CHENNAI : Put your mind, and soul into anything and it will turn out to be good. This has been Veena Khemka’s principle for cooking for the last 50 years. It was her mother, Sita Motani, who inculcated this life skill in Veena and her two brothers. Her mother often reminded them, “never be hungry in life or depend on anyone.”Born and raised in Kolkata, Veena’s roots can be traced to Rajasthan. When she was a young girl, Veena was always intrigued by the ingredients used in every cuisine. “My relatives would make fun of my analysing skills. It continues till date. I love traveling and exploring food from different regions. Chefs are my best friends.
There’s always an interactive session after every meal. My husband and two daughters admire this quality and laugh at me at the same time,” shares the 58-year-old, who settled in Chennai 36 years ago, after her marriage. She has a bachelors in English literature.Veena’s early days of cooking began when she was eight years old. Her first attempt was poori bhaji. Her mother and grandmother would constantly goad her to cook one item every day.
Veena specialises in cooking Rajasthani, Gujarati, Punjabi, Maharashtrian, Thai, Chinese, and Mexican delicacies. She recently started making dips, sauces and has adopted a healthy way of cooking. Mild spices and salt are a must in her cooking. But she never samples the food while cooking. While Veena is a vegetarian, her family members are non-veg food lovers. Veena suffered a culture shock during her initial years in Chennai. Being foodies, Veena and her husband did not have many options to explore. “One day we were craving for Chinese food. A food joint served us fried rice with curry leaves. Who does that? Well, those were the initial days. The city has completely transformed now. Idli is my 365-day food. I have to pack dosa batter for my daughters living abroad,” shares Veena, whose inspiration is the late chef Tarla Dalal.
Whenever she goes to meet her daughters, dinner is a lavish spread. And before she returns to Chennai, she deep freezes dal makhni and other gravies. “Passion, good mood, and positive energy is my secret recipe. It makes people happier, and food tastier,” she adds. No one goes unfed when at Veena’s place. It’s support from her family, and unconditional love from her social circle that keeps her going. She aspires to write her own cookbook.
Maida: 1cup, Rawa: half cup, Salt: half tsp, Kala jeera: 1/4 tsp, Oil: 1tbs,Mix maida and rawa, add salt, kala jeera and oil. Make very soft dough. Let it rest for 1/2 an hour
For stuffing : Urad dal powder: 3/4 cup, Ginger chilli paste: 2 tsp, Kala jeera: 1/2 tsp, Salt: 1/4tsp, Hing: one pinch, Baking soda: 1/2 tsp
● Mix everything and make soft dough. Leave for 10 minutes
● Make equal portion of balls from maida dough. Stuff urad dal in the maida balls and roll it about 2” diameter
● Half fry and let it cool. Fry it again till it is golden brown. Serve it hot with potato subzi