Veteran actress Zeenath has impressed the Malayali moviegoers with her incredible versatility, playing some unforgettable characters on screen. Before making her silver screen entry, Zeenath had earned a name as a talented theatre artist. She is a noted dubbing artist too, lending voice to many leading actresses. From the meek mother to the bossy elder sister, Zeenath can effortlessly transform into any role.
Zeenath confesses that she is a bit lazy when it comes to doing household chores. However, she is passionate about cooking and doesn’t mind spending long hours in the kitchen whipping up delectable dishes. She says she is interested in trying the unique dishes and flavours of a place whenever she is travelling. Zeenath likes Arabic cuisine and has tried her hands in cooking some iconic Arabian dishes. Her special biryani is a hit among her family members. Zeenath opens up about her love for cooking and reveals how she has become a vlogger during the lockdown period. Moreover, Zeenath shares a special recipe for the readers of Manorama Online to make festive seasoon extra special.
Love for cooking
Zeenath admits that she started her YouTube channel ‘Zeenath Actress’ when she had nothing else to do during the lockdown period. She doesn’t call herself a good YouTuber as she uploads videos only when she likes. “I am not incredibly passionate about cooking. In fact, I have felt that cooking is a monotonous chore. Household chores are generally like that. But, I am the least lazy about cooking. Cleaning is what I detest the most. I really don’t like doing the dishes, wiping the floor and folding the clothes. But, I am the one who does all these chores in my house. We don’t have a maid. I like to work only when I am interested. Usually, women enter the kitchen in the morning itself and start cooking. However, it is not a great job. But, there is no other option as your tummy begins to rumble,” says Zeenath.
Mother’s dal curry
Zeenath turns nostalgic when she talks about her mother’s incredible penchant for cooking. “We will never forget the taste of the food that was cooked by our mothers. No matter how old we are, our mothers consider us as little kids. My mother used to cook a delicious dal curry. I can never forget the taste of the squishy balls of rice mixed with dal curry and pappad. My mother used to feed me and my younger brother Bapputti with her hands until we turned 14,” recalls Zeenath.
For Zeenath, it was new knowledge that mashithandu or water stem is edible. Once, while she was scrolling through a popular retail website, she chanced upon a plant called peperomia pellucida (Rs 500 for 1 kg). She instantly recognised it as a water stem. “We used water stem to clean our slates as children and played with them. However, it has incredible medicinal properties. It is used as a remedy for kidney ailments in Ayurveda. The water stem that was plucked and thrown away during the monsoons has now become my best friend. I cook many delicious dishes using water stem. Now, it has become a regular item on my dining table,” says the actress.
Kanji and payar at Bali
Zeenath loves travelling to places that are abundantly blessed by nature. She would be really happy if the weather is cool and pleasant. She recalls a hilarious incident that had happened during a trip with her friends to Bali. Some of her friends didn’t enjoy the Balinese food. They began enquiring at hotels whether kanji (rice porridge) and payar (stir fried mung beans) were available. Zeenath says her friends felt dejected when they couldn’t find kanji and payar at Bali. But, the actress couldn’t help wonder whether her friends had come to Bali just to eat kanji and payar. Meanwhile, another friend wasn’t interested in seeing around the place and preferred staying in the room checking WhatsApp messages. Zeenath says that friend wanted to return to the hotel as soon as they went out because internet connectivity was better in the rooms.
Zeenath doesn’t mind admitting that none of her videos have been viral. One of the main reasons is that she doesn’t upload videos regularly. YouTube would promote a channel only if it is prolific. One should upload at least three videos in a week for their content to reach the viewers. “The viewers aren’t interested in watching me cook everyday. They want to see pictures and videos from my filming locations and other events too. I do not show my face in most of my videos,” says Zeenath.
The Andhra-style pickle that Zeenath makes is loved by everyone in the family. “I had uploaded a video titled ‘Ente Eden Thottam’ of my terrace garden. Lots of people messaged me after watching that video. Moreover, people shared prayers for me on my Facebook page when I told in a video that I was Covid positive. I am grateful for their love and prayers. I plan to travel a bit and film some amazing videos once I am free,” notes the actress.
Zeenath loves trying the unique dishes and flavours of the places that she visits. She really enjoys eating Arabic food. Zeenath says that she wouldn’t miss the traditional Arabic mixed grill platter whenever she visits the Gulf countries.
Biryani and beef curry
“The dishes that I cook at home are loved by everyone in the family. Biryani is their favourite. My younger son Nithin makes me cook beef curry whenever he returns home after a trip. Meanwhile, my elder son Jithin is a true biryani lover. He wouldn’t eat anything on the days when I cook biryani. He says that he could stuff himself with biryani when he is famished. His kids Hadi and Diya too enjoy my biryani. Diya always asks me to cook biryani. My daughter-in-law Saleena likes Malabar biryani a lot. She is an amazing photographer too. She would click pics of the dishes that I cook,” says Zeenath.
Baby and Tiger
Zeenath loves her pet cats Baby and Tiger. She enjoys filming videos with them and carefully edits those videos into short narratives. The actress says that she understands the language of her pets. “They would love us unconditionally if we give them food, water and a bit of love. My Tiger is a local breed. I like having them around. People buy expensive breeds of cats as a status symbol. Tiger thinks that he is strong and important like a real tiger, especially since I have named him that. He roams around freely in the house. There is a crow that comes to eat food every day. Meanwhile, Tiger drools looking at the birds. I always place their food where Tiger cannot reach,” says Zeenath.
Zeenath shares the recipe of her special beef fry.
1 kg beef
3 tsp meat masala
1 tsp turmeric powder
½ tsp fennel seeds
1 small piece ginger
1 cup shallots
½ cup garlic
2 tsp lemon juice
Salt as required
Pepper powder as required
Cinnamon sticks and bay leaves
¼ cup coconut shards
2 tbsp ghee/coconut oil
Palm full of curry leaves
Palm full of coriander leaves
Marinate the beef with salt, turmeric powder, lemon juice and meat masala
Keep aside for at least an hour
Add crushed shallots, ginger and garlic into it
Cook the marinated beef
Add some pepper powder too
Cook until the water reduces
Heat ghee/coconut oil in a pan
Roast cinnamon, bay leaves and fennel seeds
Add the coconut shards
When they are nicely fried, add the rest of the garlic
Now add the cooked beef
Fry until the beef is dry
Add some more pepper powder when the beef fry is almost ready
Garnish with curry leaves and coriander leaves.