Former VJ, wife of actor Arshad Warsi, mother to Zeke and Zene and a cook par excellence- that is Maria Goretti. She's the author of a cook book and also has her own cookery show titled I Love Cooking on the Living Foodz channel. She has her cookery blog and online videos of herself cooking up delicious dishes in her kitchen. Pallavi Bhattacharya of Better Kitchen met her and talked to her in detail about her amazing culinary journey.
What is your first impression when you hear the word 'kitchen'?
A lot of buzz, beautiful aromas, smiling faces and great tasting food.
When and how did you enter into the kitchen to make your first meal? How was that experience? Did you miss anything in the kitchen on that day?
I was in Class 6. My parents had gone to drop my sister to boarding school. I was alone at home. So, I thought that I should try something, which is why I made khichdi. It turned out into a cake. It had got over-cooked. So, this is the first thing I did in the kitchen on my own without my parents being around. I missed my mum in the kitchen that day. If she had been there, the khichdi would have turned out to be fine.
Please elaborate the development in your kitchen from then to now.
At that time, my mum used to look after everything. She was somebody who could cook very fast. She never spent much time in the kitchen but her food was still awesome. Today, I stay in the kitchen more often than her, though she does live with me. I still ask her for recipes but I also make what I like.
What are the gadgets and equipments that you are using in your kitchen now?
I use a Vitamix, KitchenAid, a normal mixie, blender and an oven which I really love. My microwave is mainly used to heat water. Then there are hand blenders, spatulas, chopping boards and various kinds of knives.
Which dishes do you cook? Who are your icons in cooking?
I didn't grow up with any real icons in cooking because I wasn't interested in it. I've traveled around the world and have tasted food at various places. What I really love is food that is tasty and made without a fuss. I am really impressed with some of the food that mothers can dish out of their homes, which are so tasty that they seem to be right out of a starred hotel.
As far as icons are concerned, I probably don't have many. I didn't grow up watching too many cooking shows. I like watching food and travel shows now. I love the energy of Jamie Oliver. I think that David Rocco is amazing. At the home front, I'm very fond of Chef Vicky and Ritu Dalmia. I think that they've all carved a niche for themselves, which they've taken further. They are all inspirations to me. I love the way they cook, their food tastes and them as people.
What inspired you to undertake the course at the Tante Marie? Please elaborate your learning experience in the institute.
I realized that besides the education that I had received, I've never had any other kind of qualification. I basically wanted to go back to school whether it meant learning to chop an onion the right way or how to broil, steam, bake and fry professionally. The experience that I acquired was amazing and opened a new world to me. I learned much more than just about food from Tante Marie. If I could have gone back to school, I would have.
There were 65 students in the institute. There were ten in my class. We'd start our classes at nine in the morning. We would get a menu for the afternoon. It was hands on learning. There was a pantry where we would go and measure out everything. By 1 pm, we had finished cooking everything including dessert. Then we'd clean the entire kitchen. We had to wash the utensils, clean the sink, wash the fridge and hobs, dust the place, wipe the floors and put everything back in their correct places. After the kitchen was sparkling clean, we would eat what we had prepared.
What inspired you to write the book My Kitchen To Yours: Food, Love And Other Ingredients? Are you writing any other book on food?
I started my food blog in 2010. This was just an extension of my blog. Two years after having started my blog, I began getting book offers. I was quite surprised about that because I never thought that too many people were reading it. I thought that it would be nice to have a book containing all my favourite recipes. All that I would have to do while making a meal was to open my own book.
I want to write another book. This book won't be a compilation of all my own recipes though. This is because that the book will be a learning process for me. It will basically be an East Indian food book. It will basically be a collaboration of delicious recipes sourced from aunts and uncles. You often hear things like a particular aunt of yours makes a certain dish very well. This will be a book on East Indian food as well as their customs, traditions, clothing and jewellery.
East Indians are a sect native to Bombay. They lived on the seven islands of Bombay before the modern Bombay came into being. They were mostly landowners, fisherfolk and farmers. Our forefathers must have had something to do with the British East Indian company; which is why there's a lot of influence on the food, yet our traditions are very Maharashtrian in soul. It's a small community with a crazy mix; located in small pockets along the coast.
Despite being a good cook and having taken professional training, why have you not chosen your career in the field of cooking?
That is because I have a home to run. As much as I love cooking, my kids are my priority. Also, to run a restaurant, not only do you have to know just about good food but have a good business sense as well. I don't know anything about business. I love my freedom. If I may be a guest, chef and live in a place for two to three months; then I'd love to do that. I'd love to have a career with food but not on the basis in which I am outside my home for 12 hours a day and cannot meet my family.
How much time you spend in the kitchen? What is your menu like?
The amount of time that I spend in the kitchen, depends. We are a family which eats vegetarian in the afternoon and meat in the evening. Vegetarian food is healthier. In the evening; our meal is generally baked chicken, baked vegetables, pastas and a stew. My morning menu is very different. On the weekends, I make plenty of rajma and rice. Then there may be some mutton stew. It depends on what everyone wants to eat.
Does your spouse help in the kitchen? If yes, what does he cook for you? Has he bought any kitchen item for you recently?
Arshad leaves the buying to me. That's because I always know what I want. Before I had taken over the kitchen, he would really enjoy cooking. He makes one of the best biriyanis that I have ever tasted. He can make great Indian food. He can always get various things together to make something yum. He can make great dessert.
What is the importance of kitchen in your day-to-day life?
It's very important in my life. It begins and ends with the kitchen. The kitchen is the most important room in my home. The kitchen isn't your hall, bedroom, living or TV room. You can do without all the other rooms. However, you cannot do without food.
How you are maintaining your family's calorie intake?
It's a fight because the kids want to eat junk food most of the time. That's a struggle. When they return home and are have dinner along with us; I think of options like kebabs with hummus. We make rotis but not with maida. It's not that they don't eat pasta because if they don't get what others eat at home, they will look for the same outside. It's just a balance. The family isn't on a diet. We ensure that what they have is nutritious and well made.
Did you ever cook food for your crew during film shooting?
No, I didn't. However, every time that I would cook something for myself, others would taste it.
What is your message for the readers?
The kitchen needs to be made according to you. I agree that today a whole lot of designs are there. There are many companies which make fancy kitchens. I feel that when it comes to the designing of your kitchen, you need to be involved in it 100%. This is because nobody knows how you run your kitchen except for yourself. So, even when I did my kitchen which was outsourced, I sat and designed the kitchen with utmost ease. Nothing should be put in a place which is difficult for you to find. Don't put in something just because it's fancy and everyone is putting it there but having it makes no sense to you. I think it needs to be designed with the utmost cleverness to detail. Instead of planning your kitchen according to what others prefer, decide on how you'd like the kitchen to be arranged according to your style of cooking. For instance, I have a hob in my kitchen on which there are utensils. It looks pretty but that's not the reason as to why it's there. It's because that's convenient for me. That's why the kitchen needs to be designed by the person who uses it.
Please tell us about your cookery show I Love Cooking on Living Foodz.
I am very passionate about this show. Initially, the team wanted to name the show after me. However, I didn't wish for a show named after me but suggested a title concerning food instead. That's how we zeroed on I Love Cooking. I thought of recipes that may be churned out quickly and easily. They made the set in an easy and breezy manner. The show has been given an Indian twist. I returned to TV after 2003 (I had my own show in that year). After that I've done some smatterings of work here and there but this has been a great experience. I have my blog and my youtube channel, where I have my cooking videos.