‘People think if they are educated, they don’t need to cook’ – Archana’s Kitchen aims to change a millennial mind-set

September 14, 2018

If you enjoy interesting cuisines but hate to cook, you might be losing out on a world of new experiences. Archana Doshi, Founder of Archana’s Kitchen and YouTube culinary star wants to take you to a world of fabulous food, simple cooking and a healthy life.

Whether it is a warm bowl of Hulli Soppu Saaru as comfort food or a High Protein Grilled Rajma Corn meal for the diet conscious or a Mediterranean Pumpkin Kibbeh for those who love Middle Eastern cuisine, Archana Doshi of Archana’s Kitchen has plenty to offer, both on her website and on her YouTube channel.

Her website Archana’s Kitchen gives people a host of ideas for special diets, dinner ideas, lunch box plans, portion control and more. She has appeared on television programmes with top chefs like Vikas Khanna and was an inspiration for the first Google Chrome Ad on National Television. Today, Archana’s Kitchen has created thousands of recipes and collaborated with hundreds of bloggers and nutrition experts to offer unique content to the world with her website and her YouTube channel.

Archana Doshi spoke to YS Weekender about her entrepreneurial journey so far…

Can you tell us about yourself?

I was a software engineer for many years before I got interested in food.

We lived in California initially and later moved to Boston where we were always having people over for lunch and dinner. I have always been passionate about healthy food and I loved cooking for my guests. They would keep asking me to write a book but I decided that instead of writing a book, I would share my cooking experiences with people. I started a blog and it created a different platform for me to reach people.

I opened it up to a community of users and that brought in a lot of content. Some years ago Google ran an ad campaign for Chrome and they decided to feature me to show that people could use the Internet, not just as a search engine but also for business. I got a lot of followers over time. My intention was to create a space for people where they could discover that cooking could be easy and that healthy food is not as tasty as opposed to the non-healthy counterparts and that Indian food can be healthy too. So with the use of videos, blogs, FB live and other things we were able to send the message across.

Archana Doshi

What are some of the most important things that you have done food-wise?

I wanted to add value to people’s lives. One of my most important projects was the simple, do-able lunch box. I wanted to create really enjoyable lunch box recipes thwill help mothers plan meals for their children. We also created a lunch box plan and a weekly lunch box plan too. Another important project now is the creation of portion control plates where you can control the portions you eat, but keep all the different food groups intact.

How can you simplify traditional dishes?

I think traditional dishes can be cooked these days with the ready-made products that are available. It is best to keep things simple. Right now, I am making modaks and I am using readymade rice flour to make them instead of cooking them from scratch. I think you should use ingredients that are easily available even while making a traditional dish and break down the steps so that it is much easier.

How do you fix a recipe when it goes wrong?

Things that have gone wrong cannot be fixed easily. For instance, if you make a mistake while making a modak, you have to start again. You can add more flour if a dough is too watery but when you add too much salt or chilli powder you will have to just learn from the experience, start over and be aware of your mistakes the second time around. Even if you were to add potato to an overly salted dish, it will not reduce the saltiness. The taste will change.

What kind of cuisine do you enjoy?

I enjoy all kinds of cuisine but it depends on my mood and the season. For instance, sometimes I enjoy a plate of curd rice with some pickle and at other times I like to eat Mexican or Thai curry.

What is the culinary scene like today?

I do see more people get into the kitchen nowadays but most people still tend to eat out a lot. A vast majority of people like to explore cuisines and they understand the importance of health. But I would like to see more millennials taking to cooking. Most of them seem to think that cooking is not a job that they need to do if they are educated. But there is a large section of people who do cook and the trend is catching on among younger people too.

Have food delivery apps and services made people too lazy to cook?

These apps have really made our lives easier and it is a great facility. But in terms of everyday fare, there is nothing as good as freshly cooked food. When you eat home cooked food you know what is going into it, the ingredients and you can also make food in small quantities. When large quantities of food are made in restaurants, the quality can suffer. You may end up with lifestyle diseases and you must know what you put into your system.

What is your take on healthy food?

Healthy food is about avoiding foods that are deep fried and processed. Even if you eat pasta or curry you need to make sure that you are getting all the food groups like protein, carbs, and the rest. We require different foods in smaller portions. Even if you were to eat dal or rice and the portions are too much – you may overeat. Eating mindfully is also very important and you should put your gadgets away while eating.

Can you give us some tips on good cooking?

Ensure that you use fresh and good quality ingredients. Keep your recipes simple. Start with the basics if you are a beginner and once you are more experienced you can build on it. Planning is an important part of cooking. Ensure that you have all your ingredients ready before you start to cook. Avoid processed foods as much as you can. Also make sure you use a good knife.

What are some of the challenges that you have faced?

I am a continual learner. I have been growing brick by brick in my business. I am always mindful of my journey. I have put in more than 20,000 hours in this business, trying out recipes and working, but I am still open to learning. I try out my recipes at home and then I have a test kitchen where I conduct experiments with my two food experts. We try out everything, right from diet food to lunch menus to festival foods.

What are your future plans?

I want to go offline too and have a place where people can visit me. I want to hold group sessions and hold pop up events.

What does cooking mean to you?

Cooking is very therapeutic for me. When I am in the kitchen, there is an aura of calmness is around me. When I am chopping food which is my favourite part of cooking a meal, I feel almost meditative. I hope that cooking will become a default way of life for young millennials too and that they will never think that cooking is not their cup of tea.

Here are some of Archana's favourite recipes...

Layered Vegetable Tri-Colour Biryani

Vegetable Tri-colour Biryani

Ingredients:

2 cups rice

Salt to taste

3 tablespoons ghee

Ingredients for orange layer

1/2 cup green beans, chopped and steamed

1/2 cup carrot, chopped and steamed

2 tablespoons garlic, paste

2 tablespoons ginger, paste

1 cup onions chopped

1 cup tomatoes, chopped

2 tablespoons green chillies, paste

2 cloves

1 inch cinnamon stick

2 cardamom Pods

1 bay leaves

1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder

1 teaspoon red chilli powder

1/2 cup curd

1/2 cup mint leaves chopped

2 tablespoons cooking oil

Ingredients for white layer

1 cup potato, boiled and cubed

2 teaspoons green Chillies chopped

1 tablespoon onions caramelised

1/2 teaspoon cooking oil

Ingredients for green layer

1 cup spinach leaves, blanched and finely chopped

1/2 cup mint leaves, finely chopped

1 teaspoon cumin powder, roasted

1 inch cinnamon stick

Salt to taste

1/2 teaspoon Cooking oil

Method for Rice

• Cook the rice with 4 cups of water, salt and 3 tablespoons of ghee. Set aside to cool.

• Once cooled fluff up with fork to release it from getting sticky and divide the rice into three equal portions.

Method of Orange Layer

• Heat oil in a large sauce pan, add the ginger garlic and onions and sauté on low/medium heat until it releases a nice aroma and has also changed colour to a slight golden brown.

• Stir in the tomatoes and sauté until soft and tender.

• Stir in turmeric, cloves, cinnamon, bay leaf, cardamom, red chilli powder, green chillies until well combined.

• Stir in the yogurt, chopped mint leaves and turn the heat to high, giving the mixture a quick boil and letting most amount of liquid from the masala to evaporate. You will have a thick masala mixture.

• Once the masala is thick with, add in the steamed vegetables and a portion of the divided rice. Stir until well combined. Keep aside the orange layer of the biryani separate.

Method for White Layer

• Heat oil in a pan; stir in the green chillies, potatoes and salt. Sauté for a few minutes until the potatoes get lightly tossed and gets a fresh green chilli flavour.

• Stir this potato mixture, caramelised onions into the second portion of the rice until well combined. Keep the white layer of the biryani rice aside.

Method for Green Layer

• Heat oil in a pan; add the cinnamon stick and sauté for a few seconds until it releases it aroma. Stir in the spinach, mint leaves, cumin powder and salt to taste. Make sure most of the water from the spinach is evaporated

• Stir the spinach mixture into the 3rd portion of the rice and keep the third layer of the biryani rice separate.

Final Assembly of the Tri-Colour Biryani

• You need a large Glass Bowl, so colours become visible. Whatever arrangement you wish to choose, the white layer will stay in the middle. Layer the bottom of the bowl with orange biryani, the middle with white biryani and finally topped with green biryani layer.

• Place the serving platter over the bowl and turn this upside down.

• You will now see the beautiful layers of the Indian tricolour on the biryani platter.

• The flavours released are simply aromatic and the dish is absolutely delicious.

• Serve the biryani with curd raita for a perfect weekend lunch or dinner.

Spiced Whole Wheat Carrot Cake

Spiced Whole Wheat Carrot Cake

Ingredients

2 cups whole wheat flour

2 teaspoons cinnamon powder

1 teaspoon dry ginger powder

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup Nutralite Classic Spread

3 whole eggs

1/4 cup milk

2 cups carrots, grated

1/4 cup walnuts, chopped

2 tablespoons icing sugar for dusting

Method:

• To begin making the cake, first preheat oven 180 C. Grease and flour a 9-inch pan or a bread loaf pan or a Bundt pan.

• Keep aside. Mix the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and ginger and keep aside.

• In a large bowl or the bowl of the stand mixer add the Nutralite classic, sugar and eggs and beat them until light and fluffy. Add the milk and beat it into the egg mixture.

• Gradually add in the flour mixture and the carrots and beat until well combined. Fold in the walnuts and spoon the cake batter and place it to bake in the preheated oven.

• Bake the cake for about 35 to 40 minutes or until when a tester inserted in the centre of the cake comes out clean. Once the cake is baked, remove from the oven.

• Allow the cake to cool for a little bit and serve.

• Serve the carrot cake warm.

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