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Chillibreeze Interview with Deeba Rajpal
Deeba Rajpal writes a food blog about baking, cooking, photography, food trends, cuisines and cultures. It's mainly about 'Making Food from Scratch'. She is based in Gurgaon where her biggest challenge is the non-availability of local baking ingredients. Deeba’s current obsession is baking with fruit, exploring new ingredients like beets, alternative flours, gluten free foods etc. She enjoys food styling, food photography, recipe development and cookbook/product reviews. She hopes to write a cookbook one day!
1. Can you tell us more about yourself? Did you get any formal training in either baking or photography?
I am a self taught person and still have a long way to go! Baking has been a passion from my school days. As time passed, I got married, had kids and left my job. With hungry and happy mouths to feed, I began experimenting more and more. When I discovered food blogs, life took a dramatic change; the oven and camera both found new meaning in my life!
2. What inspired you to start your blog Passionate About Baking? What kind of response did you expect when you started blogging? Did you get more comments for the photographs or for the recipes?
Other food blogs, a free blogspot website and my first new digital camera inspired me to begin my own blog. It was very intimidating and I never expected a single person to visit my blog. It was just for me and my kitchen adventures. The first comment almost made me pass out! Slowly the comments increased, and now I feel humbled to find both my recipes and photographs appreciated equally.
There was a time my sisters in the US were ready to disown me because of my long and ridiculous shopping lists! Currently, it is much easier to find the right ingredients for western recipes in India (though sometimes you need to be willing to pay the price for it). Basics like flour, sugar, eggs are easy. I make my own white butter weekly and freeze it in 100gm lots. Instead of cream cheese for cheesecakes I make my own quark, which is a soft curd cheese. It is cheap and works brilliantly. For recipes that call for buttermilk, use ‘plain chacch’ – cultured buttermilk which is available here from Mother dairy and Amul. I use local produce and try to keep seasonal as far as possible to reduce my carbon footprint.
4. What baking experiment are you currently working on? Do you have any tips for the health conscious? Any low calorie recipes that you can refer our readers to?
My latest obsession is baking with seasonal fruits. It’s a wonderful way to add the goodness of fruit into your meals and as fruits are naturally sweet, you need to use less sugar. The other thing I like to do is substitute some butter in recipes with olive oil, and some flour in recipes with either whole wheat flour (atta) or almond meal (ground almonds).
5. You are also passionate about photography. Is this limited to your cooking or do you click away at anything else? Any favourite subjects?
I am obsessive about photography and love natural light. I click anything and everything that I can. My favourite subjects in addition to food - travel photography, nature, my dog, people ... and the kids too.
6. What camera do you use? Is it necessary for a newbie photographer to own a professional camera? What kinds of props are necessary for food photography?
I currently use a Canon 50D with a Canon f2.8/100mm macro lens and a Sigma 18-200mm normal lens. It is my personal belief that a newbie photographer doesn’t need a professional camera. It is the person behind the camera that frames and captures the essence of the moment - skill develops with time. I still use my Canon G9 point and shoot sometimes and it gives me great results.
7. You write for The Times of India and others. Did they approach you after you started blogging or was it the other way round?
The TOI approached me to begin a baking blog for them. For others as well, I have been approached and not the other way around. I do get loads of requests for guest posts and articles but sadly can’t accommodate all of them. I have just begun developing recipes for Del Monte products for their online site World Foody, and have a few other projects that I am working on. I have contributed food articles and recipes for BHG, BBC GF, Diabetic World and Child magazine.
That is my dream. I have a series of small books in mind, all under the flagship name Passionate About Baking – Desserts, Fruit, Olive Oil, Healthy Baking, Baking for Kids. I would also love to do a book of Awadhi or Lukhnowi cuisine too including the photographs. Just need to find a publisher!
9. Of all the numerous accolades received, which one gave you the most satisfaction?
This is my most cherished accolade, the first one I ever received from a lady called Abby. The one that I enjoyed most was the space I got on BlogAdda … An interview with Deeba Rajpal. They are a great community.
10. You also write on a freelance basis. In your field of work, how hard is it to find projects? Any tips for newcomers on where to look?
To tell you the truth, I have never gone out to look for work; it has always come to me. Most folks would love to have all your work gratis and I have learnt the hard way. Defaulting on payments, late remittance etc is something that is common. Having said that, a couple of magazines that I write for are a revelation; they send me reminders for invoices! I think word of mouth seems to work best. I can’t offer tips on where to look but I can say that newcomers should respect copyright, submit original content and be punctual.
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