Nourishing life

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Sneh Roy provides nutritious, uncomplicated recipes that anyone can replicate at home

As a child, Sneh Roy was a self-confessed ‘nosy parker’ in the kitchen.

“I was always in mum’s way asking a gazillion questions and basically doing everything I was not asked to do,” says Roy of her childhood kitchen adventures. “My earliest memories of kneading a very squishy watery dough go back to when I was six. I learned to cook by trial and error, and having an often foolhardy sense of adventure where cooking was concerned!”

The curiosity has paid off for Mumbai-born Roy, who earlier this year released her first cookbook Tasty Express. The book is described as a collection of “super quick, super easy and super tasty recipes for a healthier lifestyle” that was eagerly anticipated by the massive fan base of Roy’s highly successful blog, Cook Republic.

Based in Sydney since 2005, Sneh Roy’s journey into the world of culinary publishing began with the birth of Cook Republic the following year. The past year or so has seen Cook Republic receive significant accolades including winner of the Best Australian Blog 2013 in a competition run by The Australian Writers’ Centre, as well as being chosen in the Top Five Voices of Australia in the Food and Wellbeing category. The blog is a feast of sorts, as Roy combines her talent for creating simple, delicious recipes with her skills as a writer, photographer and designer. It is indeed “visual storytelling of a nourishing life”.

Memories and personal stories form one of the foundation stones of both Cook Republic and Tasty Express.

“I would like to think that Cook Republic is an honest recount of my daily life and everything that affects me,” Roy says. “The philosophy behind the blog is to share real food and real life, to provide inspiration so people can see the joy in little things and reconnect with rituals and traditions that we seem to be losing everyday because of the pace of life and technology.”

Roy is inspired by the cuisine of many different cultures, and as a working mother of two young children, she aims to create nutritious, uncomplicated recipes that anyone can replicate at home.

“I wanted to simplify cooking delicious yet wholesome recipes not only for me but for others who read my blog,” she says. “In Tasty Express, I explore nutritionally rich, honest, and adventurous recipes that can go from breakfast to lunchbox to dinner in minutes. Fresh, real food you could take to work, school, college or share with family and friends over the weekend. Food as we eat now is a melting pot of flavours from all cultures,” Roy says of her cooking style.

The new book is a collection of 110 recipes, of which the majority are vegetarian and a good number gluten-free. There is a strong Indian flavour to the book and the blog alike, both in terms of recipes and the stories that are shared.

They say we eat with our eyes, and it is Roy’s evocative food photography that first draws the reader to Cook Republic, urging them to click on link after link of stunning, creatively-styled images of the food she makes for her family. Her talent in this field is something to be shared, especially given the current explosion in numbers of food photography hobbyists.

If the blog, cookbook, a brief stint as a columnist in Elle magazine, and a recently completed course in graphic design weren’t enough to keep this computer engineer busy, Sneh Roy has another project in the works. The new venture is a food styling and photography workshop that is in its developmental stages, something which will undoubtedly be well received by those who are followers of Roy’s work and budding food photographers themselves.

Taking Tasty Express from concept to publication was no simple feat. “I had 40 days to test all 110 recipes – several times, write the book, cook the dishes, style and photograph them and art direct the design,” Roy reveals. “I found it extremely challenging to go from cook to photographer to designer and back to recipe-tester all in the space of a few hours. As with everything else I do, I overcame this by obsessing constantly and sleeping very little!”

Tasty Express holds all of the warmth that is found on Cook Republic, which Roy refers to as her third child. A browse through the website can very easily become hours spent reading through personal anecdotes of Roy’s family life and her childhood. In one post, the reader gets an insight into sweet memories of the early days of Roy’s romance with her husband, and she then unveils a recipe for the simple pleasure that is a Bombay sandwich. In another post from last year, a recipe for Malai Peda is preceded by a taste of the joys of celebrating Diwali in India. “Today is Diwali,” she writes, “The Indian Festival of Lights. There are no firecrackers or lanterns, but taste is a very powerful sense. One nibble and I can smell the smoky air, feel the heat of a sparkler on my arm and hear the gentle hum of a hymn being sung as people offer their prayers amidst the ding ding ding of temple bells”. It is imagery that you can’t help but be drawn to. Suddenly there is the faint smell of incense, the recollection of your own childhood Diwali joys and an inexplicable craving for Malai Peda.

Tasty Express is published by Random House Australia and is available in bookstores and online. Sneh Roy’s blog can be found at www.cookrepublic.com