Here is a compilation of recipes selected and culled together by Kishni Thadani'sdaughter who suddenly, while spring-cleaning her mother'sroom who had passed away in 2003, ?unwittingly stumbled upon a rare culinary treasure?.
A keen student of English literature and an alumnus of Delhi'sLady Irwin College where she studied nutrition, Kishni was a woman of diverse interests including tennis which she played expertly at a time when women hardly did so in India. Her husband was an IFS officer and as a result got posted all over the world and this gave Kishni the opportunity to learn and practice the cuisines of Europe. One day, her husband suddenly died of a heart attack, leaving behind a grief-stricken Kishni, who returned to India with her children, to set up a home in Mumbai. Her philosophy in life was, to quote the compiler-daughter Bina, ?One must learn to cope with life'ssetbacks and press forward bravely in the battles of life.?
This book begins with recipes for soups, the perennial appetiser. Her spiced pumpkin soup cooked with vegetable stock and served after mixing two tablespoons of lemon juice reads like a tasty appetiser. This reviewer thinks that the best way to eat ripe pumpkin is to cut pieces of it and add to the South Indian sambhar where even the most non-descript vegetable acquires a delicious taste.
A medley of snacks are included and these are both vegetarian and non-vegetarian. In the category of snacks, the recipe for stuffed brinjal (egg plant) cutlets comes as a whiff of fresh air. Brinjal is another vegetable, like the pumpkin, which tastes best in sambhar and is rather without any gun (qualities) to justify its use. However in this recipe, mince meat is fried with onion, the fleshy portion of the brinjals, chillies, ginger, coriander, mint leaves and tomato. This mixture if filled into the brinjals cut into halves with their fleshy inside removed to mix in the filling. The cutlets are then coated with breadcrumbs and fried for a short while. Cottage cheese has been recommended for vegetarians in place of mince meat.
Under salads and sauces, the European recipe called ?Uncooked Relish? reads like a tempting dish. I say ?reads? because I have not yet cooked it. This recipe has cabbage, carrots, onions, celery, hot peppers and green peppers as ingredients that are passed through a grinder before being sprinkled with salt. The mixture is allowed to stand for two to three hours before being drained. The mixture is then seasoned with mustard, celery and pepper before being topped with sugar and vinegar.
Another interesting part of the book is titled ?Era of British Style Party Cooking?, where Kishni'srecipe for stuffed okra (lady'sfinger) can make one'smouth water on reading merely the method of preparation itself. The okras are cooked in boiling water and stuffed with onions, chillies, coriander, ginger and salt after frying this filling. Each okra piece is then rolled in flour, egg, salt and water batter, dipped in breadcrumbs and fried in a non-stick pan.
European style of cooking comes to the fore when one reads the recipe for potato gratine. Here the potato is cut into thin rounds, mixed with chopped garlic and cooked in milk before being seasoned with pepper, nutmeg and paprika powder. This mixture is boiled, cooked and poured into a greased oven-proof dish for baking at 160 C.
Desserts include some mouth-watering recipes and equally attractive photographs which might tempt even the first-time cook to try out some of the recipes.
Kishni'srecipes for Sindhi sweets are worth trying out as soon as the book is bought. Her ?Mithi Koki? is made with wheat flour (atta) which is made into a dough by mixing with water and rolled into thick chappatis. Each chappati is cooked at low heat on a greased tava (griddle). With a knife, small diagonal cuts are made on the surface of the dough so that it cooks well right through the lowermost layer. A little ghee (clarified butter) is applied on one side before flipping the chappati over to cook on the other side too.
The compiler'scompulsion to share the rich culinary legacy of Kishni with a wider public proves a boon for the reader who too gets an insight into a gentler era gone by through a glimpse of Kishni'slife lived with serenity and enthusiasm.
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