From eating mango with her grandmother to the smell of ghee, these are Chetna Makan’s food memories

19th Aug 19 | Lifestyle

The former Great British Bake Off contestant shares her culinary recollections with Ella Walker.


What – and with whom – we eat as children, can inform our tastes and memories for the rest of our lives. For some of us, that love of food can set us on a trajectory that involves a Bake Off tent and several cookbooks to boot.

That’s how it’s been for Jabalpur-born Chetna Makan, who appeared on the fifth series of The Great British Bake Off, and now has three celebrated recipe collections to her name: The Cardamom Trail; Chai, Chaat & Chutney; and Chetna’s Healthy Indian.

But what are the culinary memories that have helped shape her as a cook? We find out…

Her earliest memory of food is…

“I remember coming back from school on the day my mum would make ghee [clarified butter] at home, I’d open the door and us sisters would go, ‘Ohhh mum, no, you’ve not made ghee!’ – which is why I don’t use so much of it.

“I I just make it from butter, but in India, when you get milk every day, you boil it and store it in the fridge, and by the end of the day, you get a thin film of fat, or cream, on top and you scoop it out and collect it in a bowl. You keep collecting it for a month, and you whisk it, then you get white butter. When you’ve got enough cream, then you boil it and cook it for so long on a really slow heat until you get ghee, but that smell was so intense!”

“Another happy food memory is, in the school holidays, we’d go and see our grandparents. My grandmother, who is sadly no more, she loved mangoes and I love mangoes and the whole family would sit round [the table to eat] and then for pudding, you’d have mangoes every time after lunch, that was fixed. Everyone would eat and leave and we two would still be sitting and eating the mangoes, so they would call us mango thieves.”

Makan’s culinary high moment is…

“The launch of the books was pretty high, and at the last book launch, my parents came over [from India] and it was just so amazing. I could see their faces switch on, the glow was amazing. I will never forget that look on their faces, they were beaming with pride, it was just amazing.”

The worst disaster she’s ever had in the kitchen is…

“Only once I forgot to put sugar in a cake – a chocolate pudding – and I gave it to my friends and they just ate it! I was eating it like, ‘What is wrong with this?’ It didn’t taste bad, but it was a chocolate-odd thing. I don’t know how it happened.”

Chetna’s Healthy Indian by Chetna Makan, photography by Nassima Rothacker, is published by Mitchell Beazley priced £20 ( Available now.

© Press Association 2019