Culinary consultant and author Saee Koranne-Khandekar learnt cooking and baking by “osmosis...by being around”. She’s never received formal cooking lessons. It could explain why her books have appealed to me. Be it her debut Crumbs , which explored the world of breads, or her sophomore work Pangat , a treatise on Marathi cooking, her writing remains conversational.
And that could be said of her latest project, From My Oven , an e-book created as a fundraiser for Ahmednagar-based non-profit Snehalaya, which managed to raise ₹12 lakh in 21 days. All it took were daily posts on her social media pages. Snehalaya, operational for three decades now, works with women, children and LGBTQI+ communities affected by HIV, AIDS, poverty, violence and sex trafficking. Thane-based Koranne-Khandekar’s philosophy, be it on her popular Instagram page (@skoranne) or in her writing, has been to make cooking a non-lesson. “When you instruct, it becomes a chore to be completed, not a life skill,” she says.
There’s a spirit of sharing, with things you’ll never find in a regular cookbook, such as turning extra rotis into crackers and making herbed croutons using leftover space in the oven. These tips are a lifesaver. “Those cooking at home were not holding back trade secrets,” she says of the people who taught her over the years.
The 30-plus recipes are meant for beginners, those with moderate skills, and the experienced. Want minimum fuss? There’s the nan khatai , thumbprint cookies, and baked mathri .
The book is also a treasure trove of baking substitutions — think egg replacer powder, flaxseed powder or aquafaba (the liquid from cooking chickpeas). “That’s how our kitchens work. You want to make mava (milk solids) cake, but don’t have mava , so then you substitute. If you’re making a Christmas cake and don’t have individual spices, can you use garam masala ? Yes, you can. There will be a slight difference, but you get the overall flavour,” insists Koranne-Khandekar, who believes that recipes are the scaffolding that protects a dish, but allows you to experiment within.
Proceeds from the book will help supply free medication for all at Snehalaya and also to those with mild Covid-19 in Ahmednagar, provide food for those who cannot cook, and an isolation centre for those who cannot isolate at home. At 89 pages, the digital book is slimmer than her usual works. Will it turn into a physical book? “I don’t think so. This was written for a specific purpose, and it has fulfilled it.”