Welcome to my first ever post on Rena Bakes!
I would like to introduce to you my blog which will be a collection of my ideas and things I like to cook and eat! I am a self-confessed lover of all food with a passion in home cooking. I get genuine excitement about a meal whether it’s coming home to my mum’s comfort food or going out to an inventive restaurant serving up new concepts and style. I take on board everything I see and learn around me to create new dishes of my own and by sharing my ideas I hope to get you excited too! Capturing my creations in photographs adds a further artistic dimension which I hope will inspire you to get yourself in the kitchen and join me.
Being British born with a Hindu Gujarati background, I have always been interested in a variety of food. It also helps that I am surrounded by brilliant cooks! My mum makes lovely traditional Indian and Gujarati food consisting of vegetable curries and chapattis (which we call rotli and shak). My Dad likes to create quick recipes from food he has eaten out or seen on TV, from fresh tomato bruschetta doused with olive oil to grilled mackerel or prawns in garlic butter. Then there’s my brother who has also always enjoyed cooking from a young age, being the head chef at many summer barbecues we had in the garden making the tastiest jeera chicken. He also makes a cracking good Thai green curry! When he got married, he introduced me to my sister in law who loves to bake. I have had the pleasure of tasting her tea time treats such as chewy ginger cookies and pretty cupcakes made with buttermilk for extra softness. How lucky I am to have grown up with such foodies!
When I got married I was then enlightened to another type of cooking based on Jain influences and food with strong connections to Kenya. You would think all Gujarati family food was the same but I soon learnt this was not the case. I tasted poha (flattened rice) made with sweetcorn where I had previously eaten it with potato and delicacies like Mombasa mix (fried lentil dumplings and chickpeas in a delicious coconut gravy). The spicing of my mother in law’s food to the methods she uses are slightly different to what I had experienced which further opened my eyes.
Being the food my husband was brought up with, I quickly tried to learn some of her dishes and how they are spiced. This included adding tomato into many curries and upping the chilli which I never used to eat that much of. My mother in law also frequently uses a pressure cooker which used to scare me senseless! That unexpected wild scream of steam wailing without warning and that feeling the vessel was about to explode! But how brilliant it is to be able to transform hard dried black eyed beans to soft pearls in fifteen minutes; The reason I have learnt to get over my fear and taken to pressure cooking over the years. I have since recreated some of her dishes including a firm favourite of my husband’s, mixed dhal (red, yellow, green and black lentils cooked in spices), who still insists his mum’s is better.
And that’s the beauty of home cooking; every mother has their own take on how they feed their family, it’s so personal and that’s what makes home cooked food taste that much better. The brilliance of both my mums is their dedication and ease to be able to cook for the family so naturally. It’s that comfort and the satisfied feeling of being fed by mum which never goes away and is what we admire them for. Now that I myself am a mother, I hope to inspire my son to learn and be open minded about food too. Food is what fuels us and makes us. Cooking is a life skill which can never be undervalued.
Since moving to Dubai where I am currently living with my husband and son, I have taken on cooking to another level. Not having parents around to stop by and have my favourites was a big deal for me. Missing mum’s food was just the beginning. Dubai is a fascinating, eclectic and crazy city where you can literally eat any cuisine and even get it delivered to your door. But if you’re not careful it’s easy to put on the infamous Dubai stone. After feeling the effects when we first moved a year and a half ago, I made a conscious effort to make healthier food at home especially for my son. As I slowly explored Dubai and learnt where to buy groceries and fresh food, my cooking adventures developed.
A family friend visited a year ago and gifted me a baking book. I started reading it and thought I would try my hand at a simple sponge cake not having been into baking before. Once the cake was baked and I shared it with family who were also visiting at the time, the delight on their faces was enough to get me back in the kitchen to try another bake. Who knew baking would become so addictive? I went through the book page by page achieving a different feat each time and logging them by taking photographs. Home baked goods just have that special taste you don’t find in the shops. Being able to reduce sugar and using healthier ingredients is also a plus.
I have been taking photographs of my food for years now. Some think it’s strange or embarrassing but why not when each plate is a creation of someone’s work, almost a piece of temporary art which can stir up many emotions… mostly feelings of temptation and hunger! Taking photographs of food whether eating out or homemade was one of the many reasons for starting this blog. All the pictures on this site are my own. I have already been sharing these on Instagram which have been received well. Realising most of the reaction was from my own baking led to the hashtag ‘renabakes’ and it has stuck ever since.
It has been my baking addiction which has really fuelled my experimentation and itch to share with everyone else. The pride of producing a risen cake or puffed up choux bun can really be magical and even more so when you get to share it with loved ones. Along with much encouragement from family and friends I have decided to take that next step and start renabakes.com.
On this blog I will be sharing my cooking and baking attempts as my quest for deliciousness continues. Most of my dishes will be vegetarian but I do eat pretty much everything. I do believe in eating sustainable food and vegetables really are the way forward. I will write about my interest in creating healthier alternatives to old favourites and how I like to mix it up when it comes to the classics. Tweaking stir fried rice to boost nutrient density by adding quinoa and extra vegetables is something I frequently do.
However, I also get a kick out of preparing indulgent feasts and treats like the salted caramel cream cake I recently made for my husband’s birthday. His cake, almost a thank you to him, for being my favourite critic and very loyal guinea pig who has supported me on my journey so much. So I’m asking you to come along too and join me on my foodie adventure… I would love to entice you to get in that kitchen and create something special yourself (special because you made it).