Chetna Makan describes her debut book as “the coming together of spices and baking in a perfect way”. We’re sold.
Since reaching the semi-final of the Great British Bake Off in 2014, Chetna Makan has continued to share her recipes and embrace her love of baking. (We at Standard Issue are particularly grateful for this).
Having already established a popular YouTube channel, Food With Chetna, Kent-based Chetna has taken things to the next level with her debut recipe book, The Cardamom Trail, which was published earlier this month.
We asked her some questions about the cookbook, which explores mouthwatering methods of combining Indian food and baking… and then asked her if she would share a recipe from it.
Being the lovely woman she is, she said yes to both requests.
How long have you been working on the book? I spent around six months on the recipes for the book.
What did you want the book to be? I wanted to write a recipe book which was very different and which had a new concept. Everyone loves Indian food but no one has ever combined Indian food and baking, and that is where this book started.
How would you describe The Cardamom Trail? It is the coming together of spices and baking in a perfect way.
Was writing the book as you expected or were there some surprises? I started with no expectations so there were no surprises; it was a great journey full of love and hard work.
Did you develop new recipes for the book, or were they all things you’d tried out before? I developed lots of new recipes for the book; some of them were inspired by different things I enjoyed while growing up and some of them are inspired by my mum’s recipes.
What is your process when you’re trying out something new? I usually start with a flavour and then think of what sort of bake it will best go in, and then take it from there.
Whose tastebuds do you trust the most when looking for feedback on a recipe? I do take feedback from my husband and kids but in the end I go with mine.
What do you think sets your book apart? The Cardamom Trail is a recipe book that stands apart in more ways than one, with its unique recipes, each one combining different flavours. It also has chapters on spices that will help readers understand them better and use them more cleverly in future. It is full of not only sweet recipes but savoury food too.
Do you have a favourite recipe from it? That is a very difficult one for me to choose.
What’s the easiest thing to make in the book? There are lots of recipes in the book that are very straightforward and quite easy to make.
What’s the most challenging recipe to attempt? There are only a few recipes that need a bit more time and attention, but they’re still quite easy to follow like the Macaron cake twisted challah loaf.
Are there plans for more books in the future? Hopefully I will get more opportunity to share another amazing journey.
Recipe: Black Sesame and Lime Cake
My parents’ house in India had a lime bush in the garden. As a child I would watch the fruits growing and could not wait for them to ripen so that I could make fresh lime water.
This light, refreshing loaf cake uses oranges as well as limes to make it more citrusy. The black sesame seeds add flavour and a little crunch.
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
150g (5½ oz) caster sugar
150g (5½ oz) unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
150g (5½ oz) self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
3 large eggs
finely grated zest of 2 oranges
finely grated zest of 2 limes
1 tablespoon orange juice
For the icing and decoration:
100g (3½ oz) icing sugar, sifted
2 tablespoons lime juice
finely grated zest of 1 lime
black sesame seeds, for sprinkling
fine strips of lime rind, for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F), Gas Mark 4. Grease a 900g (2lb) loaf tin and line it with non-stick baking paper.
In a small pan, dry-roast the sesame seeds for 2 minutes over a medium heat. Transfer to a mortar and crush them lightly with the pestle. Set aside.
Pour the batter into the prepared tin and bake for 35–40 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean. Leave the cake to cool in the tin for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and leave to cool completely.
To make the icing, mix the icing sugar with the lime juice and zest to produce a runny paste. Spoon this mixture over the cake, then sprinkle some sesame seeds and lime rind strips on top to finish.
This cake will keep in an airtight container for up to five days.
Recipe taken from The Cardamom Trail, published by Mitchell Beazley, RRP UK £20; available from octopusbooks.co.uk3394 Views
I am a fashion designer, who after becoming a mum discovered the world of baking. Also seen in the Great British Bake Off 2014. @chetnamakan