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.”
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”
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 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.
Continue reading “Patali Gur er Payesh”
BOOK REVIEW AND RECIPE FROM
BONG MOM’S COOKBOOK By Sandeepa Mukherjee Datta
Pour yourself a cup of tea, find a cool spot [Delhi is HOT at the moment] and watch, through the window of this charming book, as the Bong Mom goes about her day in her suburban US home. Weekday stories of hectic mornings with two girls to ready for school, and stories of relaxed Sunday mornings with phulko luchi and aloo chorchori. It is not a cookbook but food is the central theme that ties the stories together.
A Bong Mom’s Cookbook could be a glimpse into your own life, more so if you are a foodie, and who isn’t one? I could relate to the anecdotes about childhood summer holidays filled with food memories. Isn’t it amazing how some memories are so clear in our minds? And their associations stay with us forever. Continue reading “Bong Mom’s Shorshe Dharosh”
There is more shared between Kashmir and Bengal than a love for rice, fish, and mustard oil. There is a shared history. Eighth century Kashmiri emperor Lalitaditya’s empire is believed to have extended from Kabul right up to Bengal. But, that was centuries ago. Even in the last century there was a very strong connection between the two Indian states. West Bengal seems to have been the first choice for a majority of Kashmiri youth in my parents generation seeking scholarship outside of this remote state in the north. Nineteenth Century Calcutta was the bastion of contemporary western education. It was routine for teen Kashmiri boys to leave home for this faraway state to study medicine or engineering. Many generations owe a debt to this state of bhadrlok for their education: in my family my Dad studied at IITKgp, one uncle studied medicine at Calcutta Medical College (established by the British in 1835, it is our oldest medical college), two others studied engineering at Jadhavpur University. The Government Medical College, Srinagar, was established only in 1959, followed by the REC (Regional Engineering College) in 1960.
Continue reading “Shukto”