Chetna Makan is a cook and food writer who earned huge popularity with the public as a contestant on The Great British Bake Off 2014, where she left in the semi-finals. She took part again and won the Christmas Special in 2016.
She’s published three cookbooks and has a popular You Tube channel, Food with Chetna, where she cooks with family, friends and chefs to share inspiring and accessible recipes. Her most recent book, Chetna’s Healthy India was published in 2019 and aims to show that Indian food can be healthy, nourishing, comforting and easy to make at home.
Chetna was born in India and moved to Mumbai as a student where she became a fashion designer. She moved to the UK in 2004 and now lives in Kent with her children and husband. She enjoys shopping in her local farm shop and loves to buy fresh, organic ingredients.
What are your main reasons for buying organic?
In our family I do all the food and drink shopping and organic is always my first choice as I believe it’s healthier – especially for my children’s health because it reduces their exposure to pesticides. My most recent book was all about eating healthy food everyday as a family, so it’s a topic close to my heart.
I also think the production of organic produce is better for animal welfare and the environment - it’s a win-win situation.
It can be more expensive to buy organic, but we’re talking pennies not pounds, and I think that’s an investment worth making for the health of your family. I would rather buy less and spend a bit more to get better quality produce. The statistics around food waste at home concern me. We could all make a real difference to the environment if we shopped more thoughtfully and bought less but better.
How easy is it to buy organic near you?
I don’t think it’s as easy to buy organic as it might be - there aren’t always all the choices that you might expect, although most supermarkets do sell organic alternatives of the obvious things.
I live in Kent and we’re lucky to have lots of delicious local produce grown on our doorstep - potatoes, cauliflowers, berries and apples that I can buy.
I do a lot of my shopping at a nearby farm shop and butchers as I like to support small businesses and buy local. Shopping plastic-free is also important to me and supporting independent shops helps me to avoid unnecessary packaging.
Are there ingredients that you always buy organic when shopping and cooking for your family?
I always try to buy organic fruit especially berries because I think they taste better.
As you can imagine, with all the baking going on we get through a lot of eggs in our house and I always buy organic. Milk and dairy products like yoghurt and butter are always organic too – as it’s better for animal welfare.
I buy organic chicken from our local independent butchers and think it tastes unbelievably different to non-organic. If you gave me a blind taste of different types of chicken I think I’d be able to pick out the organic one by taste alone!
Are your children interested in food and cooking?
My children are 10 and 12 now and they can hardly avoid learning about food and cooking in my house! They’ve both got a sweet tooth and are not really interested in cooking savoury food yet; I imagine that will come later but we’re always baking together. At this time of year, we start thinking about baking Christmas treats as gifts for the teachers at school.
Do you talk to your children about where produce comes from?
Yes, I often take them to the farm shop with me at the weekends and I’m trying to teach them about where food comes from and seasonality. For example, I refuse to buy strawberries after the English season has ended and they’re starting to understand why.
Do you grow any of your own food and if so, do you keep it organic?
We did have a vegetable patch in our garden, but we’re surrounded by cats who used it as their toilet - I’m afraid I gave up after that and decided to stick to flowers!
Do you have any food traditions over the festive season?
We don’t have any hard and fast traditions for Christmas in our family but we’re not fans of Christmas pudding, so we always have some kind of chocolate dessert.
All my family are in India, so we spend Christmas with friends and usually host celebrations at our house.