Today’s guest blog post on yrofthemonkey.com features none other than Dolphia Nandi-Arnstein, the blogger and owner of the insanely popular food blog “Story of Cooks”, which, in a sea of food blogs, happens to be one of my favorites because of our shared heritage of food (Dolphia hails from the same eastern state of West Bengal (current residence: New England) as I do and often showcases Bengali cuisine on her blog, something you will be very hard pressed to find in North American restaurants), her splendid food photography that makes me drool and yearn for a home-cooked Bengali meal and an honest candor to her writing that makes us, the readers, relate to her as she navigates through life, work, blogging and its many challenges. Her photo layouts are excellent and despite her extremely busy schedule (working woman turned student), she is never afraid to push boundaries, explore and experiment with food. Food aside, the one thing that really endears me to her is the fact that her partner in food photography as well as her collaborator, is her mother. Thus mother-daughter friendship and partnership is what makes her blog so special to me.
Dolphia and I are yet to meet in real life, but our love for food got us connected on social media. Being a very generous and kind person, she agreed for this guest blog post despite a very demanding schedule. The guest blog post today consists of a fun Q&A with the blogger and one of the four vegan, gluten free Bengali recipes that is super tasty and very easy to make. All responses in the Q&A in this guest blog post are Dolphia’s own and have been edited only for brevity and clarity. Photos have been used in the guest blog post with the blogger’s due permission and should not be reproduced in any shape or form without prior consent. Besides her blog, Dolphia is active on other social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram , Pinterest and Twitter. If you love good food and cooking, trying out new recipes in the kitchen, are an avid fan of food photography and want to unearth the secrets (both vegetarian and non vegetarian) of Bengali cuisine, do follow Dolphia’s blog or her other social media accounts for stunning photos and equally captivating stories on your feed. So without further ado, lets get started on knowing our guest blogger better and take a peek at the recipe in this guest blog post!
1) Please tell us about yourself.
I used to be a senior software developer for a 24-7 news organization that services the Northeastern region of the US. Currently, I am a Harvard student and looking for a UX designer job. When I am not studying, I like to cook, take photos and blog at leisure.
2) What is the “story” behind Story of Cooks? Can you tell us how it all began and what motivated you to start blogging?
‘Story of cooks’ is my journal and mirror where I write recipes, travel diaries (informal ones), stories and whatever is happening in my life right now. You will get to know about me if you read my posts thoroughly.
I started Story of Cooks in April, 2014 but due to our renovation work and moving, I could not start until August of that year. I started this space to log the recipes that I learn from mom.
3) The world of food blogging is crowded, competitive and involves a ton of handwork and creativity. What have been some of your most rewarding and stressful moments while being at it?
A food blogger’s most delightful moment is when someone else tries her/his recipe. When I publish a recipe and see that others have tried and loved the recipe, it makes me happy.
Food Blogging is quite stressful! From grocery shopping to cleaning the set, it takes an enormous amount of time.
4) Food photography belongs to a different world in itself. How did you master this art? Any tips for amateurs/beginners?
I picked up as I started blogging. I’ve always had an interest in photography but never thought I would be pursuing it so seriously. While I continuously study books, materials, posts etc, I believe photography is something you need to do more than reading.
Just keep practicing and if you want it badly, you will master it one day. I heard somewhere that only the first 10,000 photos turn out badly, after that you will produce only the good stuff.
5) This has always intrigued me and so I ask: how do you develop a recipe? Can you give us a brief workflow as to how you go about doing so and still coming across as original?
It all starts with ideas. I generally look for ideas everywhere – magazines, food groups, other bloggers, and word of mouth. Once I get the idea, I generally write it down somewhere. At the beginning of every week I attempt to do two posts and go over them.
After that I discuss them with mom and we come up with a recipe.
She tries the recipe until it’s perfect. After that I try it on a small batch and finally I remake it for bigger batch and shoot it.
Meanwhile, I start drafting the story.
After shooting I edit the photographs, finish the post and publish the recipe.
Sometimes I send those posts over to my editor at UK.
If I use a recipe from internet, I never forget to give due credit.
6) Finally, the rapid fire round:
A) One food blog you are simply awed by?
Local Milk, Call Me Cupcake, Bojon Gourmet, Passionate about Baking, Turmeric n Spice and so many more.
B) If today were to be your last day on earth, what would be the last meal that you would request?
C) A few favorite restaurants in Cambridge and Boston?
A lot actually! Life Alive (for vegan food), Grafton Street (for burger), Felipe (Mexican), Istanbul’lu (Turkish), Kebab Factory (Indian, takeout only), Atlantic Fish (for Fish), Alden and Harlow (Brunch).
D) Favorite Bengali dish that you never get tired of?
Daal, mashed potato and rice
E) Favorite celebrity chef/food personality?
Vikas Khanna and Gordon Ramsey
F) What is the one thing that you would want to improve upon as a blogger?
G) And finally, any secret craving?
Recipe for Cauliflower leaves and stalk stir fry with mustard (vegan, gluten free)
Notes: Drizzling mustard oil is option but highly recommended as it brings out the best flavor of these recipes.
These stir fry dishes are best served with plain rice and a dal (Indian lentil soup, linking to one of my favorite blog posts by Dolphia where she speaks of Bengali comfort food).
Cauliflower leaves and stalk of 1 cauliflower, cut into bite size pieces (½ inch cubes)
4 cups or more water to cook
1 teaspoon yellow mustard
1 teaspoon black mustard
1 teaspoon whole cumin
3 dried red chiles
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 green chile, seeded and halved length-wise
4 garlic cloves, minced
4 tiny potatoes, quartered lengthwise
½ of a big eggplant or 1 small eggplant, cut into 12 pieces
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
salt to taste
1 teaspoon mustard oil, optional
- In a soup pot, add cauliflower stalks & leaves, water and salt. Boil it for 10-15 minutes, or until the stalks are tender fork but not mushy. They should be little firm to touch by a fork.After they are boiled, strain over a colander and keep it aside.
- Meanwhile, in a coffee or spice grinder, add yellow and black mustard, ¼ teaspoon whole cumin, 1 red chile, and a pinch of salt. Grind them until they are fine and smooth. Place this powder aside in a bowl.
- In a non-stick skillet, over medium heat, heat vegetable oil. Add ¾ teaspoon whole cumin, 2 red chiles. Cook it for 1-2 minutes, or until the cumin seeds splatter. Add green chile and garlic pieces; cook them for 2- 3 minutes, or until the aroma of garlic wafts out. Add boiled cauliflower stalks, and potato pieces. Give it a gentle stir to mix it well.
- Add eggplant pieces, turmeric, salt and dry grind spice. Give it another stir and cover it. Cook covered for 8 -10 minutes or until eggplants are fork tender. Drizzle with mustard oil and serve warm with rice.
For three other stir-fry recipes, aka eggplant, watercress and mushroom stir-fry, please visit Dolphia’s website Story of Cooks. Finally, a HUGE THANK YOU Dolphia, for agreeing to do this guest blog post and sharing your photos and recipes! Read my other guest blog post here.