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Oct & Nov 2020

What's it like to cook regional?

What's it like to cook recipes from history?

October and November, both, have had us cook very tasty food yet food quite different from what we'd normally think the cuisines are about.

Take Rare Gems by Aditya Mehendale that we cooked from in October. You think Maharashtrian food and maybe you think Misal Pav or Kaala Rassa or Bharlela Paaplet. Not to say that the book didn't have recipes for Kaala Rassa or Bharlela Paaplet. But it also had recipes for 'rare gems' (now you see why the book is called what it is) like Shahlyatle Maase (literally, seafood in tender coconut) and Baroda Pulao (a smoked, mild-but-packed-with-flavour mutton pulao)

The book is expensive (yes, come at me with the Rare Gems jokes). But it is so totally worth it.

But then, you know me. I like most books I cook out of.

I have not stopped gushing about a series of sessions by Salma Husain I attended recently. @historywali conducted them, with proceeds going to Kalap Trust. Salma Apa spoke to us in Urdu more poetic than you've ever known it to be and walked us through the years of the Mughal rule and the way various food were introduced by the ruling emperors.

And after every session, we were so charged - spending the week ending up cooking varieties of something we'd heard about in her session, discussing many other related (and unrelated) things we'd read online. One thing lead to another and we thought that cooking out of The Mughal Feast all through the month would be the best way we could thank her for everything those 4 sessions had been! The book is a thing of beauty - glossy pages, prints of art, recipes with gorgeous borders, it's un-put-down-able! Really!

We've known Mughlai food to be qormas, koftas, kebabs, biryanis and yakhnis. Then come the niharis, the haleems and the pasandas. But what about layered naans, numerous lamb (qaliya) preparations, a curry using sheep's head and even 'nargisi' recipes beyond the usual nargisi kofte that we've heard of.

I tried cooking a couple of recipes from the book. They're delicious. Though, what I made wasn't entirely pretty. Maybe I screwed up the technique a little bit on them, but it got me thinking, had this been made in the kitchens of yore, the emperor would have said a 'takhliya' for sure. That said, that's not too much reason to not cook out of the book again. And anyway, we've got all month to do so.

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