When I started out my food blogging journey back in 2011, I had no clue that there where other bloggers based in Goa, India! One day, I was trying to find my way in Facebook, I noticed a lady with a pomegranate icon. I didn’t think much at the time but I knew that she was a food blogger. Her name is Aparna Balasubramanian and her food blog is My Diverse Kitchen.
On a rainy monsoon day in 2012, Aparna took the step to reach out. You should have seen my face when I realized that she was living just a 30 minutes by car from my location. Meeting another food blogger was at the time just a dream but after chatting around a bit we finally made it happen and we met up for a coffee. I was so very nervous but I started to relax when I realized how calm she seemed to be. Aparna made me feel so comfortable and I slowly realized that we had other things in common besides food and blogging. You need to know, Aparna is very knowledgeable and as a little geek I had found a friend with whom I could share my interests. Also, I instantly fell in love with her South Indian accent, which sounds like a beautiful flow of rolling words.
Aparna started her blog, My Diverse Kitchen back in 2007. Her daughter, inspired by her mother’s food, got the ball rolling and suggested the name My Diverse Kitchen. The name stands for her cultural roots and her various global food interests. At the beginning Aparna was clueless about blogging but she enjoyed her new creative outlet so much that she got herself a point and shoot camera. Later on Aparna bought herself a DSLR Canon camera with the money she had earned from her gorgeous pictures.
The blog features food regularly from all over the world and of course Indian food as well. As we know, Indian food is not always just Indian food. In fact each state and community prepares food completely differently and most of the time, as the tradition instructs, from scratch and with fresh ingredients only. Aparnas family originated from Palakkad district in the south Indian state Kerala and this particular Hindu community, which migrated from another neighboring Indian state some 400 years ago, has a rich history as you can read on Aparnas blog.
Palakkad food is purely vegetarian and heavily influenced by locally grown food ingredients such as coconuts and lentils. Food is mainly steam cooked or fried and includes less oil, making this food one of the healthiest in the world. Tradition dictates that no garlic or onion is used in Palakkad cuisine. I am so dependent of garlic and onion in my cooking, I can’t imagine cooking without these two ingredients, although I am curious and I would not mind learning dishes from this unique food culture.
Aparna might be a Vegetarian, but she does prepare food that includes eggs at time, especially if the eggs have been disguised in baked goods. Although her daughter doesn’t enjoy the taste of eggs and honestly I have been hearing the same thing from Goan Catholics and I never understood what they meant when they said that my brioche for example was having an egg flavor. I don’t smell any eggs! 😉
Aparna found a love in baking, which is absolutely not a traditional way to prepare food in South India. So Aparna started to experiment and developed egg-less baked goods. In fact, you can call her the egg-less baking queen! She also hosts “We knead to Bake!“, a cool food blogger baking group. The group bakes a yeast based treat every month such as the classic croissant or the recent Bienenstich.
Aparna told me a fun story about her parents on our second meeting. Her parents had moved to Africa, Ethiopia. Soon they realized, they had a big food problem. Ethiopian food consists of a lot of meat dishes and also meat such as wild game. They could not believe that it was so difficult to find vegetarian food. I can imagine how much they must have struggled at the time, I can relate to that because I experienced similar in my first weeks in India and I had a hard time.
I asked Aparna if she would like to share one of her favorite recipes and she surprised us with her Thandai, which is a spiced almond milk beverage in India. I bet you will love this recipe if you enjoy spices as much as I do!
- 1 liter full fat milk (I use 3% fat)
- ¾ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon rose water
- A few strands of saffron
- some slivered pistachios and a few saffron strands for garnishing
- ¼ cup almonds
- 2 tablespoon white poppy seeds (khus khus)
- 2 tablespoon melon seeds (magaz)
- 2 tablespoon fennel seeds (saunf)
- 15 black peppercorns
- seeds from 6 or 7 green cardamom pods
- Add the sugar to the milk, stir to dissolve the sugar completely and bring to a boil. Take the sweet milk off the heat and add the saffron strands. Allow the milk to cool to room temperature.
- Add the powdered almond-spice mixture to the milk and stir well. Refrigerate this for about 4 to 6 hours. This allows the flavors to infuse into the milk. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve and discard the solids. Add the rose water and mix well. Chill until ready to serve.
- Serve chilled after garnishing with slivered pistachios and a few strands of saffron.
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