A couple of months ago, this girl I know, reached out to see if I was up for teaching a cooking classes!  More than teaching the class, I was just excited to get an opportunity to share my passion for cooking. We set up a date and then my days were filled prepping for my first ever cooking class! I decided to keep it simple, making it a stress-free learning experience, adding fun twists to the menu and the recipes. I wanted to show that just by switching a few ingredients here and there or using a different culinary techniques, we can put a wonderful spin on everyday cooking, taking it to the next level and relishing the flavors ourselves or impressing our guests.

And there she was, my first student, standing at the door holding bags filled with ingredients and smile on her face, ready to take on the kitchen stadium! It was certainly not the first time Nupur had stepped into a kitchen. She had tried her hand at cooking several times but needed a crash course on fine cooking. She was aware of the mistakes she made and simply wanted to know how to fix them. She shared some of her cooking disasters and I remembered mine! We talked about all kinds of things and then started cooking together, having fun in the kitchen as we chopped, sautéed and plated simple, yummy dishes.

Together, we reinvented Indian vegetarian classics by using different techniques and incorporating non-Indian ingredients. In about 5 hours, we made about 8-9 different dishes including Baingan Bharta with Roasted Red Peppers & Goat Cheese on Bruschetta, Sev Potato Dahi Puri Chaat on Puff Pastry tarts, Gobi-Fennel Raita Slaw, Roasted Aloo Methi, Light Paneer Makhani, Jeera Rice Pilaf with Fresh Herbs, Moong Dal Stew with wilted Spinach, Lentils Soup with Green Masala…just to name a few.


And that was just the beginning! Following our class, Nupur has been practicing relentlessly all the dishes we learnt in the class and then experimenting with some new ones in her kitchen.

From making paneer at home to baking cookies from scratch, she now does it all and with great confidence!

And that’s not it! She loves to play with her camera and has now stepped into the world of food photography. Her mouth-watering picture of Banana Pancakes topped with Kesar-doodh, Nuts and Honey were recently featured on one of the blogs that she adapted the recipe from.

I really appreciate Nupur’s dedication and sincere efforts in getting to where she is today. So I have invited her to share with us the story of her culinary journey from a novice cook to a budding home chef and food photographer. Great job, Nupur!

Yes, I am that girl. The one that could not cook. The outlier. The girl that was more interested in bending it like beckham than learning to cook allo gobi.
Actually that’s a lie, there was no beckham, there was just engineering drawing. And more engineering drawing.
My journey to Vasanti’s kitchen has been a long and interesting one. Let me show you.

Rewind to teenage years…
I am studying and need a break. So I get up and enter the kitchen to eat.
Mom is cooking. She turns around “Beta, help karo! chalo!” (beta, come-on now! help me!)

Me (immediately running away): “Mummmyyy… i’ve to study!”

Mom lets go.

Some years later…
I am studying and need a break. So I get up and enter the kitchen to eat.
Mom is cooking. She turns around “Beta, eelaichi kooti aap!” (beta, ground the cardamom!)

Me (grinding a spice is better than cooking): “uhhh ummm okay!”.

Fast forward to engineering days…
I am pouring over my design sheets, then I need a break. So I get up and enter the kitchen to eat.. Notice the change.
Dad (turns and looks at me) and says 2 magic words “MACHINNNNEE DESIGNNNN!!”
Those magic words make me PANIC! And I run back to my books.

And this is why I never learnt to cook 🙂

Off to the US…

When I moved to the US to go to grad school, I first got introduced to cooking. Roommate looks at my subji and tells me
Roomate: “You know Nupur, what the trick to cooking is?”
me: “wow What What??”
Roomate (whispers and looks at me) “Dhaniya. YES! Dhaniya. Add LOTS of Daniya!”.

And that, dear readers, formed the basis of my cooking.

Fast forward to a summer in Atlanta…
I am working out, trying to shed some weight and I am out to lunch with a friend.

Me (in typical puneri YA style): “Hey! How did you lose so much weight, ya?”
Girl: “High protien diet, I’m telling you Nupur. Just eat protien and cut your carbs”

So for the next 2 years I was cooking… nothing else but tofu! Sauteed tofu, soft tofu, hard tofu. You get the picture!

Time goes by …
I get a job and the company offers free breakfast, lunch and…. wait for it .. wait for it…… DINNER too!
POOF! There vanishes into thin air, my need to cook!

This did not do well for my social life. I felt handicapped for 4 years, calling friends over for dinner and hearing things like

“Hmm actually Nupur, this roti has become papad”
“This tastes kadwa”
“Uhhh Custard doeesnt have sugar in it”
“Don’t you know anything other than Matar Paneer?”

This HAD to stop. So last year, for 6 months, I’d come home from work and cook myself dinner.

Gradually… my cooking improved. But there was something missing. My 12th trial of Gobi-Matar was a disaster! (yea 12th :P) I was disappointed in life and all my hard work seemed to go no where! My confidence was at a new low.
Poor little me!!

Ok now what? I knew i had to improve. I tried searching for a cooking class. Everyone seemed to cook non-veg. I realised, I had to go to someone I know!

So I took a chance. I emailed Vasanti to ask her to train me. The rest is history.
It took her less than FIVE hours to wash away all the wrong things i learnt over the years. All the “add more daniya” training went away. She taught me about spices, proportions, vessels, trying new vegetables, and most importantly, plating food. We eat with our eyes!
I emerged stronger 🙂 wiser. 🙂 and more confident.

Not only that, Vasanti even showed me the connection between food decor and food photography. I was always into potrait photography and I thought of trying it out on food. Turns out that combination of cooking, decorating, photographing (and eating 😉 opened a whole world for me. Something got unleashed and an innate creativity got an outlet!

There was no looking back.
It’s dawned on me. Cooking need not be a talent! You can be TAUGHT to cook!

Yes! Mark my words now! “Anyone can be trained to cook!”

I will end this with a quote from the movie Pursuit of Happyness, a quote from father to son.
“Don’t ever let somebody tell you… You can’t do something. Not even me. All right?”

… Thanks Vasanti!

Signing off on a sweet note, with my decadent, chocolate-cinnamon-date truffles.


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One thought on “my first student

  1. Hey me cuz of Nupur……………….seriously i have seen her SLOG………..(i think that’s what she called it) over her books.
    gosh she was so not into cooking. (rather anything but cooking).

    the post that she has written is like hillarious but true.
    seriously i think if u know cooking u know how to pamper , nourish…….spoil(i know that went too far) yourself and others.

    but yes cooking is imp. we are almost the same age and i have been cooking since she has been slogging but within 6 months i can say that her food definately looks better than mine……….way to go nupur.

    Last but not the least thanks to u tooo Vasanti for letting me too know about this new dimension in Nupur.

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