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Lockdown Cooking

Updated: Nov 12, 2020

The country announced a nationwide lockdown in March 2020. And the cookbook meet for March was cancelled. I will admit, I was excited about this one. It had a bunch of kid from catering colleges in the city who were interested. Better sense prevailed and I cancelled it.

The covid-19 situation has only gotten worse. And I do understand that a lot of services are opening up. But then, if the economy is so bad, it's literally a question of making a choice between the devil and the deep sea.

My husband and I step out for groceries and nothing else. Unfortunately, though, we've had a major plumbing problem at our apartment. It was first discovered in March and then, the lockdown hit. So nothing was done about it. With things opening up slowly, we took all the requisite permissions and precautions and scheduled it for September. Ever heard of Murphy's Law? That's what happened. 3 days before the (very limited) plumbing staff was to show up, our kitchen had a major plumbing problem too. 2.5 weeks of not using the kitchen was hard. It almost put everything we had worked on to keep ourselves safe to nought. We ordered in - lunch and dinner. And we still have plumbing/tiling staff home - sanitizing, washing hands, all that. But it is a risk we have taken. It can't really be helped.

Anyway, work has been superhectic these past few months of the lockdown and I have not had the time to send out my cookbook newsletters. Or update this website. So please pardon me there. But, there HAS been a lotof very interesting cooking happening these past few months.

April 2020 - The Essential Goa Cookbook by Mariz Teresa Menezes
May 2020 - Dishoom by Kavi Thakrar, Naved Nasir and Shamil Thakrar
June 2020 - Dining with The Nawabs by Meera Ali and Karam Puri
July 2020 - This is A Book About Dumplings by Brendan Pang
August 2020 - Sweet, Savory, Spicy by Sarah Tiong
September 2020 - Burma Superstar by Desmond Tan and Katy Leahy

That's 6 months of supremely delicious recipes. And very vast cooking choices.

Towards the end of March, Chef Floyd Cardoz succumbed to covid-19. A fair bunch of us were devastated. He was one of the main people behind The Bombay Canteen and O Pedro in Bombay. And, in fact, he had scaled the Indian dining scene in New York wayyyyy beyond the butter-chicken-masala-and-naan, run-of-the-mill, pretty-terribly-made disaster India is oft known for abroad.

Now, I like my butter chicken fix every few months, yes. But I've lived (and dined) outside of India when I was younger and it was nothing I liked. Of course, I can safely say I did not cook as well as I do now. But what I ate 10 years ago was definitely not something I enjoyed. So, I'm very very grateful to the man because showed Indian food in a whole new light.

What happened was unfortunate. And cannot be undone. But the only way we could express our gratitude and pay our tribute to him was to cook our hearts out. From a book he had written the foreword for. Focussing on a state he belonged to. That's how the weekend of cooking Goan food out of

Sonal Ved's Tiffin


It only made logical sense to cook more Goan food through April.

Dry ingredients we're very likely to find in Indian pantries. A little bit of meat based on what we could find in the market owing to the lockdown. And (mostly) spicy, delicious goodness.

May saw us pick Dishoom - a book that talks at length about the hey days of Bombay. A few of us have even grown up in Mumbai (erstwhile Bombay). Reading the book made so many of us happy. And the book was filled with recipes from Irani joints in Bombay and also things that the London restaurant, Dishoom, serves.

The book is a keeper. The recipes are simple. They're tasty. And there's no reason why one can't or shouldn't go back to them.

Dining with The Nawabs is a book I binge bought last year (when I was rather ill and reading a cookbook was my way of telling myself I'd be good in the kitchen again - of course, I am extremely glad I'm almost normal again, but that year was hell! Not knowing whether you will have complete mobility (including tiny musle movements) can be quite an ordeal. Anyway, I had been trying to keep the books we cook out of Indian, for the most part - regional Indian or, well, like this one - Dining with The Nawabs - so that ingredients needed would be fairly readily available. I think the funda was simple. Cook something new and out of your usual comfort zone. But with familiar ingredients. Most stuff we have in our pantries already. With the three or four books we'd done since March, I'd seldom felt the need to step out of the confines of my home to dish up something that is fancy, new AND tasty. Coming back to the travails of 2019. I did cook a few recipes out of it through out the year. And I wasn't ever disappointed. So I thought for June, let's give this a shot.

The book is essentially a coffee table book - LOADS of amazing pictures and some beautiful text about 10 palaces across India/Pakistan. And, of course, an insight into their royal kitchens too. Even though nawabs and their kin may not hold titles of importance anymore, they still eat like kings. The tome comes with a velvet cover, complete with a royal invitation to take you inside. And then, inside, there's a kitchen copy. So you can merrily leave the nice, hardbound beauty in your living room and dirty the kitchen copy as much as you like. There are only about 6-8 recipes from each of the 10 palaces. So, you'd think picking something you like might have just gotten a whole lot easier. Talk to me, when you see the index. :D There's also an interesting video with Karam Puri and Meera Ali (the photographer and the author, respectively) on Facebook from when the book first released over 2 years ago. And I find interesting snippets about the book every time I do a Google search.

Through most of July, I'm sure a lot of you binge-watched the new season of Masterchef Australia. New judges. "Back to Win" with old, familiar favourites for increased TRPs. If you remember Sarah Tiong from S9 and Brendan Pang from S10 - they were both quite viewers' favourites. Coincidentally, they've both written books since the first appearance in Masterchef AU too. In fact, Brendan has his own food truck (of sorts) in an RV. The concept is called an airstream kitchen. He dishes out dumplings. Of different varieties. And colours. It's called Bumplings (and I know he's gay but that doesn't stop me from crushing on him or thinking the name is just sooooo cute!) Come July, we thought, hey, why not do Brendan Pang's book - This Is a Book About Dumplings. For July 2020. The recipes were straight forward and extremely delicious. 

And then, when August came along, we thought we'd continue with the Masterchef AU binge-cook. So we went with Sarah Tiong's Sweet, Savory, Spicy. Super easy. Packed with flavour. And very very very home-style. A complete winner, this one!

And just like that, we're into September. My husband bought Burma Superstar for me many months ago and I never got around to cooking from it. And I really wanted to. Mostly because everything looked so familiar. Yet different.

We had a hard time picking from:

  1. Darjeeling Express (Asma Khan)

  2. Burma Superstar (Desmond Tan and Katy Leahy)

  3. Rare Gems (Aditya Mehendale)

Shriya has a hard copy of Darjeeling Express. So I borrowed it to take a look. Both of us thought that the recipes were nothing spectacular. They might be delicious but for somebody (mostly all of us on The Cookbook Club) who cooks regularly, the novelty factor just doesn't seem to be there.

A friend lent his copy of Rare Gems to me many moons ago. And I thought the book was amazing. The book has been out of stock on Amazon fora while (only the Kindle version is available). So picking Burma Superstar was an easy choice. Besides, I had my own reasons to be partial to the book. Hehe.

So that's September then!

Do follow us on Instagram @thecookbooknook to know what we've been cooking!

And, of course, because we're in lockdown, we do know we will not socialize. So why not do this online! We're happy for absolutely anyone to participate, agnostic of location. Let us know and we'll give you several options by which you can get your hands on a copy of the book for the month. Cook a recipe or three from it, tag us and we'll be happy to repost!

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