Jump to content


participating member
  • Content Count

  • Joined

  • Last visited

Everything posted by Vikram

  1. Vikram

    What to Eat in Bangalore?

    Some more suggestions from this thread: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=100249
  2. A kind friend coming back from the Netherlands has got me a couple of packets of stroopwaffels, and I've just realised again how totally delicious they are. Its that combination of crisp and sticky, sweet, but not deadeningly so and that amazing back of the throat richness. Stroopwaffels are diabolically deceptive - the richness doesn't hit you all at once, so you think you can eat more, and before you realise it you've finished the pack and are feeling distinctly queasy. I admit there may be other things AS addictive, but I doubt there are many that are MORE. What I'd like to know is how hard are they to make at home? I remember seeing a vendor in an Amsterdam market making them in his stall, but otherwise I've only ever seen the finished packed product. Does it need a special grill? They have waffle indentations, but are much thinner and also seem crisper - more fat, I guess, which is why they can keep, while waffles can't. What about the syrup that's used to sandwich the layers? Just plain golden syrup or something else? Would it be possible to substitute honey, since golden syrup isn't that easy to come by where I am (Bombay, I think we make sugar in a different way in India, so you get jaggery, not syrup)? And a major question: why do all the stroopwaffels I've eaten taste of coconut? Not right through, just that first bite and a really strong smell/taste? Do they grease the griddle in coconut oil and if so, why? Vikram
  3. Vikram

    Madeira in London

    Maybe I should have posted this in the UK section, but I'm hoping someone here can help. I'm thinking of writing an article on the wines exported to India by the East India Company in the 18th and 19th centuries and madeira formed pretty much the bulk of it. This isn't an academic piece - someone has done that, a very informative essay with lots of figures - more a feature, and I'd like to try madeira for it since I never have. A friend is coming from London (I live in Bombay) in a few days and could conceivably be persuaded to buy a couple of bottles if given exact address of wine seller and which bottle to buy. The only seller I know of is Oddbins and according to the site they only seem to have two madeira labels in stock, so I don't know if this would be a good place to buy. Can anyone help? I'd like to know the name of some reasonably accessible shop in London where I might be able to find something, and if you could suggest which bottle to buy for a representative taste of madeira that would be great. I've read that there's quite a variety of stuff available, from wine only fit for cooking to really old stuff which would probably be completely unavailable and unaffordable. As I said, I'm looking for something just reasonably representative - and hopefully reasonably priced too! - that can give me an idea of this style. Is there much consumption of madeira these days? I've read of a Madeira Society in Savannah that still goes for the stuff, but other recent references seem scarce. Vikram
  4. Vikram


    The gods really have it in for those of us trying to follow diets. No sooner are we recovering from Diwali's flood of sweets, then Ramzaan (Ramadan, outside India) starts today. And as anyone who's seen it - or read Sara Suleri's wonderful description of it in Meatless Days - for most people the day long fasting just seems like a way of whetting the appetite for the night feasting to come. I'm not a Muslim and I don't keep the roza, the day fast, but that certainly doesn't stop me going after sunset to Mohammed Ali Road, Mumbai's main Muslim area, to enjoy the chaos and crowds in the night, the whole area lit up like a carnival and, of course, the ultra rich food. Its death to diets, but who can resist it? Every year I go there several times and take friends who have never been before. This year though there's going to be an e-Gullet twist to the iftar (the evening meal. Episure has promised to take me to even better, lesser known places way in the depths of Mohammed Ali Road, and I;m already salivating at the prospect. Are there any other e-Gulleteers in Mumbai, or likely to be here in the course of this month, who would like to join us? Khiri, khapura, kheema, here we come! Vikram
  5. That could also have been picked up from the Middle Eastern market. Remember a major influence on chefs in both India and Pakistan these days is the experience they get while working in Dubai and the rest of the Gulf. Many chefs go there to make some money and then come back to open restaurants back home or take up senior positions in the big hotels. I'm guessing that more Pakistani chefs go to the gulf, while Indian ones tend to go to the cruise liners, but its certainly one way that Middle-Eastern - and you can probably equate that with professional Lebanese restaurant cooking in this context - influences are transferred to the subcontinent, Vikram
  6. Pakistani friends joke that Pakistani cuisine is North Indian food with the vegetables left out. There was an amusing piece in the Times of India a few days back describing how Pakistanis who have come to Delhi for the cricket series are dealing with Indian food. Its the abundance of vegetarian stuff that was most interesting for them, with reported comments like "if its green is that saag?" and "paneer is that white stuff, no?" Vikram
  7. Vikram

    Going to Bangalore

    Russell Market is one of the nicest produce markets to browse in. You must do one meal at Koshy's, a large old Bangalore restaurant that is the city's unofficial crossroads. Everyone comes to Koshy's, its one of the few really open places in the country, and the food is good too. Try the Kerala fish curry or just ask Oomen, the owner, what's good that day. But your best bet is really just trusting yourself in Episure's hands. I've been cheap restaurant crawling with him in Bombay and its a food experience like no other. I still regret his decision to leave for Bangalore. Vikram
  8. Sometime back I'd referred to Nilanjana Roy's upcoming anthology of food writing from Indian literature. I'm happy to announce its out now - 'A Matter of Taste: the Penguin Book of Indian Writing on Food' (and with a lovely Kalighat print of a cat with a prawn in its mouth as the cover pic). I'm still reading it so no major comments on it, but these are hardly likely to be unfavourable! Nilanjana has focussed on the literary aspect so most of the well known modern Indian writers like Rushdie are featured. (Tantalizingly, it looks like his new book, out next year I think, will have even more on food). The only thing that occurs to me is that she could have gone into historical writing a bit more - it could have been writings on Indian food, rather than Indian writings on food. That way she could have got in Raj writers like Wyvern. There are several writers from Indian languages, but I think more could have been added - where, for example, is Ambai who has written well on food (I posted an extract in this thread). I could also have done without David Davidar's dreary mumblings on mangoes, but I suppose that was unavoidable with a Penguin book. But then I guess that the pleasure of any anthology is the dialogue one can have with the anthologist about what should have been chosen or could have been dropped. After all, that's the best guarantee that there could be more such anthologies like this, Vikram
  9. Can anyone explain the origins and reasons for the huge consumption of Milo (a rather sicky sweet chocolate drink from Nestle, made by adding Milo powder to milk) in Malaysia? I was reminded of this in a new Malaysian fast food restaurant called Pelita Nasi Kandar that's opened in Chennai (Madras), India. I think Nestle launched Milo ages back in India, but it flopped and I think was taken off the market. But here, to prove its an authentic Malaysian restaurant, was Milo on the menu again, imported, the restaurant manager assured me, from Malasyia and available both hot and cold (ais Milo, the way most people drank it he told me). Does anyone know why Milo became such a hit in Malaysia? Is it also popular in other countries in SE Asia, or is it just Malaysia? Is it because of Nestle - are other Nestle products as popular (the Mee Goreng seemed to be made from Maggi noodles, so perhaps they are, or perhaps this is not the best of restaurants)? And why on earth would an artificial tasting (well, to my taste) chocolate drink become popular in Malaysia when they grow so much of the real thing? Any information on this and other aspects of Malaysia's love for Milo would be appreciated. Is it drunk in any other way there, apart from hot and with ice cubes? Vikram PS: While I'm asking questions, what does Nasi Kandar mean? The restaurant manager said something about it being typical to the Penang region, but couldn't quite explain what it meant and I didn't particularly feel like hanging around to find out. The rotis in the restaurant were good, but everything else was rather ghastly.
  10. Vikram

    Impromptu Indian

    What really last minute Indian recipes do you know? Its not uncommon for friends of mine or the bf's to land up at home for a bite, at the last minute and too late to do shopping for fresh ingredients. Of course, ordering in is the easy option, but cooking something would be nicer (and cheaper) and here's where I often find myself at a loss for Indian recipes. Maybe its just my lack of ingenuity or inability to improvise, but I find that most Indian recipes seem to require quite a lot of prep or cooking time and that can become boring when your friends are actually in the house. (Have you seen Sunil Vijaykar's '30 Minute Indian'? Nice book, lovely pictures, but the title should be '30 Minute Indian - If There's Someone To Do The Peeling And Chopping For You Or You Can Pick Up Most Of The Ingredient Ready To Cook'). If its not the prep work, then its the shopping? Vegetarian recipes usually require the fresh veggies which at that particular moment I never seem to have - on a regular basis I only have tomatoes, coriander, mint in the fridge, everything else I try and buy only if I'm sure I'm cooking them that day, I've had too many veggies go bad on me because I bought and then forgot about them. Meat can be kept in the freezer, but then that needs defrosting, and I'm talking situations where there's no time for that (and I don't have a microwave). So what can you cook? Western dishes like pasta do seem simpler in such situations. Half the time I just end up just scrambling eggs (akoorie is the one Indian possibility here) or making an omelette, and in the other half my stand-by is Goa sausages. These can be kept outside the fridge, pickled in their vinegar and spices, and to cook them I just cut the meat out of its casing and put it in a pressure cooker. I add some tomatoes, potatoes (raw and you can keep the skins on if you like) and onions, throw in a dollop of palm vinegar and then pressure cook it for a fair amount of time. Not much effort on my part, house smells great and Goa sausage is invariably delicious. Its also pretty unhealthy though (lets not go into the reasons why), and concern for my friends' health is making me look for alternatives. I discovered one the other day - Sri Lankan omelette curry. In one pan start frying onions, then add a green chilly, some ginger-garlic paste and after its all mushy, add coconut milk (made up from the powder, what would we do without it), some cumin powder, coriander powder, turmeric and red chilly powder if you want it spicier. Let this simmer while, in a large frying pan you're making the omelettes. Make these Indian style - fry onions (in ghee for the real Indian touch), add green chillies, chopped green coriander (or any other spice you like), then add the eggs, and cook till its quite firm, flipping it over if you like. Cut the omelette into pieces,. add to the coconut sauce, and simmer for a bit more and its done. Still not wonderful on the health scales - think of the cholesterol - but its delicious and everything to make it is usually at hand. But more recipes would be nice. What do you do in such circumstances? Vikram
  11. Vikram


    Lifting out my eulogy to mangosteens from the mango thread. As this topic's subhead says, they entirely deserve a thread of their own (also I want to do some nitpicking). Are there other mangosteen maniacs out there apart from me? Any other mangosteen memories? I don't know whether to ask for mangosteen recipes though, because part of me feels that fruit so perfect shouldn't be messed around with.
  12. While everyone is thinking Malaysian food, I can ask this. I'm curious not just about Ais Kacang, but the whole range of shaved ice desserts that seems to extend through SE Asia upto Japan. Has there been a thread on this on eGullet already? Does anyone have any idea where they originate and from when? Because surely they can't be that old, since how old is ice production in these areas? OK, maybe ice is not a problem in Japan (though did Japan have a tradition of storing ice for use in summers?), but what about the more tropical parts of the Far East? Was there a tradition of making ice from that water and saltpetre mixture that I think is Arab in origin? (Irritatingly, the one Elizabeth David book I don't have is her last one on ice, so can't cross check the facts). Or does the use of ice go back to the American lead ice business of the nineteenth century. I checked Gavin Weightman's The Frozen Water Trade which has a lot about the trade between the US and India, but nothing about Malaysia apart from mentioning that the ships would stop en route to Calcutta and sell ice in Singapore as well. So that's one possible source - could this be the origin of shaved ice desserts? Leaving the ice part out, do these desserts link up to a taste for mixed textures that you see in desserts like the Indian falooda (though I think that's of Persian origin)? If falooda is the link, did that spread with Arab trade? I don't think there's anything quite like Ais Kacang in the Arab world though (to be honest I don't think there's anything quite like Ais Kacang anywhere else - its truly a weird dessert), so where does the inspiration behind it come from? Vikram
  13. Vikram

    fasting food

    I thought we'd had a specific topic on this on the forum, but doing a search I can't seem to find one although the subject does crop up in threads like this one: http://forums.egullet.org/index.php?showtopic=22596&hl=upvas I've been interested in the subject for some time now, mainly because of the odd ingredients that seem to crop up in upvas khana, the fasting foods which aren't the contradiction they seem. While there are extreme fasts in the Indian tradition when neither food nor water is taken (nirjala vrat), the more common sort is where certain types of food are abstained from. There are many different variations on what is and isn't allowed, but the most common distinction is between "foods from the plough", meaning cultivated crops like cereals, and "foods of fruits" which include fruits themselves, but also roots and tubers of various kinds and some other odd ingredients like water chestnuts. Some of these ingredients can be dried and made into flours, so the lack of cereals is not felt as strongly - you can even get a 'fasting pizza'! More than the ingredients though, fasts are interesting for the light they shed on social customs and hierarchies and the role that food comes to play in these. The major source of academic study on this is R.S.Khare's The Hindu Hearth & Home which I have finally got down to reading and it is really fascinating (though mostly focused on North India). We're bang in the middle of Shravan, the fasting season now. This is actually a pretty good season to be a non-religious foodie in India since you can both eat the fasting foods at the few restaurants that make them, or at the houses of suitably spiritual old aunties - and the price of chicken is also at an annual low! I've written an article on the subject, which I'll give a link for. But I'd also be really interested in hearing the experiences of others on this forum with fasting - have you done it, or do you have family members who do it? Do you make special fasting recipes in your family? Any examples of the fasting regimes that members of your family followed? Have you tried keep such fasts in other countries? Any idea if these fasting ingredients could be used in other contexts? Vikram (link to me article below) http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/806793.cms Somewhat annoyingly the editors have chopped off my concluding lines which I think made an interesting point about fasting foods, so here they are: http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/806793.cms
  14. Vikram

    fasting food

    I was just speaking to chef Ananda Solomon at the Taj President here in Bombay, where they serve some upvas items like saboodhana khichidi at their Konkan Cafe restaurant. He brought out some aspects of upvas food which I didn't know about like the fact that in the strictest sense the restrictions on the ingredients used extended even to how those ingredients were grown. So the special plants used for upvas food were sometimes grown in separate plots of land, often close to the village temple. And one couldn't use just any fertilizer or manure to grow them, particularly since these might include fish meal or other non-vegetarian products. Instead only decomposing vegetal matter could be used. He drew a slightly distant parallel with the 'qurbani ka bakra', the sacrificial goat for Bakri-Id in the Muslim community which has to be raised in the house almost like a family pet, before it goes for slaughter - a surefire prescription for childhood traumas-cum-harsh-lessons-about-life! Isn't there a similar Jewish or Eastern European tradition about a carp in the bathtub for Rosh Hashannah/Christmas? The other interesting point he made was that for upvas food coconut oil was preferred to peanut oil since the latter would have been ground in traditional oil presses through the labour of cows that had been subjected to stressed labour to do it. Vikram
  15. Vikram

    Indian chocolates

    I think Kandos was Sri Lankan, not Indian. I remember eating them too - not bad, slightly superior mouth quality to the Indian chocolates, though not on par with chocs from Europe. Vikram
  16. Vikram

    An Indian Herb Garden

    I don't know how curry plants respond to the cold, but otherwise I'd recommend them as really easy to grow and also the most helpful in cooking terms, since one often needs just a few curry leaves and that's when I find I'm either out of them or the ones in my fridge have all withered away. An aunt of mine who has really green fingers has dispatched curry plant seedlings across the world - just a few twigs bundled up into newspaper and shoved into suitcases and despite this terrible way of traveling, they've often sprung up again in their destinations. My own curry plants come from her and are growing and branching very nicely. I grow them in a pot along with tulsi (basil). Like most of my plants, they've gone nuts with the monsoon that's finally arrived, they're all growing like crazy in all directions, so I had to do some pruning last weekend and that's when I realised the other great reason for having a herb garden. As I cut the plants and stripped the branches I got these huge heady waves of curry and basil scents, almost better than anything I've smelled in the kitchen. It was amazing! The other food plant I've got growing was the result of one of those look-what's-growing-on-top-of-the-fridge moments (there was a great thread on this on one of the eG forums once). This time it was a packet of Madras onions - which may or may not be shallots, I don't think this group has ever decided - which I'd left for too long and were now sending out long green shoots. Instead of junking them I pushed them into a corner of a pot and now its like I have some alien life form, a bunch of long strong green shoots reaching out of the pot... Vikram
  17. Vikram

    Indian chocolates

    Its nice that everyone seems to like Indian chocolates so much, but I can't help wondering if nostalgia rather than taste is playing the major role here. I like Indian chocolates and god knows I've eaten my fair share of them - in my far off days in advertising I used to work on the Cadbury's account and 5 Star (their version of Mars) in particular and despite eating tons of them at that time - it was actually required in meetings - I still enjoy them. But I would never suggest they are particularly good chocolates by international standards and I'm not talking the finest Belgian and Parisian creations, but just ordinary commercial chocs. They simply can't be as good because they're made for Indian retail conditions which are mostly non-air-conditioned, dumped in tin and glass containers in already hot and cramped shops, and with all the many threats of spoilage and pests. There was in fact a major problem with pests that were alleged to have entered the chocolates last Diwali and in response Cadbury is now putting them out in supersealed packaging. What I'm talking about more is the climatic conditions which mean that the butterfat content has to be reduced and the sugar content increased to prevent the products becoming molten masses in most shops. It helps that Indians like sweeter chocolates - or have been conditioned to like them by being brought up on these chocolates. So is this what people are longing for - the greater sugar content in the chocolates? Or the relative hardness and resistance to melting? Its possible I guess, but personally, given a choice between an imported Kit-Kat and an Indian one, I'd take the imported one (checking for expiry date, since there's an unfortunate trade in out of date stocks from other markets like Indonesia being dumped in India where consumers won't be able to read the expiry dates in Bahasa on the packaging). Vikram
  18. Vikram

    Kala Jeera

    I've occasionally seen siya-jeera translated as aniseed, but that's not correct, is it? Perhaps this might be a good time to try and agree on definitive translations for aniseed, fennel seed and caraway, all three of which get varying translations in Indian cookbooks. If we want to be really ambitious we could also tackle kalonji and radhuni? Vikram
  19. Vikram

    Indian Cookbooks

    This reminds me of an anecdote my mother tells about how after she (Malayali, hates cooking and has insisted on having a cook all her life) married my Gujarati father. They were doing the rounds of his relatives and at one aunt's house my mother, at a loss for any other conversation to make, asked the aunt politely, "So do you cook?" My mother says there was pin drop silence, and then my father hastily changed the subject. Afterwards he yelled at her, "You NEVER ask a Gujarati woman if she can cook. What you should say is, 'so what is your speciality?'!" Rushina are your brothers really going to buy you all those books for Rakhi? You must be one powerful sister! And I promise to find you a copy of the Time Life India book somewhere on the pavements, and you give the booklet to make a photocopy, OK? Vikram
  20. Vikram

    buffalo vs. beef

    Monica's article on India's white revolution makes me think about another little commented on aspect of it: much of the milk that goes into it comes from water buffalos as well as cows (I don't know the proportions, but I could try finding out). I think that has a definite impact on many Indian dairy products, but I don't know enough about the subject to comment on exactly how - can anyone explain? The even less noted aspect though is that a lot of water buffalos (I'm going to drop the 'water' from now on) must mean a lot of buffalo meat. But you will never find buffalo meat being sold as such. Indian cooks, perhaps correctly, feel that people won't want to eat buffalo meat, so most of what goes as 'beef' in India is really buffalo meat. Just like 'lamb' or 'mutton' is often goat. Vir Sanghvi, the editor of the daily The Hindustan Times, who writes a most excellent food column under the pen name Grand Fromage, noted that in Nepal you can find buffalo billed honestly, if a rather peculiarly, as 'buff steak' but you will never find anything like this in India. What is really strange about this culinary deception is that there are considerable and real penalties attached to it - not for the deception, but for consuming beef. Barring a few states like Kerala, West Bengal and some of the Northeastern ones, the Hindu religious lobby has ensured that killing a cow is a crime in most of the country. (For those unfamiliar with Hinduism the cow is considered very sacred for various reasons I don't want to get into because the chances of my saying something contentious are quite high [And I'm a Hindu myself]. All I'll say is that if you want an interesting take on it, read the anthropologist Marvin Harris' famous essay on the subject). The growth in power of Hindu fundamentalists means that cow killing has become an increasingly emotive issue. There is a very strong move now to make killing cows illegal across the whole country. (Apart from trampling on the rights of beef eaters, this will mean millions of starving decrepit cows, but that for some reason if OK, as long as they aren't killed). There have been several horrific cases recently of people being killed on suspicion of killing cows. And yet a lot of meat is sold and eaten, whether its from buffalos or cows. In my own city of Bombay not far from where I'm typing this I can go and find a number of places serving excellent - and another irony - very cheap beef. 'Mutton' is expensive, presumably because its legal, but beef is cheap which is another reason why its popular. Mmmmm, maybe this might be my dinner solution. Beef kebabs at Baghdadi in Colaba maybe, or beef khichada, a wonderful creamy stew of meat cooked with wheat and pulses, in the lanes of Minara Masjid. You have to know what to ask though - people are wary on the beef issue now. Only in the hearts of Muslim or Christian neighbourhoods will you find beef being openly sold. In the roadside places serving beef you might be asked "bade ka ya chote ka?" ("the big one or the small one?" where big is obviously beef and small is mutton). In butcher's shops you ask for 'undercut' or specify beef sotto voce. And if you ask an expensive restaurant where they got their steaks from they'll say it came from outside the state, since its illegal to kill cows in the state, but not (yet) to eat them. This isn't quite true, of course. Some really expensive restaurants do import genuine beef from abroad and some people are presumably shipping dead cows into the city (But from Kerala or W.Bengal, neither of which are near?). The bulk of course comes from illegal abbatoirs in the city and you can just imagine the workpractices there, since its all illegal anyway. And yet, despite all these problems, restaurateurs and butchers still shy away from saying that they are serving - quite legal - buffalo! I suppose it the unprepossesing muddy black look of the animal, though I rather like their cud chewing placidity as they stand in the middle of roads defying all attempts to move them - 'India's natural speedbreakers' as exasperated drivers call them. Cows can be skittish and will move with a honk, but buffalos will stand there till kingdom, or the kid in nominal charge of them, comes. Anyway, this mail did have a query, before I got carried away, which is this: when it comes to cooking the animals, how much does buffalo meat differ from beef? I find the meat I get at the butchers pretty tough and I usually have to pressure cook it which is fine for curries, but I guess means no steaks. I'm told restaurants tenderize like crazy. But is buffalo meat really tougher than beef, or is it more a reflection on the way both cows and buffalos are raised in India? Can it be used in almost exactly the same way as beef or should adjustments be made? And finally, are there other cultures less snobbish about water buffalo meat that have recipes specifically for it? I think I've read in Davidson about it being popular in parts of Southeast (but is it labelled as such, or is 'beef' again used?) What about Italy? What happens to all those mozzarella producers once they're past their producing days? And can anyone give me Italian buffalo recipes? It'll make a nice change the next time I get some 'undercut' from my butcher. Vikram
  21. A chimta - those tongs made from a long thin flat strip of metal. Unless you have palms of leather, they're invaluable for tossing chappatis, and I find myself using them for all sorts of other things. Like I have been burdened with a most annoying oven which the top and botton heating elements cannot be separately adjusted, so I basically have the choice of an underdone base and perfect crust or perfect base and burned crust. The answer I've found is an elaborate routine using covers of crumpled foil that keep having to be put on and take off and the chimta is hugely helpful here. Vikram
  22. I made a kadhi the other day, using the recipe in the Camellia Punjabi book. As a child I didn't like kadhi much, so I've never cooked it in the past, but this recipe looked good, there was okra in it, which I love, and I had tons of yoghurt in the fridge which needed using up, so I made it. The vagar was quite distinctive - lots of cloves fried in ghee with methi seeds (fenugreek) and cumin and then, off the fire, a pinch of asafeotida and some fresh curry leaves. The moment I poured it on the kadhi I got this huge fragrant smell which was EXACTLY the smell I remember from my Guajrati aunt's house. Odd, because I didn't think this a particularly Gujarati vagar - the amount of cloves, 8-9, in particular seemed odd, also curry leaves seem a much more south Indian thing - yet obviously it was right in some way because of the memory. The kadhi was good, though I don't think its changing my childhood opinion of kadhi, Vikram
  23. Vikram

    Indian Cookbooks

    I think I'd recommend the 50 Great Curries of India book. I would have said Madhur Jaffrey, since she's really reliable, but this book really approches Indian cooking in a thinking way. Also, apart from the curries, there are recipes for lots of side dishes and its beautifully produced, Vikram
  24. Vikram

    Dill and other herbs

    Dill is certainly not a widely used herb in India - as far as I know, its confined mostly to Gujaratis and, even more, Sindhis (Episure, come in here please). Its the main flavouring in suva-bhaji, which is best described as Sindhi mashed vegetables. Its a dish that looks like a mess, but has a strangely comforting gloopiness. Edward, apologies, I meant to tell you I cooked this too and it came out very well - though I almost thought it didn't. Just after I finished cooking it I took a taste and I went no, the dill is too much and gives it a strange taste. Then I let it cool a little and tried it again, mixing it this time with rice - and this time it worked and worked very well. I ate it over the next couple of days with relish, but it was just me - I tried it on the bf and his sister who had come over for lunch and they, good Haryanvis, didn't like the taste. Which confirms my feeling that dill is (a) a bit of an acquired taste and (b) one that fits in sort of borderline with Indian cooking. There's a grassy, herby quality which almost doesn't mesh - it works in this case, with suva bhaji, the suva panki that Swati makes and the potatoes sauteed with absolutely fresh picked suva my mother once made after coming back from a trip into interior Maharashtra where she went through some villages where it was grown. But I'd be careful in using it and there are other, even more intensely flavoured herbs that I really wonder if they would work with Indian food. Rosemary, sage and tarragon, for example (though thyme would, since we're familiar with that flavour through ajwain). Anyone tried? Vikram
  25. Vikram

    Indian Cookbooks

    Don't have a digicam, and contemplated twisting the bf's arm to photograph my book stash, but (a) I don't know if he has one either and (b) I get enough lectures anyway about the amount of money I spend on cookbooks (this is the common theme on this thread, right?), so I gave that a miss. Instead I though it would hopefully not be too tedious if I listed them out, along with comments. I'd like to hear other people's remarks on what they felt about the books in their collection (helps me decide what to buy) and hopefully they might be interested in what I feel about mine. Here goes: 1) 30 Minute Indian - Sunil Vijaykar Nice book, lovely pictures (correction, probably the best Indian food photography I've seen recently), but the title should be '30 Minute Indian - If There's Someone To Do The Peeling And Chopping For You Or You Can Pick Up Most Of The Ingredient Ready To Cook' 2) 50 Great Curries of India - Camellia Punjabi Have been planning on stealing my mother's copy for ages, but finally did the decent thing and bought it. I really admire this book. It doesn't set out to be a comprehensive or even particularly representative cookbook - Eastern India, for example, is under-represented. But it gives the most thorough analysis of what goes into a curry. It dissects the steps. It investigates the ingredients, usefully dividing them into what they do for the curry - thicken, add spice, etc. It does what next to no other cookbook does - it acknowledges that chillies can vary widely and talks about the different varieties. It is also beautifully produced with good photgraphy. This one is a winner 3) Anglo-Indian Food and Customs - Patricia Brown In the Penguin series, quite nice book, though not much flair 4) Calcutta Cookbook, The - Meenakshie Das Gupta, Bunny Gupta, Jaya Chaliha The classic, though I really should buy Das Gupta's (the legendary Kewpie) Bangla Ranna 5) Chicken Cook Book - Rashmi Uday Singh I resisted this for a bit, since it’s a bit too obviously sponsored by a company, Venky's Chicken. But it has a good discussion on what chicken is like in India and the recipes are decent. Not only Indian though 6) Cooking of India (Time-Life Foods of the World series) - Santha Rama Rau Another classic, and this really is more a food book than a cookbook (especially since I don't have the accompanying recipe booklet). Its dated of course, but overall is really quite impressive. 7) Cooking with One Teaspoon of Oil - Tarla Dalal Tarlaben, with all her virtues and faults. This is decent 8) Curries & Bugles - Jennifer Brennan Another classic and probably better for reading than cooking from. But this is real culinary and family history 9) East Indian Cookery Book - East Indian Association, Ladies Committee Ladies Committees, don't you love them. I know one of the ladies involved and she is a fabulous cookbook, so I would trust this implicitly if… her daughter hadn't told me her mother always keeps some secrets to herself. 10) Epicure Cookbook, The - Ummi Abdullah Ummi Abdullah is the authority on Moplah cooking. This is a more general book. 11) Essential Andhra Cookbook, The - Bilkees Latif Part of the Penguin series, pretty good, though one better now even think of cooking from it unless you have a source for those pungent Andhra chillies 12) Essential Goa Cookbook, The - Maria Teresa Menezes I don't know why, I didn't like this much. Goan cuisine is really delicious and historically very interesting because of the fusion between so many cultures - Portueguese, Hindu, Muslim. There is a long and lively Goan tradition of appreciating and writing about food. Menezes somehow doesn't do this justice 13) Essential North-East Cookbook, The - Hoihnu Hauzel Very interesting, though it does induce that usual sense of guilt, "oh god, we Indians really know nothing about those Northeastern states, can you even name them all?" This is a nice book, but I have to say that while we do need to know about the Northeastern states, I'm not convinced we need actual exposure to their food that much. 14) Flavours of Delhi - Charmaine O'Brien Good book, wish there were more of this kind. Guide to Delhi, to buying ingredients there, eating there, cooking there 15) Flavours of the Spice Coast - Mrs.K.M.Mathew A classic, and this edition is well produced too. This is the standard book on Malayali (I REFUSE to say Keralan) food, perhaps with more of a Syrian Christian emphasis. Its known for its peculiar insistence on a dessertspoon as a significant measure. The recipes are good, but do take quite a bit of work 16) Fresh Flavours of India - Das Sreedharan A really beautifully produced book, this was a revelation to me about how Indian food could be photographed. I know the food he's talking about, I grew up eating this sort of Malayali food and I know its strictly OK, nout outstanding, but he had me salivating. Yet I feel the recipes don't entirely work. Restaurant owners writing books for home cooking doesn't always come off, and this doesn't. 17) Himalayan Recipes - Inner Wheel Club of Darjeeling Another ladies committee. I bought this book for its frank use of 'buff' for beef, acknowledging that most Indian beef comes from water buffaloes. Also got a recipe for momos that sounds worth trying 18) Home Encyclopaedia - J.B.Lobo This one is a trip! Its one of those Inquire Within About Everything volumes. So in addition to giving a whole bunch of Mangalorean recipes, you can also learn the best way to polish brass, raise chickens, deal with menstrual pains and fight depression. 19) Indian Cooking Mrs.Balbir Singh - One of the first Indian cookbooks published abroad and still sound, though of course it seems dated now. But that's part of the interest with it 20) Indian Delights Zuleika Mayat - The classic South African Indian cookbook. Interesting variations on Indian recipes, with some SA ones. Also meant for large community bashes, so if you want instruction on how to make biriani for 150 people, this is the one to buy! 21) Indian Food Sense - Ruth N.Davidar The best book on Indian food from a nutritionist's angle. Its not a fancy book - no pix - but its laid out in a calm and reasonable style. You don't get that faintly manic eat-20-figs-a-day-and-your-life-will-be-perfect feeling that some nutritionists give you. The recipes are simple but good 22) Indian Kitchen, The - Monisha Bharadwaj The essential book on Indian ingredients. It’s a good looking book, covers nearly all ingredients competently and gives a couple of recipes for each. A little more scientific information would have been welcome, but this is still a must buy. 23) Invitation to Indian Cooking, An - Madhur Jaffrey I think many of us started with this one and it is excellent. The recipes are north Indian-Delhi style and feel really authentic (something that can't be said of Ms.Jaffrey's more extravagant excursions to the Far East). She also demonstrates that she can write well about food and her family - I like the story of her grandmother's lime pickle 24) Jamva Chaloji - 1 - Katy Dalal A good compilation of Parsi recipes from someone who's a famous cook in Bombay 25) Jamva Chaloji - 2 - Katy Dalal More interesting. In this book Ms.Dalal set out to resurrect the recipes of the Parsis in the villages on the Gujarat coast, a way of life that largely disappeared as most of them moved to Bombay. So this has a historical value the first book didn’t have. 26) Joy of Vegetarian Cooking - Jasleen Dhamija Just picked it up, decent book 27) Landour Cookbook, The - Ruskin Bond, Ganesh Saili This is interesting for a rare example of American recipes cropping up in India. Landour was a base for several American missionary families and this book has been put together from their recipes and those of others who lived in this North Indian hill station. 28) Lean Cuisine - Karen Anand Karen's recipes are reliable and she is one person who has bases both in nutrition and in gastronomy. Her second book is about international recipes, but this is solidly Indian. She has a useful discussion on ingredients. I also very much agree with her extolling the benefits of Maharahtrian cooking, both of the Konkan coast and the interiors near Kolhapur. Its great and healthy food and too often overlooked. 29) Life & Food in Bengal - Chitrita Banerji This is an absolute must have. Chitrita Banerji is one of the few real food writers in India and this book combines her excellent writing on food in Bengali culture, and across the seasons in Bengal, with serviceable recipes. It is currently out of print but happily a friend at Penguin tells me they will probably be taking it up 30) Low Calorie Recipes - Nita Mehta Nita Mehta is a Tarlaben without the hype and occasional excesses that surrounds that lady now (like you're less likely to find Ms.Mehta doing cruel and unusual things to broccoli and babycorn). She done a whole series of small and useful books and I'm sure there are several others at home, lost somewhere in the kitchen 31) Malabar Muslim Cooking - Ummi Abdullah This igives all the classic Moplah (Muslim Malayali) recipes including some rather over the top ones like muttamala - sort of a garland of fried sweetened eggs, or at least that's what I've understood from the recipe! 32) Monsoon Diary - Shobha Narayan Indian girl grows up in Chennai, goes to study in the US, wants to discover her roots, has arranged marriage, etc etc all accompanied by recipes. The recipes work, the writing is sound, this is all good food writing. So why did I end up feeling the writer was just that little bit too smug for her own good? 33) Parsi Food & Culture, The - Bhicoo J.Manekshaw Another compilation of Parsi recipes, even more voluminous that Katy Dalal's. I really quite like this book, though it couldn't be plainer. There a brisk no nonsense air about the recipes that inspires confidence. With Katy Dalal the recipes sound great, but rather daunting, here they don't 34) Prasadam: Food of the Gods - Nalini Rajan Good explanation of religious rituals and the role food plays in them. This seems to have been commissioned as a fairly quick and cheap book, so the author, who I think is a sociologist, doesn't have that much space or resources so there's always this sense of a more interesting book inside this one 35) Prashad Jiggs Kalra - A classic, though of a particular kind. Jiggs' strategy to preserving Indian food traditions is to get five star hotels to develop ethnic restaurants or food festivals where the food can be cooked and experienced. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand the recipes are being preserved and hopefully appreciated. The system also rewards the cooks, generally overlooked otherwise in India. This is seen at its best with the revival of the whole Dum Pukht tradition with Chef Imtiaz Qureishi. Nonetheless I still feel that something goes wrong with doing this in the five star hotel framework. Its artificially preserving a tradition, and at a costthat takes it away from its roots. There is also an element of hype here that I don't like. Anyway, those general quibbles aside, this is a very valuable volume and covers a pretty huge territory. But it really is directed at professionals more than home chefs - just the way the recipes are written indicates that. 36) Raj at Table, The - David Burton A very good book. Raj history and food is done professionally, but with a light touch. Not personal like the Brennan book, but in some ways better for that. 37) Rasachandrika - Sarawat Mahila Samaj A community classic - this is the cooking of the Saraswats of Mahrashtra, maintained and updated by a ladies committee. This is a very functional book - the recipes could not be stated more tersely. But it has immense authority. 38) Recipes of the Jaffna Tamils - Mesa Eliezer An interesting book, both for highlighting the cooking of a diasporic community that is so close to India, yet in many ways so far. But its also interesting for another reason. Tamil cooking is dominated by the vegetarian food of the Tamil Brahmins. Recently the rich and hot non-vegetarian cooking of the Chettiars is also making an impact. But in between is the ordinary non-vegetarian cooking of the bulk of Tamilians and that isn't highlighted much in India. But the Tamilians who went to Sri Lanka were neither Brahmins nor Chettiar traders and this is what their food reflects. 39) Rotis & Naans of India - Purobi Babbar Quite interesting, covers all the usual Indian breads and quite a few unusual ones. As always I have my usual dilemmas with bread - should one go to trouble of making them so one can have the delight of having them fresh? Or should one just acknowledge that breads are too tricky to master easily and who has the time when there are people making perfectly good versions round the corner? 40) Samaithu Paar - 1 - S.Meenakshi Ammal The TamBrahm classics. Of course one must have all three, though the versions I have are the modernised ones, so none of those old measures like ollocks, visses and seers. More practical, I guess, but something is lost 41) Samaithu Paar - 2 - S.Meenakshi Ammal 42) Samaithu Paar - 3 - S.Meenakshi Ammal 43) Taste of India, A - Madhur Jaffrey A must have, the counterpoint to her earlier book, where she does a good job of covering most Indian regions and as always her writing is good and the recipes entirely reliable. 44) Taste of the Raj - Pat Chapman From the founder of the Curry Club in the UK. He has a long family history with India and snippets about that provide the main interest in this book. 45) Udipi Cuisine - U.B.Rajalakshmi Another community cookbook, the Mangalorean Hindus this time. This has slightly more than community interest because Mangaloreans have come to dominate a segment of the restaurants business - all those excellent Udipi places serving South Indian food at cheap prices and hygienic surroundings. We tend to think of this food as vaguely "Southie", presumed Tamilian, but in fact Mangalorean/Mysore Tamil is more like it. 46) Ultimate Curry Bible - Madhur Jaffrey A really interesting book, I'd say Ms.Jaffrey's masterwork, if her Invitation and Taste of India books weren't more likely to be used. The main interest in this is cultural because its her investigation of the food of the Indian diaspora. So you get interesting and moving stories, along with their recipes and discussions about how they adapted Indian recipes to their new homelands. And I'll add the food books. Just remembered I have a photocopy of the Khare book "The Hindu Hearth and Home" which I am still struggling through - its formidably academic! : 1) Anthropology of Sweatmeats A.K.Sinha Rather dry and occasionally a bit weird as in his attempt to do a classification of sweets. Also its mostly focused on the sweets of Bengal and Bihar (which the writer states upfront). But it is a valuable effort in doing fieldwork about Indian food and we need many more such projects like this. 2) Brahma's Hair Maneka Gandhi Its really a book about Indian plants and their mythological significance, but many of the plants covered are edible that's why I'm including it. 3) Curry in the Crown Shrabani Basu OK attempt to cover how curry achieved its status in the UK. I think this is a very good magazine article that didn't quite work in the conversion into a book, but its very readable 4) Historical Dictionary of Indian Food K.T.Achaya This is the more concise version of Achaya's masterwork and in fact probably the more useful book. Organising his work in a systematic way doesn't seem to have been Achaya's strong point so the Companion can be a rather baffling book to read. This book gives the same information in a tighter format. 5) Hour of the Goddess Chitrita Banerji Excellent. Essays on Bengali food, the book's only fault is that it is too short! 6) Indian Food: A Historical Companion K.T.Achaya As I said, Achaya's masterwork, and I crib about his lack of organisation and the writing is not of the best, but really where would we be without this book. No one put in the sort of effort Achaya did in researching the origins of Indian food, and since no one seems to be doing it today either, his work is all that more important. 7) Myth of the Holy Cow, The D.N.Jha The controversial book that had the Hindu right up in arms for stating that ancient Indians used to eat beef. The evidence is pretty conclusive and the book is an important one. 8) Spices & Condiments J.S.Pruthi Government of India publication, TERRIBLE printing quality, but useful facts 9) Story of Our Food, The K.T.Achaya Achaya's short and sweet version, meant for children I think. Its OK, covers all the main points rapidly 10) Three Fs of Life, The Gul Anand Gul Anand was a well known film producer and food entrepreneur who died a couple of years back. This is anecdotal stuff about his encounters with food. To use a Bombay term, its quite time-pass. 11) Travels With the Fish C.Y.Gopinath Slightly better version of the above, since Gopi is a better writer. His life and times and travels accompanied by recipes 12) Vegetables Bishwajit Choudhury Another Government of India type publication, good facts on Indian vegetables.