself equipped with the recipe you want to make and so on.

How can the young Indian housewife (or househusband) make use of the freezer better?

A freezer is not my idea of the perfect meal, but in these days of time constraints and non-availability of certain products all the time it is essential, especially for non-vegetarian items. I also have people dropping in unexpectedly, for which a freezer is a perfect solution.

You get a lot of ready frozen products too which are very good -- Godrej [Get Quote] cleaned packet chicken, frozen peas, ready-to-fry spring rolls, parathas and rotis which are outstanding.

I use the freezer more as a standby but I don't think you should keep things in there beyond a couple of months.

What advice or tips can you give to young couples keen to eat healthy or light? Or cheap?

There is a big difference between light/ healthy and cheap.

Healthy food need not be boring food. Buy the next three books in my series on Gourmet Vegetarian, Staying Fit and Salads & Soups.

Also here is a question we get from our readers all the time: How do we get our kids to have better eating habits?

Let's not underestimate our children. We owe them a healthy start to make their lives richer, more aware and more vital than many of our own. And the first step is to try and change our own eating habits. There is no point depriving children of cola if they see you drinking it every evening.

Feeding children healthy food can be a frustrating experience. So what are concerned, even nutritionally conscious parents to do? Firstly, don't panic, because you're not alone. Picky eating habits, like many quirks of childhood, usually don't last long.

Understanding the origins of finicky behaviour may be helpful. It may be that children are simply not hungry at mealtimes. This usually gets ironed out when you start cutting down their junk snacking. Or, they may associate mealtimes with parental pressure.

Isn't cooking non-Indian food more expensive? How can one do this cheaply?

Yes, it sometime is because the ingredients are either imported or difficult to grow. There are several recipes which use ordinary ingredients but the preparation is simple. Read my books!

What is your opinion of India's readymade foods?

Some, like the frozen parathas are very good. I personally don't buy readymade pastas and ready-to-eat meals but I can see that they serve a need and by and large they are not unhealthy.

What are the 10 essentials every kitchen must have?

~ Two non-stick frying pans with lids (different sizes)
~ A g
lass measuring jug
~ Kitchen whisk
~ Food processor or mixer
~ OTG oven
~ Tongs (at least two sets)
~ Three knives (small, medium, large)
~ Potato peeler
~ Grater
~ Sieve (strainer), large for vegetables and pasta, small for tea
~ Can opener
~ Mortar and pestle
~ Chopping board


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