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A huge-ish bunch of 11 people met at Adit's farmhouse on the outskirts of the city on September 22nd for cocktails and to eat the good food they'd cooked out of Gizzi Erskine's Slow.


The folks had the enthusiasm, nay courage, to visit Tokyo Bakery for breakfast knowing there would be SO much food for lunch.


Leela's Dirty Prawns, Spring Onions & Bacon came together in 15 minutes and were quite boozy and a hit. Amita also ended up with a coq au vin and flambeed her food and even posted it on her Instagram when she did. It had brandy and orange wine (which Amita fashioned by using white wine and orange rind because orange wine is IMPOSSIBLE to find in this country). What the folks ended up with was braised chicken with shallots, orange wine and brandy that was a little tart but absolutely delicious. She also used dried thyme instead of a few fresh sprigs and small onions instead of banana shallots. She chose not to add any sherry vinegar because she did not have it and the dish was already quite tart. Taruna made a pork meatloaf and used dried bottled herbs instead of fresh ones, again because buying fresh herbs in India is never just a sprig or four but a whole 100 grams (that could feed a village).


Janhavi didn't know where to go looking for wild garlic either, so she used shives and garlic instead, to impart that mild flavour and the herbaceousness of wild garlic. She made a chicken and wild garlic pie. Husein made the beef and potato stew and used boiled onions instead of leeks, to remove the strong flavour that onions give. He, too, used dried mixed herbs instead of buying fresh ones.


Getting a lot of the ingredients in Indian supermarkets proved to be a task and most folk used substitute s for some of the veggies and fresh herbs.


Again, since savoy cabbage is hard to find here (and expensive when you do), so Varun used his instinct and used regular cabbage to roll his golabki. Shubra, too, was unable to find Toulouse sausages, so made do with pork hotdog sausages for her “Lightly Braised Toulouse Sausages”


Adit's slow-roast goat shoulder called for an 8-hour cook but when he checked 2 hours ahead of time, some of the meat was crispy. His second batch was, therefore, only a 1 kilo piece instead of 2.5-3 and took only 4 hours. Priyanki took some of the overcooked goat home to make sandwiches for her family and I'm so proud of her. Using up leftovers creatively has a special place in my heart. She made the


Priyanki made the Lemon Surprise Tart and though it didn't brown as much as they've shown in the book, but was scrumptious nonetheless.


Reva and Neha were new members and it was their first time attending a cookbook club meet. They cooked Ultimate Salt-Baked Potatoes and "Under The Weather" All the Veg Soup.


There were a handful of cocktails floating around - Old Fashioned and Manhattan, Mint Julep and some martinis. It was quite late by the time some of the people left. Though those who couldn't attend in Pune, have their second chance on the 29th.

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A week before we had this meet, someone from The Hindu asked if she could speak with me. Now, my speech isn't back to normal, someone who talks to me for the first time, think I usually speak slowly and with a lisp. In fact, they might even think it's impolite to ask me to repeat myself.


I don't even like telling people that I've had neuritis and that I can repeat myself if they don't understand me.


That said I found Shriya, through a friend and discovered she stays two floors below me. She's a lawyer and recently married and loves cooking. She baked Arabic flatbreads and served them with a spicy Tomato and Prawn Stew that evening. Swapnil, who is on keto presently, made the chicken with red onions and sumac. Suraj made a tapenade and did some labneh three ways - one with za'atar and olive oil, one with sumac and olive oil and one rolled in thyme and with grilled grapes (because we couldn't fine peaches).


I made kashk a few days before - by hanging out some yoghurt and souring it and then cooking it dry. Instead of sun drying it like the Bedouin's possibly do, I slow cooked it until it was dry and crumbly. I used it to make Bedouin lamb with kashk and spiced rice.


I also made a herbed focaccia to go with the labneh and the tapenade.


Overall, we had a good evening and lots of leftovers. The cooking times seemed fairly accurate and I didn't really think the bread to water ratios were off, as Amita did in Pune. We might need to try the recipe more closely to be able to validate this. All that said, the food was brilliant. Not mad spicy like a lot of South Indian fare, very flavourful and quite up there among my favourites - South East Asian food (Vietnamese and Thai have my heart) and now Middle Eastern.

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Cooking Middle Eastern fare is never a bad idea and the folk in Pune cooked out of yet another Yasmin Khan release. A bunch of us got this at a discounted rate and went right ahead and bought it.


Pune had two meets in early August - one at Taruna's just hours short of Pune's Tapped Beer Fest, which most of the members were attending and the other at Varun and Shubra's where a much larger group of folk met.


Joravar and Priyanka were first time attendees and wanted to get a feel of things and the people before they opted to host themselves, which is not entirely unfair I think.


Taruna stuck to her title of Roast Chicken Queen and dished up a whole chicken stuffed with rice, raisins, pine nuts, cashews and almonds. She also made a simple yet scrumptious accompaniment using lentils, red peppers, feta and tomato as a salad.


Jahnavi shuffled work meetings and lunch and brought in a roast Romanesco cauliflower salad with Tahini and pomegranate and some lemon and chilli roast potatoes.


Adit made some chicken shawarma with black sesame tahini.


Amita got caught in the rains and the traffic slowdown that ensued afterwards and she couldn't make it to the lunch. She did, however, atttend the following weekend. So all was not lost.


Priyanki ended the afternoon with a pomegranate passion cake. She made it twice, it was that good. She served it with a yoghurt and mascarpone glaze.


The following weekend, Varun made some Mussakhan - roast chicken with sumac and red onions. Ravi brought in some chicken shawarma (again). Spices sourced from Middle Eastern countries, deliver in terms of flavour far better than their Indian counterparts, Ravi thought. The quantities mentioned in recipes are for extremely good quality, potent ingredients and may need to be scaled up when using local ingredients.


While Keya made spinach and feta parcels, she did think the dough didn't rise as much. The Pune monsoons can play spoilsport really. Amita made some herbed focaccia and Za'atar flat bread and pretty much ran out of her house so that her family wouldn't devour what she had baked. Amita bakes a lot of breads herself, so she thought that the bread doughs were too dry. So she had to use her intuition and add enough water to match the dough description. She also brought in a Mutabal to go with her breads and thinks that a baba ghanouj would've worked far better. She used the ice cube trick stated in the book to make her hummus, and it resulted is a very smooth texture.


Husein kept it simple with a Gazan Salad. The addition of dill seemed to elevate the salad to a whole nother level. And Taruna showed up again with a couple of salads and the a dessert. She did an aubergine, tomato & pomegranate salad and also the Everyday Palestinian Salad. She brought in some coconut bites which were freakishly similar to the Coconut Tops recipe from Downtime. She syas the aubergine salad was awesome and complained that she burnt her coconut bites. But everyone seemed to love them.


Dhanashree got a slow-roasted lamb shoulder with Palestinian spices and drove across the city to make it lunch in good time. Priyanka Sachdev made some lamb meatballs with Tahini.


Joravar made a chocolate and coconut cake for dessert and to re-bake a fresh cake because his dog liked it just as much as the humans (later) did. Shubhra ended the meal for a dozen with her molten chocolate, coffee and cardamom pots.


When there's 10+ people meeting over a meal, there's a good chance there is a good chance there will be leftovers. So everyone showed up with "dabbas" to take leftovers home. But there were none. So, I'm guessing all is welll that ends well.

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