Book Review: More Bread Machine Bounty

Book Review: More Bread Machine Bounty

Gayle Shockey Hockster; Better Homes and Gardens; Des Moines, 1994

I picked up this book when I was a novice with the bread maker and it soon became my go-to volume. I loved the recipes, which are easy to follow, and the tips given by the side or at the bottom are invaluable, especially if you are just starting to bake your own bread.

Baking bread has been something that we seem to have adopted en masse as we cope with the pandemic. Stores have been running out of bread flour and yeast, but people are continuing to bake. I agree that there is something magical about bread, watching the loaf rise and then bake to golden perfection.

Maybe it is an attempt by man to gain some control in a world that is spiralling out of control. That warm loaf of bread not only smells wholesome and delicious, it is life giving. Bread was what Christ broke with his disciples. Bread is essential to every culture in the world, to human being’s very survival.

One of the most popular breads that people around the world have been making during the current Covid-19 pandemic is sourdough bread. One reason could be that once you make the sourdough starter, the recipe for which is given in the book, you can continue to replenish it without adding more yeast. So even if yeast disappears from the store shelves, you can continue to bake your bread.

This book has a whole section devoted to sourdough breads.

I have tried many of these breads and each one has turned out perfect.

My favourite is the sourdough cheese bread, which is a fail-safe recipe. I make it pretty often as it goes so well with soups and stews and also makes a great sandwich.

Book Review: Vegetarian Cuisines from the Himalayan Foothills

Book Review: Vegetarian Cuisines from the Himalayan Foothills

Veena Sharma; Niyogi Books, New Delhi; 2020

I came across this book on Amazon and the blurb had me hooked. I am always interested in new dishes, especially vegetarian ones. The Himalayan foothills is a stone’s throw from where I currently live and this made the book doubly interesting to me.

The Leaflet has an excerpt from her book and it made me want to acquire it as soon as I can. It even has a recipe for finger millet and wheat flour halwa ( Mandua aur atte ka halwa), which sounds healthy and delicious at the same time.

In an interview with Thoughtfox, she said that the book originated from a forgotten file consisting of information on “herbs and kitchen friends”, compiled for a grandchild. The herbs and kitchen friends play a really important role in the book that offers knowledge about herbs found in Uttarakhand and the region around and their use over the ages. They are well blended into recipes that are easy to follow and sound delicious even as you read them.

Book review: 101 Kerala Delicacies

Book review: 101 Kerala Delicacies

G. Padma Vijay; Rupa & Co., India; 1998

This has been my go-to book for decades. I reviewed it for the Times of India and that is how it came into my life. I think I have tried every dish in it and over the years, through experimentation, have honed each one of them to suit my palate.

That is the beauty of this book. The recipes are simple and easy to follow. They form the basic building blocks from which you can craft a country cottage or a castle according to your taste.

The book is divided into 12 chapters, including Pickles & Chutneys, Vegetarian Dishes, Prawn Dishes, Fish Dishes, Egg & Chicken Dishes, Mutton Dishes, Pork Dishes, Snacks, and Desserts & Sweets. Some of my favourite recipes include Chemmeen Achar (Prawn Pickle), Muringakai Theeyal made of the superfood moringa, Koorka Curry made of Chinese potaoes, Kozhierchi Varthada (Chicken Roast) and the Muslim dish Pathri (Rice Roti).

The book does not claim to encompass the entire cuisine of Kerala, but it has some of the main dishes from every part of the meal.

One disadvantage, however, is that the translation of the names of the dishes from Malayalam to English might still leave many readers scratching their heads. For example, in the recipe given above, Vazhakka and Payar have been translated, but though raw banana is clear, how many will know what chauli is? It would have been infinitely easier to describe it as black eyed peas. Also chauli refers to the fresh vegetable in some parts of India.

Similarly, koorka is familiar to those who speak Malayalam, but not to many others. Translating it as koorka in English is not really helpful. The vegetable that is from Africa and grows very well in Kerala is known as Chinese potato or Plectranthus rotundifolius, to give it its botanical name. There is a glossary at the beginning of the book, but it would have been more useful to have the English translations next to the Malayalam names.

One of my favourite recipes in the book is for Kozhierchi Porichadu (Fried Chicken). The well-thumbed page attests to how often I have used it. After all, this book belongs to a phase in my life when Facebook was not even a twinkle in the eye and even the World Wide Web was in its nascent stages.

Book Review: Pasta & Risotto

Book Review: Pasta & Risotto

Hugh Redman; Hamlyn, London; 2004 edition

A volume I go back to frequently

This book is like a trusted friend to me. I love the range of dishes it offers — from salads to rice dishes to pasta dishes, cannelloni and lasagne. The recipes are incredibly easy to follow and ingredients are simple and available easily.

The introduction is extremely useful as it offers tips on how to choose the right pasta or kind of rice for each dish, how to cook them and even how to gauge how much is needed according to the number of people at the table. It also has recipes for the basic sauces including pesto and how to make fresh pasta. This book took out all my fear of making fresh pasta and inspired me to make my own ravioli and gnocchi.

Some of my favourite recipes from this book are Coronation Prawn and Pasta Salad, the Insalata Mista made with fresh market produce and a light oil and vinegar dressing, Tomato and Mushroom Risotto, Stuffed Rice Croquettes made using leftover meat gravy, Pasta alla Marinara with Ginger with a lovely rich seafood flavour, and Spinach and Cheese Stuffed Pancakes. If you are new to gourmet Italian cooking, start with the Potato Gnocchi. It is easy but delicious.