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6 Must-Have Cookbooks for a Showstopping Diwali!

Are you ready to light up your taste buds and celebrate the flavors of Diwali? In this handpicked collection of 7 must-have cookbooks, we’re bringing you the essence of this joyous festival through delicious recipes, rich traditions, and a sprinkle of spice. Whether you’re a seasoned chef or a novice in the kitchen, these books are your guide to creating a feast that will make this Diwali truly unforgettable!

 

The Illustrated Masala Lab
The Illustrated Masala Lab || Krish Ashok

Masala Lab by Krish Ashok is a scientific exploration of Indian cooking aimed at inquisitive chefs who want to turn their kitchens into joyful, creative playgrounds for gastronomic experimentation. In this special edition, Meghna Menon’s vibrant illustrations effortlessly complement Krish Ashok’s lighthearted approach to the demystification of culinary science, making it the perfect vehicle to absorb the exhaustive testing, groundbreaking research and scientific rigour that went into the making of this revolutionary book.

 

Mrs K M Mathew's Finest Recipes
Mrs K M Mathew’s Finest Recipes

Few have championed the cuisine of Kerala like Mrs K.M. Mathew (1922-2003), who authored many a column and twenty-three cookbooks, introducing an entire generation to the culinary culture of the state. A true master of the craft, she travelled across the length and breadth of Kerala, visiting homes and restaurants, noting down recipes, before going back home to experiment with dishes repeatedly until they were perfect. Eventually, she ushered in a shift from the oral telling of recipes to written instructions, and before long, due to her innovative and easy step-by-step approach to cooking, her cookbooks were being
gifted to newly married couples. Even today, her books not only serve as a treasure chest of unforgettable recipes but also inspire new readers to rush to the kitchen.

Mrs K.M. Mathew’s Finest Recipes brings a definitive compilation of her all-time top recipes, which have been enjoyed around the world, to a new generation of readers.

On the Pickle Trail
On the Pickle Trail || Monish Gujral

In this book, Monish Gujral brings together a collection of 100 pickles to start you on your journey of pickling. These recipes are not only simple and easy to make, each also has health benefits. From the Italian Giardiniera (pickled vegetables) to the Israeli Torshi Left (white turnip pickle), from the Gari(Japanese ginger pickle) to the Cebollas Encurtidas (pickled onions from Ecuador), this book is a treasure trove of some of the best pickles from around the world. Start your lip-smacking journey today!

 

The Book of Dals
The Book of Dals || Pratibha Karan

Pratibha Karan, in The Book of Dals, takes you on an incredible journey to different regions of the country and shows how locally available spices and herbs, vegetables and fruit impact the food of that region. The variety of dals and dal-based dishes that you can make with these are phenomenal and mind-boggling.

 

The Essential Kerala Coobook
The Essential Kerala Coobook || Vijay Kannampilly

In recent times, the coconut-flavoured cuisine of the Malayalis has gained immense popularity. Appam and Istoo, Avial and Olan, Irachi Biryani and Pathiri, all these and more are now served in restaurants and homes all over India. As the author explains in his introduction to the book, the ancient association of food with religion, the influence of foreign trade and the intermingling of different communities have all combined to make Kerala cuisine what it is today. Interestingly, even though a variety of spices grow literally in their backyards, Malayalis abstain from an overpowering use of these, rendering their cuisine different from other Asian cuisines. Instead, there is a range of delicately spiced dishes, harmoniously balanced and simple to prepare, neither too rich nor too bland, and always delicious. The recipes in this volume cover the entire range of vegetables, meat, seafood, pickles, sweets and snacks, served both as daily fare and as part of the sadya on festive occasions, taking in the specialities of the different regions and communities of the state.

 

Passionate About Baking
Passionate About Baking || Deeba Rajpal

A home baker for over 20 years, food stylist and photographer Deeba Rajpal put her passion to the test when she decided to blog about her adventures in the kitchen. Soon, her simple yet delectable dessert recipes accompanied by beautiful, evocative imagery struck a chord with people across the globe, turning her blog, Passionate about Baking, into one of the most popular blogs in the country.
Inspired by her blog, this book is a collection of some of her most loved chocolate dessert recipes for every kind of indulgence. With healthy, tasty yet easy-to-make chocolate delights — from tarts, tea cakes and cupcakes to cookies, traybakes and cakes for special occasions — and simple tips and tricks, Deeba shows you how working with chocolate can be oh so fun!

 

Let’s Test the Special Theory of Indian Cooking! ​

Ever wondered how to whip up the essence of India’s diverse flavors in your own kitchen? Krish Ashok‘s The Illustrated Masala Lab has the answer! Dive into an inquisitive world where cooking algorithms meet urban ingredients, and unlock a symphony of irresistible tastes. Ready to revolutionize your cooking game? You might to test the special theory of Indian Cooking!

Read this excerpt to spice up your life, one recipe at a time!

The Illustrated Masala Lab
The Illustrated Masala Lab || Krish Ashok

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Special Theory of Indian Cooking(Conditions Apply)

 

Let us first get the conditions out of the way. This generalized set of algorithms will not cover every single culinary tradition in India. It will, for the most part, restrict itself to urban, middle class India, the kinds of ingredients that are likely to be available and cooking techniques that are practical in a smallish apartment. So, no tandoors, no wood fire and no nomadic horseman-style dum cooking by burying meat and rice into the ground with coal embers.

 

The second condition is that culinary traditions in India not only vary across state and linguistic boundaries, but also by caste and community, which is why the examples here will largely be restricted to the kinds of dishes available in run-of-the-mill restaurants. So forgive me if I have missed out Cudappah cuisine while including Hyderabadi. The intent here is to arm you with a way of thinking that will help you make a specific dish from, say, Odisha with confidence. The algorithms themselves may not cover every single sub-cuisine in the country. If this chapter ignores your community and state’s cuisine, it’s not deliberate. The examples are for representative purposes only. You can instantiate a version of this for your cuisine rather easily.

 

The third and final caveat is that we shall keep aside that universe within a universe of starters, snacks and tiffin items, because trying to cram that in will be the equivalent of boiling the Indian Ocean. Instead, we shall stick to gravies, rice dishes, breads, chutneys/raitas and salads. These algorithms will give you a wide-enough repertoire to start with. The rest of the journey, as always, is up to you. Treat this like high-school science education. University is on you.

 

So, the special theory of Indian cooking starts with the all-important question: What do you want to cook? Depending on your answer, you can opt for the following paths:

1. The Indian gravy algorithm: This will present a generalized algorithm and metamodel for preparing vegetables, legumes, meat or eggs in a sauce-like gravy that is flavoured in a specific regional style, like Malabar, Punjabi or Bengali.

 

2. The rice dish algorithm: A generalized method for preparing steamed rice, flavoured rice, khichdi, pulao and rice for biryani. There are numerous other ways of cooking rice in the subcontinent, but these five are the most utilitarian.

 

3. The Indian bread algorithm: Standardized and consistent methods for preparing doughs for unleavened breads (chapatti and paratha), leavened breads (naan and kulcha) and non-gluten-based breads (bajra or jowar roti). We will stop at the dough stage because rolling and baking/tawa operations are better learnt by watching an experienced hand. You can’t learn it from a book.

 

4. The chutney and raita generator: A metamodel for generating your own chutney and raita recipes from whatever ingredients you have available.

 

5. The salad generator: A metamodel for generating your own salad recipes by hitting the right balance of greens, crunch, protein, acid and flavouring.

 

The second question to ask is: How do you want to make this dish?
1. I’d like to see what’s in my fridge and pantry and make the best of it.

2. It’s my wife’s birthday and she is from Panjim, so I am looking to make a dish that evokes a specific regional cuisine, say pork vindaloo.

 

Once you have the answer to this, you need to execute Step 0, which is prepping the ingredients, after all consistency and productivity require you to approach home cooking the way restaurants do it. Also, prepping is not just cleaning and chopping, it includes a whole range of activities from brining to marinating to steaming and sautéing, all of which will make you a better home cook. In fact, a lot of prep work is actually cooking for the most part.

 

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Intrigued to know more?

Get your copy of The Illustrated Masala Lab by Krish Ashok wherever books are sold.

The Story Behind Mrs. K.M. Mathew’s Finest Recipes

Let’s explore the flavorful world of Mrs. K.M Mathew, a culinary legend from Southern India whose passion for food, deeply rooted in her multicultural upbringing, led her to become a celebrated cookbook author and editor of the prestigious Vanitha Magazine.

Now seventeen years after her passing, her daughter, Thangam Mammem, shares the story of Mrs. K.M. Matthew’s humble beginnings and her steadfast commitment to sharing the art of cooking across the globe.

Read this exclusive excerpt to know more about the remarkable Mrs. K.M Mathew and catch a glimpse of her finest recipes.

Mrs K M Mathew's Finest Recipes
Mrs K M Mathew’s Finest Recipes

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My mother cradled two newborns in her arms in 1955. One was her last child (myself) and the other was her first book. It was a cookbook in Malayalam, titled Pachaka Kala (The Art of Cooking). Amma went on to write 23 more cookbooks, five of which were in English, over the next forty years. She also wrote three travelogues and a book on hair care, and edited the women’s magazine Vanitha for twenty-five years. The book in your hands, Mrs K.M. Mathew’s Finest Recipes, has been published seventeen years after she left this world. She left me more than a thousand recipes which she had collected, discovered or created. Amma had written her first cookery column on doughnuts, two years before I was born. It was published in the Malayala Manorama newspaper on 30 May 1953 along with her recipe for Goan Prawn Curry. These appeared under the name Mrs Annamma Mathew, and she became fairly well-known after a column on Mutton Bafath. Her popularity multiplied after she started using the name Mrs K.M. Mathew. This lucky name change was her own idea and she hardly ever used the name Annamma anywhere again.

 

It was my grandfather, K.C. Mammen Mappillai, who had spotted her talent while he was visiting my parents in Byculla, Bombay, and asked her to write a column in his newspaper. Fortunately, Amma was familiar with the varied tastes of India. Her parents were from Kerala, but she was born and brought up in faraway Kakinada, Andhra Pradesh, where her father was a doctor. He loved making chicken soup (he had made it even on the day he died, at the age of ninety-three) and her mother loved cooking Kerala’s Syrian Christian dishes. The neighbourhood was redolent with the scents of Tamil and Telugu food. Amma had always been partial to Tamil dishes, right from
childhood till long after her college days in Madurai. It was later that she developed a love for Kannadiga delicacies in Chikmagalur, where my parents lived in a coffee estate in the first few years of their marriage. Then they moved to Bombay, and this was where she learnt to cook a variety of local, north Indian and continental dishes.

 

Amma had another advantage—she spoke fluent English, a gift not so common among Indian women in those days. This helped her enter the kitchens of even the most elite hotels, where she would never shy away from asking for recipes or other cooking advice from the chefs. Amma did it with natural grace, whether she was in India or travelling to other countries, in her forties. She was inspired to share the art of cooking for the sheer enjoyment of delicious food. She did not even recommend any complex or elaborate recipes to her readers because, for her, simplicity and taste came before novelty. She even avoided using words like ‘foodie’ and ‘cuisine’. ‘Simple good
food’ was her motto.

 

She wrote her recipes early in the morning, after waking up at 3 a.m. No recipe made it to her column before she had tested it at least three times. My father always got the first chance to taste it and to give feedback. Amma made sure she bought all the ingredients herself and measured them precisely. In the early years, she would use cigarette tins as measuring cups and gradually she accumulated all the paraphernalia, including a mallet from abroad for tenderising the meat. When fair reviews of her books appeared in the press, she was ecstatic.

 

Food was sacred for Amma. She never wasted it. If there was anything left over, she would make a delicious new dish out of it. She always taught us to respect food and forbade shoptalk at the dinner table at our home in Roopkala, Kottayam, Kerala. All she wanted was for everyone to enjoy good food. Far from secretive, she took joy in sharing her recipes with everyone. In fact, sometimes she would send the recipe along with the food she would send for her friends and acquaintances and if they ever faced a problem cooking it, she would even send her trained cook to demonstrate the cooking procedure.

 

Whoever visited Amma, she always gave out a packet of crisp savouries for them to take home. Her wedding gift to her acquaintances was invariably a bundle of her cookbooks. Even today, many people in India and abroad tell me that Amma’s book Nadan Pachakarama was like the Bible to them when they had just started their married life and were learning to cook.

 

Even when she was in a wheelchair, in her twilight years, she remained engaged and active. When not cooking, she was often found reading books, appreciating art, singing songs, playing the violin, teaching music, raising funds for charity, guiding women’s organizations, or supervising work at Vanitha. As a mother, she practised tough love, with a heart that remained tender inside. This book carries the essence of her soul.

-Thangam Mammen

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Get your copy of Mrs. K.M. Mathew’s Finest Recipes wherever books are sold.

In Conversation with Pankaj Bhadouria

We recently spoke to Pankaj Bhadouria, the winner of MasterChef India Season 1. Pankaj has written two more cookery books, Barbie: I am a Chef and Chicken from My Kitchen.
Below are a few questions we asked her:
What was the very first dish that you cooked and for whom?
From what I remember, the first was probably breakfast for my Dad. The dish was nothing but toast, butter and tea with a rose on the tray. I must have been eight or nine years old at that time so the memory is very precious to me.
What is the best cooking related memory you have?
I think my best cooking related memory is when I was cooking for the finale at MasterChef. I was very calm and not under any pressure at all! I think that not only prevented me from making any mistakes but also reflected in the food that I created that day and helped me win.
Tell us the go-to spice mix in your kitchen.
That would be the Kadhai Masala! Be it with potatoes, chicken, paneer, cauliflower, stuffed paranthas – I use it almost everywhere!
Share with us a secret that you think helped you become the first MasterChef of India.
It is difficult to say…maybe a lot of homework that I’d done over the years aided by the fact that I could work well within limited time or perseverance and not giving up under pressure. Also I would pay a lot of attention to what comments my competitors would get from the judges and made it a point to not repeat those mistakes myself.
Are there more books coming from your kitchen?
Of course, there are! Just wait for what is next to come!
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