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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!

 

The Beginnings of the Syrian Christian Kitchen in Kerala

Long before the time of Christ, spice merchants and travelers from around the world would visit Kerala. The important seaport of Muziris or Cranganore was populated with Greeks, Syrians, Jews, and Chinese traders who lived in harmony with the people of the region. It was on one of these trading vessels, plying between Alexandria and the Malabar Coast, that Saint Thomas the Apostle is believed to have arrived in Cranganore in AD 52. He began preaching the Gospel to the people of these areas, and eventually established churches in Cranganore, Paravoor, Palur, Kokkamangalam, Niranam, Malayatoor, and Nillackel. Among those early conversions were several Namboodiri Brahmin families, from whom many of the present-day Syrian Christians trace their roots.
As legend has it, the upper caste Brahmins of Palur were converted after a miracle, whereby Mar Thoma (Saint Thomas) suspended water in midair as a testimony of his faith. Most of these early Christians followed the ancient Eastern Nestorian faith and were known as Malabar Christians until the advent of a Syrian merchant—Thomas of Canaan—who arrived in Muziris with four hundred Syrians, including several priests and a bishop. The Syrians were welcomed by the local Malabar Christians as the countrymen of Jesus and Saint Thomas. The two communities eventually intermarried and merged to become Syrian Christians, now recognized as one of the oldest Christian communities in the world.
The present-day Syrian Christians of Kerala are also known as Nazaranis, the followers of Jesus of Nazareth, and though they are now divided broadly into four sects—the Knanaya Christians, Jacobites, Marthomites, and Syrian Catholics—they share many common religious and social practices, and intermarriage is not uncommon. Collectively they retain a distinct identity and remain independent from other Christians in India because of their unique lineage. Life is centered around their liturgy and the observance of days of fasting and abstinence. They follow old Syrian church rites, chanting their singsong Syriac liturgy. The saga of the St. Thomas Christians is narrated in their song and dance forms—Margam Kali (the way of St. Thomas) and the Rabban Pattu (the songs of Rabban).
Syrian Christians are identified by their family names which reflect the profession of a family elder, place of origin, or sometimes nothing but pure whimsy. My own family, a large Syrian Catholic clan from Kanjirapally, is called Pallivathukkal, meaning “at the church gate,” as many centuries earlier my ancestors had settled near a church in Nillackel. My husband’s family name, Thekkekunnel, means “south hill.” Thadikaren, another family name, means “bearded man,” and the poetic Myladi means “peacock dance.” First names are biblical, and customarily the firstborn is named after a paternal grandparent and the secondborn after a maternal grandparent. Thereafter, aunts, uncles, and saints lend their names to the newborns. The second name is taken from the child’s father, but a Joseph George, say, may be anonymous until, when paired with his family name, he can be immediately placed as Joseph, the son of George of the Pottenkulam family. Syrian Christian names are distinctive and a George may also be known as Varkey or Varghese; a Paul can be Peeli or Paulose; and an Abraham can be called Avira or Ittira. Similarly, the female Syrian Christian name Rachel may be Raahel; Elizabeth can be Aley or Elamma; and Bridget, the melodious Uschita.
Most prominent Syrian Christian families are close-knit and connected by an intricate web of marriages. I have vivid memories of my mother and sisters spending hours disentangling family connections, the links being the women who married into each family. With many of these large clans expanding into several hundred members, some families now hold periodic kudumbayogams, family get-togethers which allow members of the family to reconnect.
Christianity in India has long been synonymous with education and the Syrian Christians have made a significant contribution to this field, partly by means of their large number of clergy. Today they have evolved into a distinct, indigenous community of agriculturists, scholars, industrialists, and professionals. A large number have moved to other cities in India as well as to distant lands, and though erudite and cosmopolitan, they are still attached to the traditions and customs of their ancestors.
Described as “Hindu in culture, Christian in religion, and Syro-Oriental in worship,” Syrian Christians enjoy the status of a prosperous and socially prominent community.
Sautéed Squid
Koonthal Varathathu
Squid turns rubbery if overcooked, so once marinated they must be quickly stir-fried and served hot, with a fresh sprinkling of lime juice. Serve with rice and accompaniments or as a snack.
Grind the garlic, chilli powder, turmeric, and pepper- corns to a coarse paste in a mortar and pestle.
Mix the garlic paste with the rice flour, salt, and lemon juice and rub into the squid. Let the squid marinate in the spices for at least 2 hours at room temperature.
Heat the oil in a skillet and add the squid. Stir-fry over high heat for 3 to 5 minutes, removing from the heat when the spices brown.
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This is an excerpt from Lathika George’s ‘The Suriani Kitchen’.
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