In conversation with an amazing baker, world traveler, and young entrepreneur Puja Shah, founder of Micaro fine stationery and blogger for Joie De Vivre.  Puja is a joy to be around and can navigate her way in any situation.  She is very quick at making informative decisions for herself and the family.  She shares with us her love for cooking, her two year old daughters favourite after school snacks, her go to cook books, and her list of best restaurants in Mumbai.

Tell us about your love for cooking, and how did you learn to cook? 

For me, cooking is a stress buster, a creative expression, and a way to bind and bring loved ones together – it is, as my blog’s name suggests, filled with Joie De Vivre  – the exuberant enjoyment of life. As with all life skills, I have learnt by observing and absorbing.

How do you get inspired for healthy cooking?

I think the concept of healthy food, healthy eating and an overall healthy and holistic lifestyle are completely skewed in this generation. We live in an era of information overload whether healthy cooking means cooking food that is gluten free, vegan, paleo, pegan, or ketogenic. To me, healthy cooking is quite simply cooking food that suits your body, suits the climate you live in, suits the season that you are in and suits your cooking techniques.

What inspires me is fresh produce, because that is the healthiest food to cook with. I am always on the lookout for homegrown food brands, ranging from fresh tofu to the greenest locally grown baby spinach.

Do you follow any specific cook books, authors, blogs?

I absolutely LOVE smitten kitchen. She is an absolute rock star, I have a cupboard that’s bursting with cookbooks ranging from Ottolenghi to Nancy Mcdermott. I use a lot of varied vegan baking books for my cakes and pastries. And for daily old-school quick and clean Indian food, Tarla Dalal’s plethora of books.

What is your daughters favorite after school snack? 

My 2 year old loves munchies in the evening after she’s up from her nap. She gets:

  • Fresh cut fruit and berries
  • Roasted spiced foxnut
  • Stovetop popped popcorn
  • Quick Bhel (puffed rice with diced tomatoes and cucumber)
  • Biscotti or non sugary biscuits
  • Dried Fruit and Nuts
  • Dates
  • Roasted Chickpeas
  • Toast with cheese / avocado
  • Hummus with crudités
  • A cupcake or a cookie that we have baked together

Where do you buy your vegetables in Mumbai?

From the local green grocer.

Mangoes are in season? What kind of mangoes one should eat when visiting Mumbai? 

Mangoes are like jewels. While the diamond will always be the haphoos / alphonso, each and every local strain is incredibly flavourful and it’s an absolute must to savour as many as you possibly can!

What is your favorite street food and where?

Pani puri, bhel and sev puri are my all time ‘street foods’ in the neighbourhood. Venturing a little further away brings me to mysore masala dosas and vada pav. (salivating a little while typing)

Name five ingredients you absolutely need to have in your kitchen?

  • Fantastic quality extra virgin olive oil. None of that cheap grocery store stuff please!
  • Same goes for a great quality aged Balsamic Vinegar (preferably from Modena)
  • Valrhona couveture
  • Canned pelati
  • Avocado

What is secret HOT sauce?

Fresh spicy chopped green chilies loaded with salt. Does the job every time. For Mexican salsas etc I love the Chimay sauces that my brother brings back from Mexico.

You recently traveled to Japan. Tell us about their food culture?

Japan is such a unique and incredibly wonderful country, their food and their culture is so deeply intertwined it will warrant another more detailed post!

Any specialty foods that you call from London? 

Having spent most summers there since I was a child, and subsequently living in England for 4 years means I still crave crumpets and tea! My staple wish list from London starts with crumpets, kit kat, organic children’s snacks, English cheddar, red leicester, oh I could go on and on!

How can people find your recipes on social media?

Your favorite recipe from your blog?

Double Chocolate Banana Bread

Top five favorite restaurants?

The Table

Thai Pavillion

Santosh Sagar

India Jones