Chetna Makan spotlights quick and tasty recipes in 30 Minute Indian


“It was all based on my choices, the flavors I grew up with, the things I love to cook for my family,” Great British Bake Off alum Chetna Makan said of her new book.

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Our cookbook of the week is Chetna’s 30 Minute Indian by Chetna Makan. To try a recipe from the book, check out: Crispy Paneer Cubes; sour and spicy potatoes (alu chaat); and coconut okra sabji.

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Chetna Makan may have launched her culinary career on television seven years ago – as a semi-finalist and fan favorite on The Great British Cake – and since then has built a YouTube channel with 179,000 subscribers. But she appreciates cookbooks as a tangible extension of her personality: “It’s my life on a plate, literally,” says the author, baker and cook.

This is especially true for his fifth cookbook, The 30-minute Indian from Chetna (Mitchell Beazley, 2021). Born out of the UK’s first lockdown in 2020, it was designed, written and performed entirely during the pandemic. While the trip to his native India was central to the research of his previous books, including Chai, Chaat & Chutney (Mitchell Beazley, 2017) – This time around, Makan found inspiration only within the four walls of his kitchen in Kent, England.

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“As you can imagine, there wasn’t even a local restaurant outing for this book. There was absolutely nothing, I just had to think of things that I like to eat, ”she says. “So it was all based on my choices, the flavors I grew up with, the things I love to cook for my family.”

At the start of the pandemic, Makan began sharing daily cooking videos “to stay (herself) sane” and help her audience, many of whom were cooking more than ever before. The feedback was instantaneous, she recalls, and had never been more frequent or extensive.

These exchanges were not only rewarding – “it was really nice to know that people got something out of it” – they helped shape the concept of The 30-minute Indian from Chetna. As the pandemic progressed, Makan noticed that the enthusiasm people initially felt for more involved cooking had turned to fatigue.

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The 30-minute Indian from Chetna
Chetna’s 30 Minute Indian is the fifth recipe book by Great British Bake Off alumnus Chetna Makan. Photo by Mitchell Beazley

In addition to the daily videos, she too had ambitious plans. With her children Sia, 13, and Yuv, 11 at home, they embarked on various projects, such as making a different dessert together every day. “But all of these things, as much as we loved it, the novelty started to wear off after a while,” says Makan. “No one wanted to work hours to get this meal. It changed. And more and more I was talking to people, it was the same with everyone, not just me.

Makan recognized that people always wanted special meals because they were the highlight of the day, but didn’t want to spend hours cooking. For The 30-minute Indian from Chetna – as the cover communicates so vividly in fuchsia, emerald and gold – Makan’s stopwatch has become an essential tool. Working within 30 minutes, she lets herself be guided by the clock.

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Some legumes, such as urad dal (aka black lentils or black matpe beans), were banned because they couldn’t be cooked in 30 minutes, even in a pressure cooker. For the dal chapter, she switched to quick cooking legumes such as masoor dal (split red lentils), toor dal (split yellow pigeon peas) and split moong dal (mung beans), canned beans and chickpeas.

The bone-in chicken, which she prefers at home, was also banned, as she needed to be able to cut it into small pieces so that it cooks faster. “I had to make these changes to be able to get the final result in 30 minutes,” says Makan, “but I didn’t compromise on flavor at any point. “

As with all of his cookbooks, “what you see is what you get. It is important to Makan that his food is portrayed realistically in the photographs, while being chromatic and inviting. “He must have a lot of color and character, just because personally I’m like that,” she says. “So I need a lot of colors and interesting things to make it mine.”

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Ease, flavor and speed were the top priority as she developed the recipes, notes Makan, and while anything can be accomplished in 30 minutes, cooks should be prepared to scramble. “It must be a quick job,” she said. To prepare cooks for success, she includes a few things to keep in mind, including putting all the ingredients together before you start cooking, being ready to multitask, buying ready-made ginger and garlic, or pasta from the kitchen. trade to gain a few minutes, and adopt high temperature cooking.

  1. Chetna's 30 Minute Indian Crispy Paneer Cubes.

    Bake This: Chetna’s 30 Minute Indian Crispy Paneer Cubes

  2. Sour and spicy potatoes - alu chaat - from 30 Minute Indian from Chetna.

    Cook this: Sour and Spicy Potatoes – Alu Chaat – from Chetna’s 30 Minute Indian

  3. Chetna's 30 Minute Indian Coconut Sabji Okra.

    Cook this: Chetna’s 30 Minute Indian Coconut Okra Sabji

Developing recipes on time may have been a new challenge for Makan, but his approach has remained the same. “These are always simple recipes, just the way I like them – and the way people like them, from the feedback I get,” says Makan. “These are simple steps, simple ingredients that they can find in their local stores.”

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While writing his last two books – Healthy Indian from Chetna (2019) and The Healthy Indian of Chetna: Vegetarian (2020, both by Mitchell Beazley) – Makan faced a different set of constraints: minimizing his use of selected ingredients, such as cream; avoid certain cooking methods, such as deep frying; and reduce the size of the candies to bite-sized treats.

Since her previous book was vegetarian, she appreciated the opportunity to feature chicken and seafood in The 30-minute Indian from Chetna: “I love a good chicken curry and cooking fish, living by the sea.” And although she was not consciously working in the “healthy Indian” framework that she had previously set for herself, many recipes ended up qualifying naturally.

“It was so nice to work on something different in the sense that I was free to fry food and not think about how much cream I added to it, which was really very refreshing” , Makan laughs. “It was another type of restriction to get around. But I think these things make me fun as a cookbook author. If I have everything – all the ingredients, all the time – then it’ll be a pleasure to write, sure, but it makes things even more fun.

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