Food, Photography and Workshop

When kiddo turned one year old, we relocated to London as my husband had to handle a year-long official project there. We spent that one year in a single bedroom house, which my sweet friend and her husband found for us.

It was the time I started baking and clicking my culinary trials so that folks back home can be assured that I am not starving my family. Being a novice, but very enthusiastic baker (unfortunately), I had landed myself in really embarrassing situations. Once, I ended up gifting a half-baked cake for my friend’s birthday. Imagine the scene when someone cuts the cake and you find uncooked batter in the middle! (Thankfully, it was a very private affair and I had a ‘trial’ cake as backup :D.)

Another time, a cake which I baked for my hubby’s friends was returned as such. Excuses offered varied from ‘stomach full, stomach ache, on diet’ and many more.

Surely, it was time for improvement! That started the search for online recipes.

And that’s how I landed myself in Aparna’s My Diverse Kitchen.  It’s almost four years now and I am still following her blog.

I have cooked and baked many recipes from her space successfully and I am a great fan of her pictures. I love her ‘Less is More’ style, when it comes to props and styling. Check out the picture below of Lime Posset from her space. Great picture with minimal props!

So, when I saw that Aparna is conducting a Food Photography Workshop in Chennai, I registered for it immediately.

The session started at 9 AM in Kettle, a coffee shop in Anna Nagar. It’s a beautiful cafe with great ambiance and great food.

I use a Canon IXUS 75 point and shoot camera for all my photography. I had borrowed my brother’s DSLR (Canon 400D) specifically for the workshop. I have been following the Food Photography basics in My Diverse Kitchen, but now that I have a dSLR, the posts make a lot more sense.

The workshop had Aparna talking about various elements of photography in the forenoon and after lunch, it was time to try clicking with our cameras.

What I learnt from the workshop (what I remember now :D):

  • Learn photography first, food photography is a subset.
  • Invest patience and passion into photography. The rest will follow. Of course, good equipment helps! (Are you reading this, hubby dear?)
  • Practice, practice, practice.
  • Learn the Rule of thirds, Rule of Odds, Rule of Space. Learn lighting. Food off centre looks better than right in the middle (rule of thirds), try different angles while clicking.
  • Train your photographic eye – learn to look for the light source, look at the direction of food, look at the empty space in the frame, look for rule of thirds
  • Use geometric patterns in the subjects.
  • Rules are meant for breaking! So don’t be afraid to try new ways of looking at food.
  • How to use reflectors, how to diffuse light, how to block light, using color wheel for composition
  • Don’t compromise on the composition, ie, don’t click with ‘I will crop/edit it later’ thought
  • Use a tripod (I am doing this since the workshop and no shaky pictures anymore :) ! )
  • Also, try to read and practise as much as you can, before you enroll for a session. It’s good to be prepared, so that you can utilize the workshop better.

A lot of what is mentioned above comes with experience. For example, after this session, I realized that I was shooting with odd numbers, mostly with three items. Also, I follow the triangle pattern (using geometric patterns) a lot. And about the props, less is really more!

The session made me realize that I am in the right learning path and thus encourages me to look out for more things now.

I had the opportunity to meet fellow bloggers who had come to attend the workshop. It was a lot of fun clicking together. I am thankful to Meena Thennaapan for patiently holding the ‘white background’ (thermocol sheet) for some of my clicks :-)

We came home with a goodie bag from Urban Dazzle. You will see them in my clicks soon :)

My baking did not improve tremendously from the minute I started following Aparna’s blog. I had to find my way about to reach where I am now (still a long long way to go!) though perfect instructions from her space help a lot.

Similar to that, my photography and my composition is not going to change overnight because I attended a workshop with Aparna. Here too, I have to invest time and patience to get to a higher level. But I am happy for the guidence and more than anything, for the reassurance that I am in the right path!

Thank you Aparna and the girls, I really had a lot of fun at the workshop :-)


Chana Pulav

I have many many recipe books. So many, that I can start a library with them. Earlier when I used to visit bookshops, I used to go directly to the cookery books section. Comics, Classics, Fiction – everything was given a miss.

This went on for a long time, and finally it came to a point where hubby refused to take me to bookshops! His reason was valid – there were so many cookbooks at home and yet I keep buying more. And worse, I don’t use them much!

So now, thanks to the free recipes accompanied by beautiful pictures in blogs and the internet, the book-buying craze has come down. And now, I concentrate more on cooking from the books I have!

Chana pulav is from one of the cookbook collection. Its a perfect lunchbox recipe and its perfect for this week’s Blogging Marathon theme too.

Check out the other Blogging Marathon participants for more recipes and more themes.

Recipe Source:  Mallika Badrinath’s ‘Rice Delights’ book

Serves : 2-3


  • Basmati Rice                                               :          1 cup
  • White kabuli Chana                                   :          1/2 cup
  • Onions                                                          :         2
  • Tomatoes                                                      :          3 big
  • Kasuri methi                                                :           1 tbsp
  • garam masala powder                               :            1/2 tsp
  • Bay leaf, cinnamon stick, cloves             :            1-2 each, optional
  • ghee                                                              :             1 tbsp

to grind:

  • pearl onions             : 10 (I used 1 big onion)
  • red chilies                 :  4-5 (or per taste)
  • Cumin seeds             :  1 tsp
  • Garlic                         :   4-5 flakes
  • Coconut                     :    2 tbsp (I added this, but felt it would be better to skip)


  1. Wash and soak chana overnight and pressure cook for 6-7 whistles or until cooked thoroughly. Keep aside.
  2. Wash and soak the rice for 10 minutes. Grind the three tomatoes into a puree. Grind the items in the ‘to grind’ list into a smooth paste. Keep aside.
  3. Heat ghee. Add cloves, cinnamon, bay leaves. Add onions and garlic and saute till brown. Add the ground onion-coconut masala paste. Fry for 3-4 minutes, until the raw smell goes away.
  4. Add the tomato puree, garam masala powder, kasori methi, salt and chana. Cook for a further 3-4 minutes.
  5. Drain water from the rice and add it. Add one cup of water (tomato puree + water = 2 cups, double that of rice) and cover and cook till rice is done. I usually transfer the rice to a pressure cooker or rice cooker at this stage.
  6. Serve with a simple raita.

Linked to:

Parippu Urundai Sambar – Lentil Ball Sambar

Kiddo prefers playing with friends than playing with toys. So he doesn’t mind sharing his toys from his almost a mini store sized collection with his friends.

But bring in Bhagus, my cute little 1.5 years old niece, and the entire equation is changed! She is almost viewed as a terror at times by my kiddo. He would whine, crib, cry, run and even climb on top of tables, just to get away from her.

His main complaint? ‘Mommy…Bhagus is troubling me. She wants only my toy.

Well, she wants to play with him and anything he has in his hands are attractive for her. But explaining this to a first grader is difficult – especially when, like a monkey, he is standing on top of the shoe rack to avoid her. And she would be lingering around, waiting him out.

The funny thing is, the minute she is away, he says,’I want to play with Bhagus.’ And when she comes in, its again the ‘She is grabbing toys from my hand!’

It reminds me of how I was with my younger brother. ‘He is troubling me’ was a standard, oft repeated statement from me.

Funny, all these things came to my mind when I was making this sambar. Its my younger brother’s favorite and amma used to make this often for him. If we were both kids, I would have said ‘Amma! He is taking all the lentil balls. He is not leaving any for me!’

Blogging Marathon 22 is in its last week now and this week’s theme is Chana/Chana dal recipes. Check out the BM page for more interesting themes and recipes from the participants.

Recipe Source : Gayathri’s Cookspot

Serves : 4


For lentil balls

  • Chana dal                       :          1 cup
  • Mint leaves                    :           7-8 leaves
  • Green chilies                 :           2
  • Cloves                             :           1
  • Salt

For gravy

  • Tomatoes                        :       2
  • Coconut                           :       1/4 cup, grated
  • ginger garlic paste         :       1 tsp
  • Onions                              :      2
  • Sambar powder              :       3 tsp
  • Water                                :       3-4 cups
  • Mustard seeds                 :      1 tsp
  • Jeera                                 :       1/2 tsp
  • Oil                                      :       2 tsp
  • Salt


  1. Wash and soak chana dal for 2-3 hours. Drain and grind along with mint leaves, cloves,salt and chilies. You dont need to make a paste, pulse it a couple of times so that everything is crushed and has come together.
  2. Divide the dal into marble sized balls and steam them for 5-7 minutes till they are firm. This step is optional. Keep the lentil balls aside.
  3. Grind the tomatoes, coconut and ginger-garlic paste into a smooth paste. Keep aside.
  4. Heat oil in a big wide kadai. Add mustard seeds, jeera and let it splutter. Add the onions and saute till the color changes. Add the tomato puree, sambar powder and salt. Saute till the raw smell goes off, say 3-5 minutes.
  5. Add 3-4 cups of water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat a bit and drop the lentil balls and cook for 10 minutes.
  6. Do a taste test, adjust the seasonings and cook covered for another 5 minutes till the balls are cooked thoroughly.
  7. Serve with plain hot rice.

Note: The gravy thickens as it sits. So its a good idea to keep it on the runny side while cooking.

Linked to:

Parippu Vada

The minute you say parippu vada, my mind pictures the roadside chayakkada (tea stall) with people sitting on wooden benches and eating the vada, holding tea in the other hand and sharing the day’s gossip.

We were never the vada making kind of family (no deep fried items in general), but amma used to buy this from her office canteen now and then. I used to prefer the soft Uzhundu vada over this one, but then taste changes with time and now I love this version too. Or in fact any version, if someone else makes them for me ;-)

Last week of Blogging Marathon 22 and here I am with a set of Chana-based recipes. Kicking off with parippu vada, two more recipes to follow. Check out the Blogging Marathon page to see posts from other participating bloggers.

I have no idea what is wrong with the pictures here, but then sometimes you just have to let it go when things go wrong!

Enjoy the vadas!


  • Chana dal (Gram dal)          :      2 cups
  • Onion                                      :      1
  • Ginger                                      :      1″ piece
  • Green chilies                          :      2-3
  • Curry leaves                           :      1 sprig
  • Asafoetida                              :       a pinch
  • Salt
  • Oil for frying


  1. Wash and soak chana dal for 2-3 hours. Once its soaked, drain off water completely. I let the dal sit in a wide bowl for sometime so that the moisture will be gone.
  2. Meanwhile, chop the onions, chilies, ginger and the curry leaves fine .
  3. Pulse the dal in a mixer couple of times, without adding any water. Do not make a paste out of it, it should be just crushed.
  4. Transfer the crushed dal into a bowl or plate and add the chopped items. Add salt, a pinch of asafoetida and mix. Take about a heaped tablespoon of the dal mix, roll it into a ball and then shape it into a patty. Repeat with the rest of the batter.
  5. Heat oil and deep fry the parippu vadas in batches. Serve with hot tea/chaya.

Linked to:

Wonderland Drink Me Potion

Reading was an important part of our growing up and our childhood was full of books – Amar Chitra Kathas, Tinkle and lots of local magazines for kids. As we grew older my mother – who is an avid reader, started introducing translated version of Children’s classic books. Once you are done with the translated book, there is an automatic interest in reading the original.  She would then get it from the library.

So when I thinking about a recipe for the third day of Blogging Marathon, for the theme ‘Storybook Based Recipes’, my thought went to the all time classic Alice in Wonderland.

I was planning to bake the ‘Eat me’ Cookies, but then changed my mind and settled on the magical shrinking potion. I made rose milk syrup, but unfortunately I had only orange-red food color. So my syrup turned out to be orange! A drawback indeed! I didn’t ponder much on it since the taste was correct.

This is a simple sugar syrup (half cup each of sugar and water) cooled, flavored with a tablespoon of rosewater and a few drops of rose essence. A pinch of pink color (or the disastrous orange, in my case) is added for color.

Check out the other participants of Blogging Marathon here.

Linking this post to Srivalli’s Kid’s DelightCooking From storybook hosted by Archana