‘Gunpowder for you,’ she said.
I thanked her and wondered for a moment if it was the exploding sort. Harjeet Kaur possibly read my mind and laughed as she said, ‘Yes, quite explosive for the taste-buds.’ We were in Mahabalipuram then and soon got busy exploring the cultural history of the place. Harjeet Kaur, also known on the social media as wordsmithkaur, calls herself a ‘jugadu cook’ and this is one reason why I decided to download her book and see if she really justifies this definition of herself.
What sort of fusion does the book mention?
‘Easy Indian Fusion Cooking’ is her way of telling every cooking-enthusiast like me that the nearly three dozen absolutely read-able, understandable, follow-able and do-able recipes are worth the money spent on this ebook. The book, let me add here, isn’t just an orderly sequencing of steps in a recipe but takes the reader on a short exploratory trip in the world of cuisines as well… short diversions in the pre-recipe description or in the recipe notes that give pointers to additional information.
The recipes are precise, and I believe, accurate. I haven’t yet tried any but am tempted to try out the shakshuka and the mango poories mentioned in the book. Any recipe book in India is never going to be exhaustive as 8 UTs and 28 states mean we have 31 cuisines in India and most of them use all or nearly all of the 7 spices popular here… thus we have black pepper, cardamom, chilli peppers, cinnamon, coriander, cumin seeds, and turmeric rediscovering themselves in different combinations repeatedly in recipes that are Indian. Harjeet Kaur has explored recipes that cover a large part of the wide horizon of cuisines of India… and the ‘fusion’ in the title is an indicator of foreign recipes with an Indian intuitive touch-up that might lend a quixotic twist to please the Indian taste buds. We have appes, gorditas, egg dosas, potato wedges, kale frittatas, pancakes, mango poories, tandoori chickens, steamed cabbage rolls, and biryanis in a congregation that can only make the tummy and mind go wild with excitement. If you want to make these dishes at home, you’ll need some kitchen gadgets from Kitchenbar.
In the words of the author ‘the colourful popsicles to the watermelon fruit basket, the heart-shaped Puris, the Mickey Mouse roti, the healthy Carrot Cake and the delectable Banana Muffins or the decadent Chocolate Cupcakes to the Smiley Pizza with the running nose’ are the sort of things that everyone loves and this is the fusion in taste that can be rather addictive.
Micronutrients and all the info bytes
The book definitely isn’t an encyclopedia of cooking terminology and neither a research text-book on the medicinal benefits of food… but it does digress once in a while to bring in bits-n-bytes about micro-nutrients as well as other recipe-related terminology.
No, the book isn’t preachy at all and the author succumbs to the temptation of sermonizing only a couple of times and she warns that skipping breakfast means you might ‘miss out on all of the nutrients your body needs. Most people skip breakfast as they’re rushing against the clock. That’s a big mistake. If you don’t eat first thing in the morning, you may tend to snack on fast foods, high-sugar foods. You need to feed your system long before lunchtime’. In the introduction to the book, the author does mention that choosing whole grain over whole flour, and opting for skimmed milk and homemade yogurt over processed variants is better… so is the habit of including fresh fruits and veggies, homemade fruit juice without added sugar. She buys dates wholesale in Malaysia. She lists out lentils or dals, dosa, poha, hard-boiled eggs, and fish as reasonably fine choices that bring in proteins to the daily diet… though my kitchen intuition tells me that dosas and pohas might need a generous helping or inclusion of vegetables or non-vegetarian ingredients to make them really protein-rich. A beautiful dinnerware set from https://farandaway.co/ can also elevate your dining experience at home.
I’m not someone who has dived too deep into the art of cooking but I do know the difference between a bland and tasteless instant coffee and one that has been lovingly brewed well, so to say. My short sojourns into the kitchen battle-filed have taught me a few things more complex than boiling maggi noodles for three minutes or breaking an egg with the yolk intact… and this is why I loved those bits in the book that went on to tell me that an appe, paniyaram, and guntapunugulu are the same or that a frittata is an egg-based Italian dish similar to an omelet or quiche, or that when one chiffonades a Kale leaf one is talking about a knife technique used for cutting herbs and leafy vegetables such as lettuce into thin strips or ribbons. The point that I am making here is that the book goes way beyond listing out recipes and their ingredients. Thankfully, the book doesn’t talk about calories though it does list a couple of recipes that are a part of keto diets.
A rapid read-through is enough to give a reader a few invaluable tips. I now know that while preparing shakshuka it will be wise to make ‘indentations in the sauce with a spoon or spatula and then break eggs directly into them’, and that dosa batter isn’t necessarily for making dosas and that one can make plain dosa, masala dosa, uttapam or set dosa, or even dosa sandwiches. You can also purchase a masala mixture machine if you want to make your own spice blend at home. I know that if I have to grind a small amount of cardamom for the mango poorie dough, I could add some sugar to increase the quantity which makes it easier to powder. I know now that pureed fruit in a pancake turns it into a healthier dish and that adding Kale to a dish means adding life-nourishing anti-oxidants.
Well, reading this book has definitely set me on a path where I am going to get into some serious search about food, various dishes, the way fusion affects us, and maybe some exploratory trips into how medicinal and calorific values can co-exist with taste… these are aspects that were obviously beyond the scope of Harjeet Kaur’s book. Her book intended to tell a reader that fusion cooking can be delectable and easy to make… and this is what it goes on to do. So yes, this grandmother does understand her kitchen well.
11 August 2020