Recently I have come across numerous articles on food that can beat lockdown blues, how food can keep depression at bay and many more. Research claims that food immensely benefits our mind, helps lift our mood and cheer us up. So, eating well and eating right is important not just for our health but happiness as well. But we knew that already!
No wonder, the lockdown has seen emergence of so many home chefs. My Facebook, Insta pages and WhatsApp groups are flooded with images of delicacies that people are making at home. From innovatively made Maggi or sandwiches to Indian delicacies to continental dishes, you can find them all.
One such home chef who has been tempting me with mouth-watering images is my friend and colleague, Lovina Gujral. While I struggle with household chores and work from home, Lovina makes time to treat her family with delectable dishes almost every evening. It could be anything from roast duck leg with veggies to pork belly to burgers or pizzas. And it’s not just the food, it’s the presentation too. Lovina could give any speciality chef run for his/her money!
“We are foodies,” says Lovina. “We would eat out quite often before the lockdown. Since it’s not possible now, I make something special almost every day for dinner.”
“I just love watching people enjoy the food, the happiness and the satisfaction in their faces, and that’s enough for me,” adds Lovina.
Surprisingly, Lovina was not much into cooking in her younger days. “I was a tomboy. I would happily do outdoor work like standing in the queue for a gas connection, paying the bills etc., but never enter the kitchen. My sister, Nagina, was the experimental cook in our family. Even after I got married, we would mostly order in or eat out.”
Lovina developed an interest in cooking after moving to Bangkok. “We became friends with a lovely couple, Gavin and Neetinder, who would organize dinner parties quite often. Those were elaborate dinners starting with a palate cleanser and appetiser and ending with desserts. All kinds of dishes from continental, Italian to Asian to Thai were served in those dinners. That’s when I became curious about cooking and started experimenting.”
Her kitchen in Bangkok had all kinds of gadgets, ingredients were easily available there. Lovina would call up her friend for the recipe or try something innovative. “Even now I don’t follow a particular recipe. I google and read 3 to 4 different recipes of the same dish, even the likes of Jamie Oliver. I mull over them for a few days and then when I enter the kitchen, I just know what to do.”
When asked to share a few of her favourite recipes, Lovina pauses for a while and then smiles. “The problem is I never repeat the same recipe twice. I would never use the same sauces and condiments for roasting a duck leg or lamb or pork ribs. I sometimes don’t even remember what I do. I once made a vegetable casserole by emptying a few almost finished bottles of sauces in the veggies. My non-veg family polished the vegetables in no time. My daughter has been asking me to make the same casserole again since, but I can’t. I don’t remember the sauces that I used.”
“One reason why I try making so many varied dishes at home is my daughter Rhea. She has been exposed to a variety of cuisines since she was a little girl. Three-year-old Rhea would enjoy sushi when most Indian parents wouldn’t serve such food to their kids. Somehow Rhea never developed a taste for Indian food, so I keep making continental and oriental dishes at home.”
“Frankly, even I am not very enthused about Indian cooking. Sometimes I instruct the cook at home. I tweak the recipe a little when I do that. Instead of onion tomato gravy, I encourage the cook to use curd or mustard. Maybe it’s because of east Indian friends like you who forever mock Punjabi’s for using onion tomato base in every recipe,” laughs Lovina.
“One thing I never felt like making is anything sweet, be it Indian desserts or cakes or puddings. I have never made anything sweet in my entire life. My daughter Rhea enjoys baking cakes and muffins though.”
But cooking every day, after a fairly busy work schedule. “I enjoy it,” says Lovina. “I get into the kitchen every evening around 7 without any plan. I check out the ingredients available and then decide what to make.”
As Lovina gets into the kitchen to surprise her family with another delightful dinner, I am waiting for the lockdown to end so that I can join her dinner table!