Jump to content

Vikram

participating member
  • Content Count

    358
  • Joined

  • Last visited

Posts posted by Vikram

  1. 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

  2. Would it be safe to assume based on some comments earlier that Pakistani cuisine has picked up the sweetness and fruit/nut additions that can be found in some of the Northern dishes?

    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

  3. 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

  4. what food markets are there in bangalore? I'd love to explore cool markets

    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

  5. 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

  6. 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

  7. We used to have Kandos chocolates here in Malaysia and I remember reading that it was an Indian brand.

    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

  8. 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:

    These days, hopefully, more equality prevails, and some husbands agree to keep karva chauth along with their wives. (Or there’s the Cadbury Perk ad where the husband encourages his wife to eat early). That might seem like a way to acknowledge the benefits of tradition, without its restrictive aspects. Similarly the traditional eating of phalahar foods could be a way of acknowledges our long lost hunter-gatherers ancestors – and remember this is the season for ancestor worship - who depended on the fruits of the forests and the roots we dug from the grounds before we learned the secrets of cultivation.

    That’s why we go back to those archaic foods we would have got from the wild like water-chestnuts and amaranth, even if the rest of the year we’re happy to eat the cultivated foods. The chewiness of saboodhana khichri, the earthy appeal of singhada and rajgira puris are worth eating both for their taste and as an annual affirmation of our roots. The phalahar pizza though is perhaps best given a miss.

    http://economictimes.indiatimes.com/articleshow/806793.cms

  9. 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

  10. 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

  11. 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

  12. The symbolism behind it (this is my personal opinion) stems from the fact that most Gujeratis are food obsessed and the life revolves around the kitchen. They also predominantly live in joint families meaning multiple women in the kitchen.(yes the Saas – bahu thing) The daughter in law that ruled the kitchen ruled the house and was a favourite and would be loved and happy. I think it is a fond wish from a mother to her daughter for a happy life as the daughter sets up her own home and life.

    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

  13. 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

  14. I called it Gujarati "style" because it is influenced by some Gujarati flavors, but is not necessarily a classic dish. The Gujarati garam masala that the dish calls for has a very distcint taste that comes from the use of fennel or star anise, ajwain, sesame seeds and hot red chilies;things you don't find in standard garam masalas.

    So, that combined with the dill, a touch of sugar, and the the peanut oil tadka gives the dish a Gujurati feeling. The onion and garlic are my additions. Sabut toor dal is also really good this way.

    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

  15. this might be an impossible question to answer, but is there one indian cook book you would recommend?

    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

  16. 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

  17. 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.

  18. hey Rajsuman, sorry to log onto this topic so late. Been only skimming over the forum in the last ten days. Anyway, hate to disappoint you, but I really don't have that many Indian cookbooks - nothing like Monica! I did a count and came up with 47 give a take a couple that are lost or might be lurking in corners of the kitchen. Add about a dozen more for books on Indian food that aren't cookbooks.

    I actually avoid buying most of the Indian cookbooks coming out now because they are so annoying. There's a huge flood of books coming into the market - Indian publishers seem to have convinced themselves that cookbooks and self helf books are the only ones that sell so they are overinvesting in them. And just like every second person you meet at cocktail parties seems to have a novel in them, every second housewife who can cook halfway decently is being told to produce a cookbook. And they do.

    The result is a flood of copycat (literally sometimes), badly produced (though standards are rising) and profoundly uninteresting cookbooks. I don't doubt the cooking skills of the people producing them (though reading about the things they do to exotic vegetables makes me wonder about their morals), but there's some skill involved in doing a cookbook and since none of them seem to have looked at other cookbooks - other than Tarla-ben's of course, since she's the one who got them hooked on the idea you could make money from it - the results are floods of identical books.

    Luckily its dawning on publishers that the market is not infinitely elastic for these books, so now more effort is being made to differentiate and come up with something new. More community cookbooks are coming out and these are the ones I really collect. Anything that gives some sign of having real authenticity behind it, anything that talks about ingredients or about how the food was cooked and consumed - competition is finally pushing publishers to realise the importance of all this. Even Tarla-ben, who I had long written off as too deep into mistreating babycorn in microwaves, has come up with a book idea like her "Achar aur Parathe" book, an idea that just instinctively feels good.

    I'm going to put a list of my books, but in the next email since that will be loooong,

    Vikram

  19. What rains? Its hardly rained properly this season - just drizzles, occasional outbursts. Not that hard pouring rain that is the real monsoon and where one can happily forgot going in to work (or less happily be stuck at work). The monsoon season isn't over yet, so lets hope like crazy they still happen,

    Vikram

  20. Digging up this thread to ask a question on amchur. I was replenishing my stock the other day - standard Everest brand packet - when I realised I didn't know much about it. Does anyone know if any particular kind of mango is used to make amchur or will any mango do? How ripe or raw does the mango have to be? Is it just the flesh that's dried or the skin as well?

    Amchur is a spice I am only just getting to know and its an interesting one. There's a fruity edge to the sourness that I find quite attractive. What recipes do people have that bring out this aspect of amchur well? And has anyone tried using amchur in non-Indian dishes? I imagine it might be possible to substitute it for some middle Eastern spices like sumac or dried lemons - it wouldn't be the same, but might give interesting differences?

    Do cuisines outside India use an amchur type spice? Mangoes, as we now know thanks to the extensive mango thread that came up in defiance of Mongo's protests, are grown all over the place like in Mexico or Hawaii or the Philippines. Has anyone come across mangos used as a souring agent there?

    Vikram

  21. one thing that is really a favourite - a homegrown version of roti canai-flaky parathas scrambled with what is basically your bhujia mix -eggs,onion,tomato if you like,green chillis etc.and served with a good gravy.parathas don't take long to defrost and gravy can be flung on the heat too.i usually make some extra gravy when cooking a basic mutton curry for this but your sri lankan egg curry gravy would be good.it tastes quite like a frankie but with a nice crispness to it.needs to be eaten right away.

    Oh yes, you're right, thanks, this is a good one. I've eaten it in Madras, where some roadside stalls fry up shredded parottas with onions, eggs and chillies and its heavy but totally delicious. And frozen parottas are now quite easily available here in Bombay. Will be trying out definitely,

    Vikram

  22. Digging up this old thread to answer my own question about whether there people in this region who aren't squeamish about acknowledging that the 'beef' that they eat is usually buffalo meat. I've just picked up a tattered old book called 'Himalayan Recipes' which was compiled by the Inner Wheel Club of Darjeeling.

    (The Inner Wheel Club, for those lucky enough never to have encountered Rotarians is a spin off from the Rotary Club meant for the wives of members. Pretty much the only thing the Inner Wheel Club had going for it - apart from the fact that its members could compile books like this - was that it was preferable to being called Rotariannes, the other term applied to the spouses of members. Now that at least some Rotary Clubs are enlightened enough to admit women members, perhaps all these things are in the past).

    The recipes seem sort of Nepalese-Tibetan-Gurkha and include dishes like Thukpa (noodle soup), Momos (dumplings), Kwati (a kind of mixed lentil dhal, I think), Kinama (fermented soya beans) and bamboo shoots. And pride of place seems to go to Boiled Buff Meat, described as a typical Chhewala-Newari dish. The instructions are quite prosaic - it starts: "Boil the whole lump of meat in the pressure cooker for 20 minutes". A little later comes Roasted/Grilled Buff or Chicken or Mutton, with the words "This type of roasted buff is eaten as a delicacy, especially by the Newars."

    So there you have it, Newaris, a Nepali community who is honest about eating buff. Wonder if there's a religious angle - doesn't this community worship Devi (the mother goddess) who killed Mahishasura, the buffalo headed demon? Would that make them less squeamish about admitting they eat buff?

    Vikram

  23. 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

  24. Where can I find the lagan pickle Vikram. I read about it recently and i want to try it. And no a parsi wedding is not an option.

    Motilal Masalawala. There's a big shop at Nana Chowk which has most of their stuff (don't forget to get a packet of Kolah's vinegar), but if you can make it to their old shop near CP Tank do so, there's an even better variety of pickles there. RTI might have it as well, but even if they don't, you can pick up the bafenu there,

    Vikram

×
×
  • Create New...