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.

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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.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Chetna Makan (@chetnamakan)

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 a delicious dish up in just 15 minutes makes her belly-laugh, but it would seem like 30 minutes is the sweet spot.

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Chetna Makan (@chetnamakan)

 

 

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 actually 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 actually get her children to understand what she does for a living. “I was glad because they actually 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.”

 

 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Chetna Makan (@chetnamakan)

 

 

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: like so many people, she’s become sick of eating every single meal at home. We spoke at the beginning of lockdown restrictions easing in England, and Makan’s latest 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, photography by Nassima Rothacker, is published by Mitchell Beazley.

Chetna's 30-minute Indian: Quick and easy everyday meals
  • Amazon Kindle Edition
  • Makan, Chetna (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)

Last update on 2021-08-02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

 

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