Rare Indian Recipes
Tasting India’s Culinary Heritage
By Jasmine Kaur
“Food is a central activity of mankind and one of the single most significant trademarks of a culture” - Mark Kurlansky.
First Food - A taste of India’s Biodiversity is a culmination of ideas of various authors about the exotic variety of cuisines and dishes found in India. It provides an overview on the diversity of plants and their creative uses and medicinal benefits.
Ranging from breakfast snacks, chutneys, pickles to lavish meals and mouth-watering desserts, it gives an exquisite vision of India’s rich cultural heritage. It also creates a connection by linking nature with food. This unique bond gives us a realization that food is not merely something which we consume to satisfy our biological need. There is far more to food than just its superficial or scientific value.
The book covers all the states of India from North to South and East to West. This book helps you to dish up wonderful recipes from exotic plants. Every state has its own story to tell viz. Maharastra’s MahuaBhakhar is made from the dry mahua flowers; Andhra’s GonguraPaapu which has gongura-a type of flower as its main ingredient is used to make pickle; Kerala’s tapioca vegetable made from tapioca tuber and cumin seed.
The title of the book itself seems to be quite thought provoking - First Food. To understand all the complex process that goes behind each flower, fruit or grain, the book has done full justice to its purpose of bringing together all the food stories, environmental-related issues, intriguing trivia and of course interesting recipes. For diehard foodies, the ingredients are very inspiring. They make us perceive food in depth to understand its true essence and meaning.
The authors have done a brilliant job by pairing up vivid food memories and given it a deep emotional connect. Out of its numerous tales, there is one recipe which caught my eye - ChaulaiKeLadoo that is a delicacy on which the so-called ‘fitness conscious’ can gorge on too.
A simple yet amazing dessert, it is prepared by putting sugar syrup on the chaulai to make it sticky enough to be rolled in the form of a ball or ladoo. Also, it is a boon for the diabetic as sugar is replaced by honey.
Nature brings along with it all its nutritive as well as therapeutic qualities in the ingredients that are used. So here it is: Gahat soup, made from gahat dal, is said to remove kidney stones. And it’s not quite often when you get the chance of drinking an effective as well as tasty medicine. It entails easy steps i.e. soak the dal overnight, then boil it up for 30 minutes and add salt to taste . Cool it down, bring it with sufficient water and your healthy, delicious soup is ready.
For the children who have nightmares just by the name of saag, this book would give the mothers’ myriad nutritious and delicious options. There are so many of our essential or main ingredients without which no dish can be complete. Potato, for instance, was considered a humble vegetable or a vegetable for the poor but few know that it originated from South America. After reading this book, it made me realize how bland our food would be without the ubiquitous Indian spices.
Making creative innovations with everything available to us in our surroundings is the common tendency of a food lover. Perhaps, no other country can pride itself for such diverse cuisines for its states as India does. Be it Kashmir or southern Kerala, food has always been a unifying factor and of cultural bonhomie.
This book brings us closer to the biodiversity by giving us an insight into the journey of a seed from the farm, forests, to its germination and cultivation, to harvesting, to the markets and in our kitchen. This book, authored by Sunita Naraina and Vibha Varshney brings out the beauty, benefits and perfection that Indian cuisine signifies to its core.
First Food - A Taste of India's Biodiversity, by Sunita Narain and Vibha Varshney, published by Center for Science and Environment; 2013, Price: Rs. 950.