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June 2005

The Cook Next Door-Just the ticket

Nupur of One Hot Stove tagged me for The Cookbook Meme and I was so delighted. If it is one thing I am mad about it is books and cook books...those are irresistable.
It was easy to trace the Meme's origin with historical tracking all done by Ana of  pumpkin pie bungalow.

To take off from Nupur's introduction in her blog I could completely identify with the urge to stop hoarding and to keep things minimal. Having personally reached that stage last year , I too have divested myself of much accumulated baggage, when many earthly goods found other homes and gardens. What a relief. But... the books remained.


And then, having created much space, I am now filling it up again ...with new ideas and thoughts and, well, books.

Total number of cookbooks I own:
Probably about a 100 or more. Cook books and books about food and notebooks filled with recipes. Some I have never opened...Mughal Microwave for example.

Last cookbook I bought: Keep it Simple by Marian Burros from a second hand bookshop.This was a bestseller till the '80s and may still be for all I know. Simplicity, for me, is the key word in cooking. All the recipes are 30 minute meals from scratch, many with an international flavour and the author has worked it out in menu form, with a shopping list ( good for a scatter brain like me) and a game plan . Most of the listed ingredients are easily available in India as well. I havent tried out any thing as yet but it looks interesting.

Last food/cook book I read: Supper of the Lamb by Robert Farrar Capon, an absolutely rollicking read( though I keep wondering if he should have called it Supper of the Fowl because of his name).

Five (cook) books that mean a lot to me:
1. Indian Cookery by Madhur Jaffrey. I learnt Indian cooking from this book, far away from home, family and friends, with plenty of time on my hands and dying for something chatpata.( hot and tangy).

2.Do you see that completely spineless book in the photo? That is one of my most useful cookbooks ...what else but The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer given to me as a wedding present by a dear friend, Rani Mathew...a joyful cook if there ever was one.

3. Recipes printed by the Time and Talents Club , Bombay given by Deepa Dhanraj, another friend, great cook ( and documentary filmmaker), when she saw me struggling in the kitchen many moons ago. With a most eclectic collection of recipes and now out of print, it is one of my most precious possessions.

4. Memories with Food at Gypsy House by Felicity and Roald Dahl. My first introduction to beautifully thought out menus and gorgeously presented food...check out those photographs. Books on food and cooking have been quite basic in this part of the world with cheap paper, bad fuzzy pictures and printing, and dull as ditchwater (till about 12 years ago when everything , not just cook books, began to change).

5.Rasachandrika : compiled by the Saraswat Mahila Samaj in Bombay. I love this style of Indian cooking. It uses all the vegetables possible in such a down to earth way.

I would love to get my hands on: Ferran Adria's E Bulli cookbook, my own copy of Bartolomeo Scappi's 'Opera' or 'The Private Chef of Pope Pius V' and many many others.

Which five people would you like to see fill this out in their blogs?I would really like to see Alberto of Il Forno fill this out but I think he has been tagged a very, very long time ago. And how about Tan and from tancancook?

Masala peanuts club style


Masala peanuts
Masala peanuts is an entry on every club menu I have ever seen. Chennai, Bombay, Pune, Delhi, Belgaum and Mahabaleshwar are some of the places which have at least one or two 'clubs' with links to a colonial beginning, in army cantonments and in civilian areas .

Most of these clubs are housed in buildings made over a hundred years ago, bungalows with wide verandahs and vast lawns, some beautifully renovated, some ramshackle and neglected. Standard fare on the menu of snacks are Finger Chips i.e. french fries, Chutney sandwich, Chicken sandwich, Vegetable cutlet and Masala peanuts.

Great to accompany a glass of beer as they are unstoppably eatable.

1 1/4 cup of roasted peanuts with or without skins.
1 tablespoon olive or any other vegetable oil
2 cloves finely chopped garlic
1 finely chopped onion
2 finely chopped green chillies
2 tbsp. fresh coriander
Juice of two lemons. 2 tbsp.
1 tsp. Salt and 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper.

Heat one tablespoon of olive oil. When hot pop in the peanuts and fry well. Add onions and chillies and fry for a few minutes.Then add garlic, salt and pepper and mix well. Stir in coriander, wait till peanuts become golden brown ( if skinned). Finally add lime juice, stir for a minute and remove from heat. Garnish with some coriander leaves and serve in small bowls with a spoon.


Kolhapuri Capers


Sadashiv Peth is a quarter in the old city, which was, and still is, the heartland of the Pune blue-eyed Brahmin. Govitrikars, Paranjpes and Agashes abound here. Keepers of the keys to knowledge, education, and information. Traditionally staunch vegetarians, meat would be anathema in their homes.

Non Veg is a euphemism for many unappetising things in India. You can let your imagination go wild here.

So when ye olde Punekar goes out for a hearty meal of mutton or chicken a la Kolhapur, where do you think he heads? Why, Sadashiv Peth, naturally.


As I walked down the street looking out for one of the famed Kolhapuri restaurants, a shady gentleman beckoned to me as if he was about to offer me some hashish or stronger stuff, and, as I approached rather nervously, said in an undertone,"You want to eat non-hvej ?" I almost burst out laughing in relief.

As it happens, the place which he pointed out to me was next door and, belying the small and dark entrance, had a pleasant garden in the back with about ten tables set out under the lemon trees and flowering bushes. The garden was dominated by a tall date palm and ten waiters with little to do. A couple of tables were taken and with the sun overhead we had to find a shady spot.

This was Sugrans Dining House and Family Garden.

The menu was in Marathi, and they offered thali meals, a 'Plate System', and single dishes. The thali came in two types: sorted by ingredient (Chicken and Mutton), by amount (Unlimited and Limited), and by degree of heat generated (Masala and Fry).


Do NOT let any misguided hungry soul order the unlimited, "eat till you drop" type of thali. Some people take this as a challenge which it is not meant to be. After an Unlimited thali the afternoon is shot to pieces. You can do nothing but lie down, flake out and recall that old Noel Coward saying with deep understanding : "Only mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the mid-day sun".

Ignoring other delicacies such as country chicken, which is free range (and tough as leather), or pomfret and surmai (king fish) fry, which is excellent, we ordered a limited mutton masala thali and chicken masala thali. Kolhapurimuttonthali

Now, when they say Non-veg, they really mean it. Nothing vegetarian about it except for a few chopped raw onions.

Every vati (bowl) was filled with a meaty something. This is food for those souls who are suffering from real non-veg withdrawal symptoms. 1 Mutton masala plate, 1 kheema vati,1 pandra rasa( a white mutton curry) and 1 tambda rasa( a red mutton curry), 3 wheat chapathis or 2 bhakri, 1 plate of rice. Ditto on the the chicken thali.

Though authentic kolhapuri cuisine, we did not find it as chilli hot as Kolhapuri food is famed for, but then we all eat a lot of chillies, both red and green. Be warned, it might be hair-raising for others less used to chillies in their food.
The place was clean and the service prompt.It was a nice relaxing place to eat in , quite quiet considering it was in the middle of the city.
The prices were laudable. Just cannot figure out how they manage to produce such good food for so little.Everyone I have told about it is planning a visit ...real soon.

from Rs 40-Rs 90 per person.

Sugrans Dining House,
2293,  A Sadashiv Peth, Shedge Vadi,
Pune 30

For  super Kolhapuri Mutton recipe click here.