There are cookbooks and there are cookbooks. One can never have enough of them as there is no end to the variety of cuisine across the world as also innovations with recipes and cooking style. Yet one generally knows what to expect from a cookbook they are bound to be a compilation of recipes, divided according to some set categories like soups, snacks, rice, breads, vegetables, desserts and so on. What sets these books apart from each other is the author&’s tips and some nuggets of information. But once in a while, one comes across a cookbook that goes beyond being just a compilation of recipes. A narrative of a lifestyle in an era gone by, as in Tiffin, or a peek into an Indian kitchen bubbling merrily in a UK home, as in Indian Kitchen, allows one to pick up the book for sheer reading pleasure as well.

Tiffin Memories and Recipes of Indian Vegetarian Food

Starting with the eye-catching cover, depicting the author&’s hand lifting the lid off a tiffin box filled with traditional snacks, the book is really an anecdotal narrative of the life of the author, Rukmini Srinivas, as she moves from her school days between 1932 and 1946 through her married life in Delhi and now in Boston and Bangalore.

The contents of the book began as requests from the author&’s daughters, studying abroad, for simple, easy-to-make recipes for comforting food that would stay fresh for a few days in the refrigerator. Along with some traditional recipes for food cooked for lunch and dinner, Srinivas sent her daughters many recipes for food that could be translated into easy-to-make, healthy snacks.

“And as I dug into my memory for those snacks or tiffins, as we refer to them those ‘saviours’ from hunger and monotony, I recalled the many anecdotes and narratives about the people and places associated with these recipes,” Srinivas says in the book&’s introduction. As the author narrated these stories in the context of the tiffin, her daughters asked for more recipes, which in effect meant “more stories”. The book thus emerged as a collection of multifaceted stories and a “series of jottings on life when I was growing up and the food we ate for tiffin”.

Stating that the book has been written for family, friends and foodies, Srinivas says, “Writing it has been a joyful journey back to my childhood, my student life and, in later years, as an adult. It was a chance to relive the happy times with family and friends.”

About the book:

Tiffin Memories and Recipes of Indian Vegetarian Food by Rukmini Srinivas

Publisher: Rupa; Pp: 344; Price: Rs 395

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Indian Kitchen Secrets of Indian Home Cooking

Growing up with the sounds and smells of everyday Indian cooking, Maunika Gowardhan imbibed the best of restaurant, street and home-cooked food, which she now replicates in her home in the UK. Watching her mother and grandmother cook, sharing meals with family and friends as well as watching her parents haggle over shopping, laid the foundation and approach to good food. “Cooking at home comes from the heart and that&’s where it all begins for me; getting the family to savour every bite of the meal we eat brings me sheer joy,” says Gowardhan, who fondly reminisces over simple everyday food, special treats as well as those moments spent visiting local street vendors.

Travelling across the length and breadth of India for work allowed Gowardhan to understand the flavours and cooking methods unique to various cultures. Delving into regional flavours, she stocked up on a fund of recipes.

Pointing out that cooking Indian food can sometimes seem intimidating, the author has tried to demystify the recipes so that “anyone can cook a gorgeous curry”. Answering questions from people in the West as to what Indians cook on a day-to-day basis and how one can rustle up a curry when one is busy, Gowardhan relates cooking to how one feels hungry, lazy, indulgent or the ultimate celebratory feeling. And this is how she has divided the chapters of the book.

Hungry includes recipes for when one is starving and short of time. “They are precisely the type of dish my mother might have made for us on a Tuesday evening,” she elaborates. The chapter Lazy contains recipes for when one wants something “a bit slower, a bit comforting, but still straightforward.

But then when one has the luxury of time and want to “put some real love into a meal at the weekend, it is the Indulgent chapter one needs to turn to. Celebratory is for when one has friends and family coming over. And for all the accompaniments that goes with the various dishes, the Extras chapter dishes out chutneys, rice, raita, bread and spice mixes.

About the book:

Indian Kitchen Secrets of Indian Home Cooking by Maunika Gowardhan, Publisher: Hatchette India; Pp: 256; Price: Rs 999