Saltie Cooks with @TashasArtisanFoods
Natasha is a food blogger, food photographer & recipe developer based in India, drawing inspiration from her heritage and travels to create unique, joyous dishes. Her cooking essential? Peace (and a soothing music playlist).
This week, we caught up with Natasha and learned more about her heartwarming cooking memories, travels, and favourite recipes. Natasha has very kindly shared her eggless Honey Almond Cake recipe with us and we can’t wait for you to try it yourselves!
And now, over to Natasha…
1. What are some of your earliest cooking memories?
As a kid, I remember hanging around our kitchen while my parents cooked & baked up a storm. Stolen tastes as my favorite dessert was being made, mouthwatering smells, arguments about whose methods were better. My parents created a home where food was always the focal point of any celebration, any needed comfort!
Being in the kitchen as they cooked, in the heart of my childhood home - those are my earliest cooking memories, and essentially the experiences which set me on my current path.
2. Please share a little bit about what inspires you when it comes to recipes and cooking.
I’m inspired by the people and places I love most. My family, the traditional recipes that I grew up on, the places I have lived in and learned through food, the seasonal vegetables I have been taught to nurture. Most of my work is an amalgamation of inspirations. This could be infusing traditional Indian flavours with a new dish, adapting one of my mom’s recipes or trying something new I learned from travelling. One of the aspects I love most about this work is that it thrives on inspiration!
3. You have many strings to your bow. You’re a cook, a food photographer and a recipe developer. What is it that you like about each part of the process?
Each of these facets of my work is something that came along at different periods in my life and I am very proud to have cultivated.
To start with cooking - my food journey went from tasting and appreciating to taking control early on. My parents insisted I learn how to make what I love the most, which is something I am deeply grateful for now.
Learning to cook and bake quickly became my outlet. It taught me how to be patient, the value of elbow grease and the crucial life skills of being able to sustain myself (I know it sounds cheesy, but you’ll find that 90% of my life learnings have been developed in the kitchen - no regrets!) I love the sense of independence and control I get from cooking. Where I can tune out the world around me and have the power to create something nourishing.
Later on as my passion for food grew, I was introduced to the thrill of not following someone else’s recipe and crafting my own. Years of trial and error had equipped me with a deep knowledge of food & strong intuition. Developing recipes is empowering - I get to bring together exactly what I want and visualise, share it with others and see something that was once a vague thought in my head take a life of its own. Of course there are plenty of times my recipes don’t go as planned (more failed macarons than you can count), but each of those experiences brings me closer to making something special.
As for food photography - this skill was something I needed to develop purely out of necessity and took a long time for me to warm up to. Picking up a camera, looking at the endless editing options that made no sense to me, understanding lighting techniques - all of this took me far out of my comfort zone. Yet I kept practicing and learning from whoever could teach me, since my recipes were not going to get far without being presented the way I envisioned them. Now after 6 years of ups and downs with my trusty DSLR, I can’t imagine a world without photography. I love how it inspires creativity I did not know I was capable of. It allows me to breathe a new life into what I make. Explore new visual mediums that expand my understanding of art. Picking up my camera everyday is a pure delight and I’m so excited to learn more with each shoot.
4. What are your cooking essentials? Either for cooking or creating your ideal environment around it.
My cooking essential is peace. I like to have the kitchen to myself, to think out loud and become deeply immersed in what I am making. It's a meditative time, which I can not enjoy to the fullest if there is chaos.
This works both ways - in response to chaotic times, anxiousness, stress, I turn to my kitchen to find that peace. Even if it is not there initially, connecting with the food I’m making, tuning into the smells, touch and thoughtfulness of it all, a peace is born.
Plus, a good music playlist. I can not go without some soothing, lovely music to set the mood!
5. We noticed on your page that you have travelled quite a lot and lived in Eastern Europe. Have your travels shaped the way you approach cooking?
Travelling never fails to breathe a new life into my spirit & work! I lived in Moscow for a while and picked up some of my favorite recipes there. The gorgeous cheeses, soul warming soups, traditional breads - each has stuck with me over the years. I learn about new places best through food and things I pick up find themselves in my kitchen someway or another. I’ve got spices, techniques & ideas from all over the world which helps me to stay inspired and versatile.
6. On the topic of international travels, what is your favourite cuisine to cook?
As much as I adore experimenting and learning about new cuisines, Indian food will always be my favorite. When I need comfort, it's daal chawal, kadhi, halwa, kheer. I love the familiarity of cooking my favourite dishes and revelling in flavours that I have grown up on.
7. What are some of your reader's favourite recipes?
The Everyday Bread, as the name implies, was a daily treat in my bread loving home. During the first lockdown last year when people were turning to their kitchens for comfort & essentials, I was inspired to share one of my own staples. The response was overwhelming, To this day, I get emails and messages from readers who are making this everyday bread along with me so frequently!
The Swedish Chocolate Cake is one of my favorite indulgences, so I’m thrilled that readers fell in love with it as much as I did. It's easy to understand why - when you just need a few simple ingredients and a handful of steps for such decadence, what's not to love? This also inspired me to come up with a long running cake series that is one of the best performing on my website.
8. Would you say you have more of a sweet tooth or do you prefer savoury flavours?
I definitely have a sweet tooth. There is nothing that a slice of chocolate cake or big ice cream sundae can’t cure in my world! And I am in awe of the fact that my sweet tooth is literally a key part of my job - how incredible is that? Also, maybe a little dangerous..
9. We’re sharing your Honey Almond Cake - yum! Tell us more about this recipe, its origins and what you love about it?
This recipe is very dear to me for many reasons. It combines some of my favorite flavours. I made it initially for my sister’s birthday. Most of all - it was a bright light in the turbulent lockdown of 2020! I turned to my kitchen for solace and this recipe is one of my favorites to come of that time. It’s such an instant classic! Soft, fluffy, delicious and lovely. Plus - very simple to make, which is always a winning quality!
10. How do you style your Salt-Water Sandals?
I like to style them with my summer dresses! A comfortable, airy look brings me so much joy while I’m at home. A versatile pair of sandals is great to go with all my favorite breezy outfits to stay cool and bright.
- 1.5 cup All purpose flour
- 1 1/4 tsp Baking powder
- 1/2 tsp Baking soda
- 1/4 tsp Salt
- 1/4 cup Almond meal
- 1/4 cup Raw sugar You can use regular white sugar
- 3/4 cup Coconut yogurt You can use plain Greek yogurt or hung yogurt
- 1/3 cup Coconut oil You can use any oil
- 1/4 cup + 1 tbsp Honey
- 4-5 drops Almond extract
- 1/2 tsp Rose water Optional
- 1/4 cup Slivered almond
- 1.5 tbsp Water
- 1.5 tbsp Honey
- 4-5 drops Rosewater Optional
- Preheat the oven to 180C. Grease a 6" cake tin.
- Sift the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a bowl.
- Add almond meal and raw sugar to the dry ingredients.
- In another bowl, whisk together honey, yogurt, coconut oil, almond extract and rosewater.
- Pour over the dry ingredients and gently mix.
- Do not overmix.
- Pour into the prepared pan. Smoothen the surface and sprinkle slivered almonds.
- Bake for 30-35 minutes or until a skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.
- Let the cake cool in the pan for 5-10 minutes before turning it out on a cooling rack.
- Bring the water to a boil. Take it off the heat, stir in honey and rosewater. Let the syrup cool.
- Once the cake is ready, use a skewer to poke holes all over the top of the warm cake. Spoon over the cooled honey syrup.
- Let the syrup soak in for 30 minutes or so.
- Garnish with dried rose petals and serve at room temperature. Enjoy!