Updated: Jun 4, 2019
My cooking journey began a decade or so ago, when I moved out of the pleasures of my home (now, my parents' home), however, my cookbook journey only started a couple of years ago. I'm quite proud of how far they've brought me in these past couple of years. Finding a recipe on the internet was never a bad thing (food blogs started from documentation of something someone cooked out of a cookbook or a magazine, most likely...), but somewhere along the way, we forgot how it all started, right? And over the decades, cookbooks have evolved from being just a collection of recipes, to recipes, stories, history, culture and so much more. I'm also secretly glad this hashtag uses the British spelling of favourite and not the American 'favorite'. Hehe.
I figured there weren't as many Indian cookbooks as I might have wanted to use for the books on my list - Indian cookbooks are dirt cheap and don't have paperback/hardcover/kindle formats available or then lack a good narrative or pictures or worse still, look great and are expensive but suffer on actual content. Maybe I try a lot of Indian food by speaking with my mum or friends' mums and figure things out as I go and don't need regional cookbooks as much. We've tried some Indian cookbooks at the Pune Cookbook Club over the past few months and been disappointed, more often than not. Plus, I think the lure of a foreign cookbook that is well-published has its own charm.
Here's a little about the books I picked, why and more...
Ivan Ramen I went through a ramen obsession around two years ago. Every weekend I'd buy pork bones, chicken feet and the like and make broths overnight and compare notes (with myself and the web) about why or how a broth was different from its predecessor. Ivan Orkin's episode on The Chef's Table was an eye-opener.The book even more so. The perfect pickled soft boiled egg, the use of sake, the melt-in-your-mouth pork belly, experiments with narutomaki, chintan versus paitan, so much more... I can't remember the number of times I've made ramen using the book as a reference but without it, when I was normal and in Pune. Sigh.
The Suriani Kitchen Somebody I was seeing back in 2013 gifted me the book, so it's my first cookbook, in that sense. It's a collection of recipes from the Syrian Christian community in Kerala. The author has moved on to writing a book on organic gardening and won some accolades. She is also a landscape designer and an environmentalist and her books, cookbook or otherwise, are about just that. https://www.thehindu.com/books/mother-earth-sister-seed-lathika-georges-new-book/article22634153.ece The Suriani Kitchen has some amazing pickle recipes that get eaten like sabjis every time I make them. It is also a Malayali book, so it's husband-approved, he's part Malayali. It is a very homely and familiar bunch of recipes. Yet, it has that thing about being outside of your comfort zone and you're tempted to try cooking out of it. Then, with every successful cook, you just want to cook out of it again. And again. And again. It was also the first book we cooked out of for the Pune Cookbook Club, so it holds a special place in our hearts. I guess.
Salt Fat Acid Heat How does one NOT include Samin's book in their repertoire? The book and the Netflix show are SO different, if you ask me. And enough has been said about Samin's infectious laughter, so I'll spare you that. Wendy Macnoughtan's illustrations are beyond perfect, and they've recently released prints of artwork too. https://www.amazon.in/Salt-Fat-Acid-Heat-Collection/dp/1984824708/ref=sr_1_2 The first half of the book is science. The latter half contains recipes with sample menus and customizations to suit your tastes. The marshmallowy meringues make for a great base recipe for marshmallows, meringues, pavlovas and most things whipped egg whites. Though I do wish more had been spoken/written about pasta (making your own, shapes, the role of fat etc) and crispy potatoes (fries, chips, smashed, they're all fat too... Also duck fat potatoes have a place in my heart).
The Perfect Scoop David Lebovitz has been big in the food blogging world for YEARS. Most recipes from this book are on the interweb and this book, in fact, was so fool-proof and became so popular that it was updated and re-published. The summers in Hyderabad are killing me and neuritis means I can only do one pot meals. The roasted banana ice-cream and the Vietnamese Coffee ice-cream are favourites in my house. I've also done a black sesame ice cream, a cheesecake ice cream, a tiramisu ice cream, a paan ice cream, one with mangoes, tone with apricots and cream, some salted caramel ice cream, a savoury ice cream with Thai green curry paste and numerous fresh fruit sorbets (with and without alcohol).
Appetites - A Cookbook June. Birthday. Death Anniversary, gulp. All super adaptable recipes - the risotto, the pastry dough, the pot pie...
The Slanted Door I thought about recipes from a country close to home. We made Sri Lankan on Sunday for dinner, but we're bound to only certain vegetables in Indian city markets. Vietnamese or Thai came next. We've cooked out of Pok Pok sevral times, which focuses on Thai street food. And Into The Vietnamese Kitchen has neither pho nor Bo La Lot. We used to love Phobidden Fruit in Bangalore and it was a tough pick between Into The Vietnamese Kitchen and The Slanted Door. But I think I've come to like the latter better. Maybe because it has more recipes that make me happy - Vietnamese sausages, turnovers, bo la lot, bun rieu, dessert ideas and SO much more.
Lateral Cooking It's a book I'm still reading, but I've never read another like it. From what I've read so far, it's generic enough to create tasty food, yet specialized enough to help you understand the science behind it. Niki Segnit's The Flavour Thesaurus was a find several years ago. And a sure shot keeper. This book is a gem. Thicker, heavier, more detailed, more expensive, hehe. What I've come to love is the "no BS" approach and a heartwarming normalcy when talking bout Indian food. The online world seems to romanticize Indian food far too much, for my liking. Heh. Niki spoke at an AGM in the UK a few weeks ago and I've been following a few online articles as well. Here they are: https://www.foodandwinegazette.com/9720 https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/lateral-cooking-niki-segnit-memory-cooking-confidence-a8611301.html https://www.theguardian.com/food/2018/sep/19/food-freestyling-how-lateral-cooking-can-turn-soda-bread-into-scones
Here's my list on Instagram:
I hope I can post a collage or a story soon.