Starting the Instaspiration series with none other than my favorite couple Ajit Bhaskar & Nandini Vishwananth. I have been following them on Instagram since 2013, from then till now they keep sharing interesting posts everyday. I never thought that vegetarian food can look exotic too and Ajit’s kitchen experiments proved me wrong. Nandini is witty, beautiful,loves her job and shares interesting pictures & stories about her workplace as well.
Here is my fun interview session with them :
From Marinara Sauce to Brinji Rice I have followed lots of recipes from your ReluctantChefs blog. How did the idea of blogging started and how did it transform your food based journey?
Nandu : Hmm, we had a very typical arranged marriage and had no clue about each other. The only thing that we bonded over was the love for food. And the penchant to experiment with all kinds of vegetarian food. I wasn’t shy of eating food I’d not eaten before – pastas or elaborate desserts that I couldn’t pronounce the name of, I loved the experience. And having been in the US, and loving food the way he does, he was more than thrilled 🙂
We decided to start blogging not to note down recipes of our mothers, honestly. I had a personal blog and I am fairly expressive. I also thought that since he experiments so much, we forget very often how we made a particular dish, but remember the moment. Wanted the dish too 😀 So, we started the blog as a couple activity – meaning team work. We are quite different from each other and something had to click to sustain our relationship.
Blogging is an addiction in my opinion. You did have a huge following base for the blog and you were active on that too. Was it difficult for you guys to give up up at that point of time?
Nandu : Heh! I’m not sure we had a huge following but we didn’t bother. We were naive too, and I was quite amazed at everyone’s blogs. Took me some time to figure out that sometimes people don’t even read the recipe before commenting! Once I figured that out, I think I was disillusioned with the food blogging world, honestly. And the need to be interesting with every recipe post – a story from your past or how we bonded – something I could come up with only for a limited period drawing from real-life experiences. We got busy and had no time to really sit down and draw back on memories. I wanted to chronicle recipes (which we do now on paper or on Evernote) but not really spend time on a blog. So, it wasn’t difficult to give it up.
Though we have different social media platforms and am sure your ardent followers would be following you in Twitter or Instagram but do you miss any of your avid readers of the blog?
Nandu : Nope 🙂 We don’t believe we had any such avid readers and we weren’t cooking anything out of this world, or being creative. My contribution was Lemon Rasam! I’m sure there are 100 others who can make way better Rasam than I do!
The following questions I had specifically asked Nandini to answer them 😀
1.How do you handle Ajit’s female fan following 😉 We keep pestering him for recipes and keep on praising him for his food pics. What would be your reaction when you read those comments? Aren’t you annoyed of us?
LOL, interestingly, I’m asked this question every time by everyone, but it hardly matters. It’s great to see a really shy guy go on social media and be the fun guy he is 🙂 And share what he knows. So it’s fun. And doesn’t bother me. The key for me has been that we give a lot of space to each other and trust each other to do the right thing. He isn’t a kid who needs minding or someone to worry about his fan following. He knows what he is getting into. And he knows how much he can share about us. So, I sometimes love reading those comments to get a good laugh. Only a person who lives with him knows how annoying he can be 😛
2.From your posts I know that you don’t like to waste any sauces or jams or any ingredient for that matter. How do you plan your grocery shopping? Sometimes it is difficult to use certain type of Cheeses,Herbs within a specific period. Any tips for storing such expensive ingredients?
I’m very OCD that way. I hate wasting food. Just hate it. And I love experimenting with stuff in the fridge/marinades/sauces to create a dish. Sometimes, I over experiment and it is gross, but very satisfying 😀
We have rough menus we plan and know what we like and what we want to eat. He shops for grocery mostly nowadays, though that used to be our favourite couple activity at one point. I still go if we are planning to host friends or something, but now he steps next door to our Hopcoms to pick up veggies, so I’m good doing my thing, of just being the chief taster. Tips-wise – honestly, we buy enough for us to last for a dish/couple of dishes – so don’t majorly use any hacks apart from herbs in water, cheese in the chill tray, wrapped in butter paper.
3.Are there are any instances when you were extremely hungry and Ajit’s experimental dinner/lunch preparation wasn’t upto the mark? What would you do then?
Yes. I come home late from work quite frequently and a lot of the times, when I’ve had a bad day or if I’ve been unwell, all I want is Rasam Saadam or Thair saadam. There have been days I’ve called him and told him to eat whatever he wants and just ensure rice and curd is ready for me. There was one such instance I came back home at 10 PM to see a grinning Ajit making Rasagulla. Not in one method, but experimenting with 3 different methods with 3 different results. And a sticky kitchen. Needless to say, I broke down that night 🙂
I tell him honestly it wasn’t great. I don’t sugar coat and lie to him. What is the point? He will make the dish again because he thinks I liked it and I hate the dish!
4.Who is your favorite inspirational chef/blogger/cookbook author and why?
There are very few blogs I follow now, honestly. Anita’s A Mad Tea Party, Manisha’s Indian Food Rocks and Nandita’s Saffrontrail work well for everyday meals. Otherwise, I quite like the Smitten Kitchen and Joy the Baker for baked goods. I particularly love regional food, so if I crave for a specific region’s food, I directly go to specific blogs, as opposed to look at a 100 blogs, honestly 🙂
Don’t have a favourite cookbook author, though I’m hoping to try out Ottolenghi’s recipes soon
Now its time for Ajit to answer my questions :
1.When I look at your instagram feed, there is always a ‘wow’ factor in each and every dish you post. Be it Enna Kathrikai kari or homemade pasta, how do you achieve that perfection?
I have a dark secret. I *never* measure while cooking or baking. So perfection is out of question 🙂 As far as cooking goes, we’re never really taught to measure. As far as baking goes, even though it’s more ‘science’, I have figured out basic recipes/guides for making certain things (cakes, cookies, etc.) from books so I use them as guiding principles. But I rarely measure and bake these days. But the technique (ice cold butter for pastries is an example) is important and I try to get better at it.
But the bottom line is, to me, food has to taste good. Everything else is secondary. And taste to me is very mood dependent. Take vethakuzhambu for example. Sometimes, I’m in a sweet/sour tangy mood so I add some vellam. Sometimes, I want that super tartness to go with thayir sadam so I skip the vellam and add more tamarind. So perfection is extremely subjective. If the food tastes good and brings a smile on the face of whoever is eating it, I’m happy 🙂
2.I need one separate dictionary to decode your Instagram Caption 😉 It will have the food items named in various languages Tamil,Marathi,Hindi,urudu etc etc 😀 How many languages do you know?
I get trolled for this but my idea is to be as accurate as possible in the description 😀
I’ve been raised in various parts of the country (Delhi, Jaipur, Haldia, Mumbai, Gujarat) so I’ve been fortunate enough to have experienced various cuisines and cultures while growing up. That, coupled with my interest in learning about other cuisines, probably results in me trying to describe a dish from that region’s perspective. But I don’t think I’ve been verbose or tried to complicate a description deliberately 😛
3.In Nandu’s speciality dishes, whats your favorite?
Lemon Rasam. Hands down. It’s such a simple dish. But she makes it waayyy better than her Amma or even her paatti. I don’t know what magic she has in her hands but nobody makes lemon rasam like her 🙂
4.If you have to be proud of ‘that one particular meal’ you have cooked for others, what would that be?
That’s a tough one. I guess once my in laws and my grandmother in law (m-i-l’s amma) came for lunch. We had made North Indian fare. My father in law is an extremely picky eater. If he eats something for the second time, that means it’s good. He had 3 servings of the baked pineapple starter so I was stoked!
Paatti-in-law asked for recipes of some of the things I had made so I felt quite proud 🙂 That’s an example of when I thought the food was good but the reaction was overwhelming for me.
In another instance, I had fixed an Italian meal for a couple of friends. On that day, every single thing turned out perfect. I had baked some garlic knots, made pasta from scratch and a baked a cheesecake for dessert. And a salad. I think they liked it but when I tasted everything, I was really proud/happy. So the reaction wasn’t overwhelming but I was really proud 🙂
5.I have seen people who are runners follow a disciplined eating habits. Being a Marathon runner, do you follow any specific routine before the event?
Yes I have a fairly strict routine before the run.
Eat quite a bit of food before a marathon. No restrictions but I (in general) avoid rice at night. Other than that, anything goes, pizza, pav bhaji, you name it 🙂 And i *have* to end the meal with a dessert 😀
Get at least 7 hours of sleep. Before sleeping, keep all the stuff ready (electrolyte solutions, food during run, charging phone that acts as a music player etc.).
I don’t eat anything before the run. Maybe a handful of nuts and raisins but nothing huge.
I also don’t stretch/exercise before the run. I just show up and start running. The walk to the venue is warm up enough.
That’s pretty much it 🙂
New Blog URL : www.delectablyyours.tumblr.com
Thank you so much A & N for letting me write about you guys and for those wonderful,straight forward answers.
Keep inspiring like you always do. Can’t wait to meet you both in person someday and try out the yummy lemon rasam,homemade pasta!