The art of recipe writing does not come easy to many Kenyan authors. However, Gatuiri Irauka has understood that a good recipe offers a happy medium for cooking sumptuous vegetarian meals.
She says her recipes are readily available and affordable for both vegetarians and meat lovers.
“When you buy a kilo of lentils, you feed your family of five, up to four meals which you can not do with meat. I wanted Kenyans to see that with a little food, you can feed many people, and still make the food delicious, ”she said.
Gatuiri, who also founded a food website, Leo Tunapika in 2012 spoke to BDLife about her book, ‘The Little Veggies Cook Book. ‘ It has 42 recipes, with 26 of them being vegan-friendly. Released in 2021, the book has recipes for main meals, salads, quick fixes, breakfast dishes, and treats.
What ingredients and recipes are in your book?
Readily available and accessible ingredients are njahi, eggplant (biringanya), butter beans, among others. The book is a compilation of my favorite vegetarian recipes and ranges from breakfast to sweet treats.
What’s your most favorite vegetable dish to make and why?
This is a tough one, I enjoy making chana dal (split chickpeas) curry and serving it with naan or chapati. I love it because it’s creamy and delicious and since chana dal is a type of lentil, I do not need to soak it overnight before cooking.
And the most favorite dish in the book?
Another tough one. I’d say Mujadara (lentils, rice with caramelized onions) since it’s a one-pot meal. It uses kamande (lentils) and oh my isn’t it delicious!
What’s your go-to dish to make yet sumptuous?
Spaghetti in creamy garlic and mushroom sauce. Toss in some spinach and you have a balanced meal. It’s easy to prepare and is ready in under 30 minutes.
Where did your passion for cooking and food come from?
Hard to pinpoint but looking back I think I’ve always loved food, eating and cooking it. Also, my mother was very encouraging in that she’d get me the ingredients I needed when I was younger.
Do you think that good cook books are hard to find in Kenya?
It’s more about the number of cookbook authors in Kenya. They aren’t so many. Good thing, this is slowly changing and we are seeing more food lovers writing books.
For example, Jasmine Macharia has published three cookbooks, and also Kaluhi Adagala released her second cookbook in 2021. Plus there are a few others.
Is it good to be a cookbook writer now, when more people care about their food, healthy eating and all?
I feel it’s a natural progression, especially for food content creators who have been sharing recipes on their blogs for years. Years ago not many Kenyans wrote cookbooks.
With the ease of self-publishing, I foresee even more cookbooks in the market. This will be great to build up archives about Kenyan food made by Kenyans.
Do you think Kenyans are now keen on their way of cooking?
Yes, from my audience alone and the feedback I receive, people are keen on what they are eating at home, they want to eat delicious, different foods.
Are people buying the book?
Yes, people are buying the book. I am very grateful for the support I received so far. In just three months after the launch of the book and I sold over 200 copies (hard copies and e-bookies sales).
Is there an art to writing a cookbook? Sometimes a cookbook can be too vague that a person finds it hard to come up with the dish as described.
Yes, there’s definitely an art to it. The ingredient list has to make sense in terms of quantity and how they should be prepared. For example, are the tomatoes being pureed or diced, are the spices ground or whole?
Such details matter. Also, the steps should be straight to the point and try to pre-empt any question the user might have as they use the book.
What makes a veggie recipe good or bad?
The base of any recipe matters, for example, if I am making the chana dal curry, the masala with the onions, garlic, ginger, and spices should be well cooked. Do not rush the process.
Another thing to look out for is to cook the food just right. Say I am making a coconut vegetable curry with broccoli and cauliflower, it’s important the vegetables are not overcooked and mushy.
They should maintain their bite. I have a recipe in my cookbook about this.