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Easy food art guide to cook garden-fresh idlis and uttapam at home

Updated on: 08 August,2023 09:34 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Ainie Rizvi |

Stimulate your appetite with this expert edible food art guide. Delhi-based food stylist shares with us innovative ways to transform regular idlis and uttapams into edible food art infused with fresh ingredients

Easy food art guide to cook garden-fresh idlis and uttapam at home

Uttapam and Coconut-cucumber chutney made with garden-fresh ingredients. Image Courtesy: Surabhi Sehgal

You eat with your eyes first. What this implies is that our visual senses play a significant role in how we perceive the idea of food. The appearance of a dish can have a substantial impact on our overall dining experience. How the chef experiments with colours, presentation, food arrangement, and overall aesthetics of the food is known to trigger excitement, making us eager to savour the dish.

A good-looking food palette can increase our hunger through a psychological process called the "cephalic phase response." This process is a series of preparatory reflexes that occur in our body when we see, smell, or even think about food. It begins with the stimulation of appetite followed by anticipation of pleasure that comes from consuming the food.

Salivation is the final showdown. Just by looking at appetising food, our brain signals the salivary glands to produce saliva in preparation for digestion. Winning the art of food styling is Surabhi Sehgal – the Delhi-based food artist who has been dishing exquisite recipes that incite a series of emotions. In an exclusive interview, Sehgal reveals the inspiration behind her plant-forward recipes and a few exotic recipes for you to try.

Surabhi Sehgal

They say that cooking is an art. What was your inspiration to combine flora with flavours to create edible food art?

“I grew up in Dehra Dun where fresh local produce is abundantly available. My father always grew a small kitchen garden with fresh herbs and vegetables. Additionally, my mother and grandmother were fabulous cooks who would turn all these vegetables into finger-licking delicacies.” Taking a cue from her family’s culinary legacy, this food blogger has carved a niche genre in food styling skills.

Going by the handle @supaintsonplates, her heart-winning content is creative, clean and has genius combinations for hummus, soups, Idlis, uttapam topped with fresh herbs. She continues: “Including fresh ingredients in my recipes is a way of life for me and it comes to me effortlessly. Also, since my mother is a painter and my dad a poet, you will see art and poetry seamlessly entering into my creations which I guess I'm genetically blessed with.”

Fresh ingredients are the inspiration behind all her recipes and she wishes everyone to feel compelled to cook with them more and more. She has embarked on this journey with the hope to make people see the beauty and vibrance that these ingredients can create on the plate.

How has this style of cooking been therapeutic to you?

Since I work alone, I find my work to be deeply meditative. I spend hours creating recipes and videos and most often have no recollection of where the time went. Whenever I am in a stressful or difficult situation, I find that my work helps me tremendously. I feel my work is my escape and my safe haven. This is the reason why despite being overworked, I've refrained from having a team. I wanted my content to be pure, unadulterated and connect with the audience at a deeper level. 

To those who are trying to experiment with food preparation and presentation, what tips do you have to share with them?

To everyone trying to experiment with food styling, I always say that while you may get inspired by the work of others, you should work on developing your own style. An important tip that is helpful to create beautiful plates of food is – don’t overcook your food. Vibrant food not only tastes good, but it also looks appealing and makes for a beautiful photograph too.

Use white/beige plates as the base of your food. Don't use colourful plates with busy designs as your food will get lost. Keep your recipes simple and uncomplicated so that it's easier to cook and style them. Use as much fresh and local produce as possible as it’s not only nourishing for your body but also makes transforms your food into colourful and unique dishes.

If you wish to photograph your food, do not invest in an expensive camera right away. First, learn to cook and style your food and use a good-quality phone to capture your dishes. Do this over a period of months until you feel comfortable with your style and you are also sure this is something you wish to pursue seriously. Once you are sure, you can invest in more props, cameras, boards etc.

Recipe for instant rava idli

Prep Time: 30 minutes 
Cook Time: 20 minutes 


Rava/Suji 2 Cup
Curd 2 Cup
Water 1 cup
Salt to taste
Baking soda 1/2 tsp
Oil 1 tbsp (to grease the idli stand)

For topping:

1 tbsp Green Pepper (finely chopped)
1 tbsp Red Pepper (finely chopped)
1 tbsp Yellow Pepper (finely chopped)
1 tbsp Purple Cabbage (finely chopped)


1. Whisk the curd in a bowl. Add sooji and salt and mix the batter well.
2. Let the mixture rest for 30 minutes. 
3. Add baking soda and mix well. The mixture should be pancake consistency (neither too thick nor thin)
4. Grease idli moulds and pour the idli mix.
5. Top them with fresh vegetables and get creative with the designs.
6. Steam for 12-15 minutes or until cooked. 
7. Unmould, serve and enjoy!

Recipe for coconut & cucumber chutney

Prep Time: 20 minutes 
Cook Time: 10 minutes 


Cup fresh coconut 1/2
Ginger 1/2-inch piece
Seedless cucumber 1/2
Salt to taste
Fresh coriander 2 tbsp
Green chillies to taste
Roasted chana dal 1 tbsp
Water 1/4 cup
Juice of 1/2 lime
Black peppercorn 5-6

Ingredients for tempering:

Gingelly oil 1 tbsp
Red/green chillies 
Mustard seeds 1 tbsp
Cumin seeds 1 tbsp
Curry leaves 5-6


1. Transfer all the ingredients to a power blender. Blend to a fine consistency.
2. Transfer the contents to a bowl.
3. Now prepare the tempering.
4. Add oil to the pan.
5. Once hot, add the mustard and cumin seeds.
6. Once the seeds crackle, add the green chillies and curry leaves.
7. Stir for a few seconds and remove from stove.
8. Top the chutney with this tempering and leave it to chill in the refrigerator until you are ready to eat.

Recipe for Uttapam

Prep Time: 8 hours
Cook Time: 10 minutes 


Ragi 1/4 cup
Idli Rice 1 cup
Urad Dal (white) 1/4 cup
Poha 1/4 cup
Methi 1 tsp


1. Wash rice, ragi and urad dal well.
2. Transfer to a large container with methi seeds and soak in water for 5-6 hours.
3. After 6 hours, drain the water and add the grains to a blender along with poha and a little water and blend to a paste. 
4. Keep adding water slowly until you have a pancake consistency batter.
5. Transfer to a container, add salt and cover and leave in a warm place overnight.
6. You can also keep it inside the microwave or oven.
7. After 7-8 hours the batter would have fermented and is ready to be used to make idli, dosa, uttapam etc.
8. To make uttapam, brush a skillet with oil, add 2 tbsp of batter and spread a little.
9. Top with your favourite vegetables in a stylized way and cook on both sides until crisp.

Also Read: Meet Samosa Singh: Bengaluru’s culinary spin on India’s classic triangle snack

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