Books

Quick-Fix Indian- a new cookbook by Ruta Kahate

 

Eggless Omelette
Ruta Kahate’s latest cook book is written for people new to Indian cuisine  living in countries other than India.

A couple of pages into the book and I was hooked. The very first thing that strikes you is that it’s organized so as to make YOU organized!

If you are approaching Indian food for the first time as a cook ‘Quick Fix Indian’ will get you started on the right foot. A much needed basic shopping list will help you stock your larder for many, many  Indian meals and will help avoid the frustration of being a couple of key ingredients short half way into cooking.

There are instructions to make some of these key ingredients from scratch which is well worth theeffort for the sheer improvement in taste. However many of them are also available readymade in Asian grocery stores around the world so you can dispense with all that if you are in a hurry.

Ruta’s  concept of the short shelf, pre preparing some ingredients to shorten cooking time, is great, especially for people who begin making dinner half an hour before it is required, urgently, by a hungry family.

The author has structured the book into the regular breakfast, lunch and mains recipes ( which I presume means dinner) with other chapters devoted to soups, salads, relishes, desserts and snacks. Pretty soon it becomes evident that a lot of the recipes can be interchanged from one chapter to another. I know that I frequently make the delicious Grilled Chicken Wrap as a dinner meal with a salad, or the  Indian Veggie Burger, which she lists in the lunch menu , as a quick snack.

The main attraction of the book is that most of the recipes can be cooked in half an hour and are typical of the kind of quick home cooking we do nowadays in India. Few people manage to make the thali spread of yester year with the stipulated dal, two veggies, a mutton or chicken curry, two chutneys, chapathi and rice. Most of us now make do with a main dish of vegetables or meat and a staple. While this is reflected in the book there are many recipes which, while tasty , are simplified to suit the  western palate. Andhra chicken curry though Indian in flavour is nothing like the authentic Andhra curry you might get in Hyderabad. That’s not to say it isn’t tasty. I can vouch, having tested the recipe, that it’s a winner.

Several recipes have ingredients we don’t have in India, for example the Chickpea salad had red, purple and fingerling potatoes, none of which are available here. The Coriander shrimp would be, more commonly, made with bottle gourd  rather than zucchini. However, to a person who cooks, these discrepancies are inconsequential. We all have to make do with what we can get. So if pomfret isn’t around, tilapia will do as well. Ruta remains faithful to the basic taste of Indian food which varies hugely  from North to South and coast to coast.

I especially liked the breakfast dishes so common to households in India. From the Spicy coastal scramble to the Eggless omelet (featured in my photo here) they are just what we make at home when cereal will not do and a bit of chilli on the palate gets one going so much faster.

While 'Quick Fix Indian' is written with the North American cook in mind, it is a book I would recommend to cooks in India as well. Perfect for those who work, but still want the taste of home cooked food, or those with children or families, who often have to plate up something good and wholesome in a short time, and even those of us Indians who would like a  recipe collection of old favourites from all across India  at hand-.Paneer roti, Lamb seekh kebabs, Potato raita, Chickpea salad ,the ubiquitous Egg roll and my all time favourite- Mustardy mashed potatoes .

YUM!


BBC GOOD FOOD magazine -India edition

BeEb Good Food India


Hot on the heels of the BBC Good Food Asia edition comes the India edition. Billed as the UK’s best selling Food magazine it is a welcome addition to the present range of food magazines in India.

As a long standing fan of the original, with its beautiful unfussy photographs and an easy to follow  format for recipes I am especially pleased . Several years ago my only access to the magazine was through the good auspices of the British Council .

That august institution has sadly lost its way from the path of popularising British culture through distributing books on art, architecture, fiction, gardening  and science among the information hungry Indian populace. Now it seems to cater only to students of engineering, medicine and information technology, that too  at a hefty price,  and its only intent- to sell an overpriced British higher education  to all comers,  with little responsibility to its buyers in India. But that is another story.

Suffice it to say I am no longer a member of the British Council but slowly began following BBC’s Good Food online. Some of my best recipes have come from there.

The Indian edition is published by Bennett Coleman  and Co.( who own Times of India)  They have bought BBC Worldwide . Whether this will reflect in the quality of the eventual publication has to be seen. Many Indian food magazines are very aspirational, reflecting lifestyles of the rich and famous and a handful of “Famous Foodies” and not much in the way of good solid recipes......publishing, in fact , quite questionable ones.

The original GOOD FOOD Magazine always has several tried and tested recipes, and is a dependable guide. The Indian edition promises a section for Vegetarians, the inevitable Eat Out section and more articles relevant to an Indian readership. The Times of India says that seventy percent of the content will be generated here with the rest syndicated from the UK. Does that mean the original magazine? Lets hope so.

Lets also hope it doesn’t become just another vehicle for advertising without any regard for content, which is what most magazines seem to be today.


The Joy of Cooking

 

Years ago, on my wedding, I was gifted not one but two copies of The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer  and Marion Rombauer Becker.I gave one away and kept the other as it had greater sentimental value, coming from a dear friend of mine, Rani, who is a super and a happy cook.

In them thar distant days I could not cook anything beyond cornbread and scones, rice in a rice cooker and very rigid chapathis. Other activities and interests outside the kitchen took most of my time.

Several years passed before I opened the covers of what has proved to be one of my most referred to cook books. The-Jpoy-of-Cooking-page

Its condition today is testimony to the use it has been put to.Minus a spine,falling apart, stained with milk and flour, eggs and other ,now hard to identify, ingredients.

You may wonder how it helped to have a book which had recipes for American and European food when presumably I cooked only Indian food.

It began with me checking out how to recognise ingredients and how to deal with them. With a wonderful section called " Know your ingredients" I was able to identify different vegetables, how to cut them and how much they should be cooked before being edible.  Lots about herbs,about oils, beans, cheeses, fats, curds,flours and lastly  about substitutes...all invaluable information at a time when  things like dark cooking chocolate,sour cream, ricotta, and a million other ingredients were not available in India.

With lovely little sketches to illustrate everything from making citrus zests to  croutons this 100 page section taught me so much.

The book was also  an introduction to cuts of meat, and had much about poultry and fish. Living, as I did , close to Sassoon Docks the shellfish chapter was great for a person who had little to no knowledge of how to prepare crabs, lobster and prawns.

My favourite part was the breads and coffee cakes chapter which  I still dip into all the time.The weights and measures pages made it possible to cook anything I wanted to, changing quarts into litres and ounces into grams,  in days without the internet to answer every question. I still enjoy  poring over parts of the book and love its ' cooking from scratch ' methods.No "packet of this'" or "tin of that" sullies its pages.

I think what I liked best was the fact that almost every recipe I tried, succeeded. There is nothing so off putting as initial failures in the kitchen. It can put a stop to all endeavours if you are impatient like me.

My daughter has learned to love cooking making a beginning with this book, as a text where she had to refer to no one to find out what she wanted,least of all her mother. A new updated edition of "The Joy Of Cooking" was her engagement present. I know it will stand her in good stead all her life, especially in this new world where global food  and new tastes are a reality but good old fashioned food made with your own hands never goes out of style.