What are cookbooks for? Is it because cookbooks can inspire, excite, and teach others the art of cooking? Of late, chefs have been coming out of their cloistered kitchens and trying their hand at writing. I have a lot of cookbooks at home that belong to my husband who is passionate about the culinary arts. The content of the books excite – you could discover a new recipe, or an easier recipe than the complicated one you had been trying out.
On March 5, 2014, three days before International Women’s Day, I attended the launch of gastronomy writer and food consultant Rushina Munshaw Ghildiyal’s first cookbook – A Pinch of This, A Handful of That, published by Westland Publishers. The launch was held at Godrej Nature’s Basket in Defence Colony, Delhi.
The book launch was accompanied with a live cooking demonstration by Rushina and a panel discussion on ‘Culinary Souvenirs’, inspired from one of the chapters of her book. Delhi’s finest food connoisseurs; celebrity chef Kunal Kapoor, Delhi Gourmet founder members Sourish Bhattacharya, Atul Sikand, Rocky Mohan, and Rushina herself. Host of the evening, COO of Fabrica by Chef Saby, Avininder Singh entertained the audience with his witty anecdotes about his experiments with food and travel.
Rushina – who is wildly popular for her food blog A Perfect Bite – says the cookbook is a result of her daily efforts to whip up something interesting for her kids at home so they didn’t have to go out and seek solace in junk food.
As I flipped through A Pinch of This, A Handful of That I realised this was not a cookbook for those who like precise measurements or even a step-by-step guide. Instead, the book provides a rich fund of recipes, mined from the author’s memories of her growing years and the early influences on her palate by her grandmother, parents and various other people she met – all of whom love cooking.
The book leads with freshness, flavour, bliss, and innovation. Imagine a beautiful bowl brimming with fresh salad of sesame sprouts with glass noodles, curry leaf fish, and Goan sausage pulao. Or a tempting plate of juicy clove-scented lamb drizzled in red wine. How about a gorgeous plate of dessert with pomegranate chocolate mousse or the appealinggujiyas stuffed with orange, pistachio puffs, and star anise?
Many of these recipes can be ready in less than half-an-hour, while the rich delicacies require a maximum time just over an hour. The best part is the ingredients she goes with – they can easily be found in a local food store. And moreover, the well-edited stunning photographs of the dishes will definitely bring out the desire in you to get into the kitchen.
During the panel discussion on “Culinary Souvenirs” Rushina opened up about her fascination for food. “When food is in my mouth, the flavours are of course paramount, but even as my palate is savouring the taste, my mind relishes all the details I associate with it.”
She believes that the best way to discover a place is through its food. “Culinary souvenir is a term I coined later in life to encompass all the little pieces of my holidays attached to the memory of great dining experiences. It could be anything from those that cost you every bit of your travel to pick up the French Le Crueset cookware, or cost nothing, like a paper napkin from the day you tasted berry pulao at Britannia and Co., embellished with a picture of their mascot, the owner’s pet rooster, and proclaiming ‘there is no love greater than the love of eating.”
At the live cooking demonstration, Rushina made two non-vegetarian delicacies. The first recipe was Nairobi Tawa Prawns – a very simple and easy recipe of prawns fried in melted butter, with peppercorns, green chillies and ginger-garlic, and finally garnishing it with finely chopped coriander and sprinkling lime juice over the prawns.
The second recipe was Kaffir Lime Fish, a combination of Basa fillets, green chillies, garlic, curry leaves cooked in oil. As the fish gets thoroughly cooked, few toasted sesame seeds are added to it for a rich flavour.
In case you want to grab a copy of her book, it is available in the book stores, as well as online at the price of Rs 595.
Here is the recipe of Rushina’s all time favourite Mayo Mutton Curry
Time: 1 ½ hours
Ingredients for Spice Paste
2 tbsp ghee
6 curry leaves
1 piece of fresh ginger, chopped
6 garlic cloves, chopped
6 dried red chillies, broken
2 medium sized onions, chopped
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp turmeric powder
Ingredients for Curry
2 tbsp ghee
500 gm mutton with bone, cut into pieces
2 potatoes, chopped into cubes
1 tsp salt
4 cups mutton stock of water
1 cup tomato puree
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves
Method for Spice Paste
Step 1: Put the ghee in a pressure cooker on medium heat. When hot, add the curry leaves, ginger, garlic, red chillies, and onions. Sauté for 2-3 minutes, till fragrant
Step 2: Cool and set aside
Step 3: Roast the coriander and cumin seeds on a dry tava or griddle on medium heat
Step 4: Combine the sautéed and roasted ingredients with the turmeric powder and grind to make a fine paste, adding a little water as required
Method for Curry
Step 1: Put the ghee in the same pressure cooker on medium heat. When hot, sauté the mutton pieces for 2-3 minutes
Step 2: Add the ground spice pasted and sauté for 3-4 minutes longer
Step 3: Stir the potatoes
Step 4: Add the salt and stock or water and mix
Step 5: When it comes to a boil, stir in the tomato puree and coriander leaves
Step 6: Close the cooker and pressure-cook for 10 minutes on low heat, after the cooker reaches full pressure
Step 7: Remove from the heat and set aside, till the pressure subsides
Step 8: Serve hot
Note: The article first appeared on TimesCity/What’s Hot