Where I Cook: Mallika in London, England

Kitchen Tour

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Who cooks and eats here: Mallika Basu, her husband, and two young children
Where: London, England
Rent or Own? Own

Entering Mallika Basu's southwest London home involves a moment of transition, and then surprise. From the entrance, her home looks quite the same as its neighbors in a long row of Clapham townhouses. The front hallway and staircase signal the Victorian heritage of the home, down to the carefully restored tile in the entryway. But walk down the hallway and enter the back room and suddenly the house opens up in a flood of light, sleek modern cabinetry, and a wall of windows to the outdoors. It's a beautiful surprise.

This is where Mallika Basu — cookbook author, public relations executive, and mother of two young children — cooks. Come take a closer look!

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Mallika's Kitchen Story

I met Mallika through a mutual friend, and we set up plans for a kitchen visit during my brief trip to London last summer. It's always a bit of a nervous moment, walking into someone's home and kitchen for the first time, all set up to capture it quickly through the camera. This turned out to be an especially tough task with the lovely and warm Mallika, who has armfuls of chatty charm, and who moves so quickly she practically flickers. One moment she was cooking us a snack, and in another nudging one of her active, boisterous children out of the main part of the kitchen.

Mallika is a transplant to London; she moved to England from Kolkata, India, when she was in college and made it her home. She and her husband, a photographer, bought this home a few years ago and renovated it, transforming the kitchen from a small, cramped space into the centerpiece of the home by building an addition and installing clever skylights and plenty of windows to bring as much light as possible into this attached row house.

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Mallika's Cooking Story

Her cooking style, she says, is summed up with one word: ease. She has a full-time corporate PR job and two children under the age of five, so everything she cooks has to be practical and simple. And yet she fully embraces the Indian cooking of her childhood, albeit lightened-up and made quicker in her own personal ways.

Mallika became a cook and a food blogger while she was working on a graduate degree in London. As she says, "I’d never cooked anything until I started my Masters degree in London. When I finally took the plunge, I found many authentic, healthy, quick and simple Indian dishes that I could fit among client deadlines, late nights partying, family dos and general craziness."

Her cooking career took off from there, as she plunged into a book project (more on that tomorrow!) and created healthier, quicker Indian recipes on her blog. So this kitchen, which she says they "designed from a hole in the wall," has become her cooking lab and also the place where she keeps her household buzzing and humming.

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3 Questions for Mallika About Her Kitchen

What's your challenge in the kitchen?

"Toys and children are usually the two biggest impediments to doing anything remotely involving fire in my kitchen," she laughed. "If I don’t step on a hot wheels racer, someone is bound to climb onto the worktop using the bar stools and hover dangerously close to the Zwilling Henckel."

What do you love most in the kitchen?

"This is a toss-up between the Bosch flatbed microwave and the quartz worktop. The microwave has ginormous capacity, and is the best things for parties as I am addicted to pre-cooking food and warming it up before serving. It warms up large platters of rice, dal and even finger foods evenly and in a flash at 1000W. It was more expensive than the American fridge freezer, but totally worth it.

The other splurge was the quartz worktop. It’s a milky white with hardly any bits in it. This is insane given the amount of turmeric, chili powder and lemon juice I handle. It’s my third baby, after the toddlers."

What's the best advice you've received about cooking?

"My father once said you can’t be afraid of hot oil if you want to be a great cook. That stuck."

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What I liked about Mallika's kitchen

One of the things that I admire about the modern style of kitchens, with sleek surfaces and little to no decorative details, is how it can become a practical platform to real life. In photos a very modern or contemporary kitchen can feel a little cold, but add people into the picture, and it suddenly subsides into the background as a relaxed, undemanding stage for real life. This is how Mallika's kitchen feels; it's open and spacious, and it encourages mingling and space-sharing, with plenty of room for the kids to bounce around and a clear line of sight to the back yard. It's a space where a cook can do her thing, family and friends at hand.

Stay tuned over the next two days as I share some cooking tips from Mallika, and the recipe for the delicious chickpea crepes she cooked for us.

Kitchen Resources of Note

Visit Mallika Online

Thank you so much for letting us peek into your kitchen Mallika!

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More posts in this series

Kitchen Tour: Mallika in London, England

(Image credits: Faith Durand)