Pumpkin-flower Fritters and Similar Stories

Sometime back there was a discussion amongst some food-blogger friends on cookbooks and their relevance in a world of food blogs and websites.  The topic was triggered by the surprising admission of some food-bloggers (aspiring writers at that!) that they only look at and rarely cook from cookbooks.  My bookshelf is lined with cookbooks I have been collecting since my teens; they are a weakness.  They are my insights into a new cuisine or deeper explorations of a favourite one. I put a moratorium on further cookbook purchases because I am constrained where bookshelf-real-estate is concerned.  That ended, as all fad diets do, in a binge.  With e-shopping only a click away, I was on Flipkart, ordering away.   I am no longer looking for cookbooks titled “All About Baking,” but seek out books that link food to a culture: “Gujarati Cooking”, or “Simply South.”

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I have been searching for a recipe for the Goan Sambarachi Kodi ever since I tasted it at O’Coquero.  On the Web, I came across only one recipe, the one on the charming Goan Food Recipes blog.  While Googling for it yet again (I try to check multiple recipes before attempting a less-familiar dish), I came across a mention for it in Pushpesh Pant’s India: A Cookbook.  Now, I am usually weary of cookbooks that want to cover all of India in one book.  If you know anything about the diversity that is India, you cam imagine how daunting a task that is. In India, I assure you, we know nothing as “Indian Food.”  But Pushpesh Pant is a respected scholar and reading some of the recommendations for the book, I thought, well, his might just be the definitive volume, the exception. To his credit, it has a 1000 recipes and weighs in at over a kilo!  With those statistics I was expecting a tome of great research and insights.  As usual, I started with the section on the cuisine I know better than any other – Kashmiri.  That right there, is the cornerstone by which I judge a cookbook dishing out “Indian” Cuisine. Continue reading “Pumpkin-flower Fritters and Similar Stories”

Patali Gur er Payesh

Some time last year, I was finally able to lay my hands on three beautiful blocks of Patali gur (also called Khejur gur or nolen gur in Bangla) from West Bengal. Even though Sroboshi no longer worked with us in the office in Delhi, she sent the promised gur, that had arrived with her parents from Kolkata, through a courier from Bombay where they had all moved to. It is always a busy time here and more often than not, I put such gifts into the refrigerator, where they hide reside till their time. Only destiny decides when that might be. This one was languishing in the office refrigerator along with some dried shrimp that had been stored there all winter as well. Come summer, the refrigerator was required for mundane purposes, such as providing chilled drinking water, to all of us in the office. TH put his foot down, and I had to remove the offending package – the shrimps. With that I re-acquainted with the blocks of patali gur. They were in double packaging and looked as good as new. These were removed to the fridge in the kitchen downstairs.

patali gur

Patali gur is an unrefined sugar made from the sap of the date palm. You might compare it to jaggery made from sugarcane, but it would be inappropriate. I am not about to take sides here; they are not as different as chalk and cheese, but I will say that they may not be substituted for each other, and that I love them both. Patali gur definitely has a more intense caramel-ly, smoky flavour than jaggery.

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The Land of Mustard and Fish

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Yes, I was in Calcutta last week!

Although I don’t bring you food, I will have you know shukto is my new favorite mixed vegetable!  In the two work-filled days I did manage two wholesome Bengali meals.  And loved every morsel of them!  I had no idea I might like Bengali food so completely!  Though I can begin to guess why it should be so… mustard oil, fish, rice…aren’t these the best foundations to build a cuisine on?! 😉

Continue reading “The Land of Mustard and Fish”