Drying is one of the oldest and easiest way to preserve food. In a country with plentiful sun it is only natural that we should have a tradition of using the sun’s energy to process food. You will find wadi varieties from all over the country. Bengalis put their bodi into many dishes including shukto, Southen India gives us vadams and appalams in addition to celebrating dried vegetables in, the most delicious of all ‘curries’, the vatahkuzhanmbu. In Uttarakhand mountain cucumbers are combined with urad-dal to make wadi. Punjab’s famous wadis which come in various flavours (with plums, with tomatoes, and regular – all spiced up with generous amounts of black pepper) can be combined with the blandest of vegetables to lift them out of the ordinary. From the state of UP we have mangodi, small wadis made with mung dal. Kashmiris make sun-dried spice-cakes and call them veri. Pickles that have been cooked in the sun for a while are found all over the country.
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”