They make you drool, bring back beautiful memories, dig out the old and forgotten, and tell you stories of people, places, and their lifestyles. Of the culture that created it, the necessities that nurtured it and the micro-climates that lavished its bounties upon it. Above all, evocative food books explore the myriad shades of your humanity linked inexorably to that most primal need to eat and create delicious food. Here’s a round-up of Indian food books published in 2018-2019.
The Mughal Feast
By Salma Husain; Roli Books; 2019
Rich in visuals and high on information, The Mughal Feast: Recipes From The Kitchen Of Emperor Shah Jahan is a "transcreation" of the Nuskha-e-Shahjahani, an original handwritten Persian recipe book dating back to Shah Jahan’s reign, translated by noted food historian and author Salma Yusuf Husain. Her interest in the food culture of the Mughals is long-standing one. "While there are several books on the Mughals, not much has been written about their food—a much loved cuisine if there was one," she says. An aesthete and lover of fine living, Shah Jahan's kitchens featured an array of breads, kebabs, pulaos and sweets—all of which have been faithfully featured-with many a classic recipe. The gorgeous pictures create an aura of grandeur that help the reader envisage just how opulent true opulence actually is.
Notes for Healthy Kids
By Rujuta Diwekar; Westland; 2018
Touted as the celebrity nutritionist's "most important work" the book aimed at age group 1-15 years goes the distance in simplifying and clarifying healthy eating to kids—and their parents. "Seasonal, local and traditional" are her favorite adjectives, even as the author takes on the media for spreading misinformation and glamorizing expensive imports from the West. (Quinoa and kiwi fruit—anyone? Err, Rujuta's far from a fan!)
The best part, though is, you realize how simple it is to get your kids to develop good eating habits—with food that is familiar, wholesome and easily prepared in your kitchen with ingredients easily available at the local grocer and vegetable venor. Rujuta’s rule of the thumb is to junk the calorie count and ask a more fundamental question—is it something your grandma is familiar with? If so, eat bindaas—says she. The author's trademark irreverence makes this weighty work a breezy read.
Also Read: LF's Series on What Nutritionists Eat
By Elana Sztokman; Panorama Press; 2018
A tribute to the Masala Mamas, 16 brave women who live in the Kalwa slum of Mumbai who have committed themselves to providing hot meals for underprivileged kids so that they may sustain themselves in school. Every morning, they cook fresh meals—the stories and recipes of which are featured here. A cookbook like none other, it is about women, children, social change and courage. And you thought that memorable cooking happens only in favourable conditions?
Buried Seeds—The story of Chef Vikas Khanna
By Karan Bellani; Wisdom Tree Books; 2018
For all those familiar with the chef's dapper looks and winsome persona, particularly on his myriad TV shows, here's his untold story: from being a delivery boy for his dad's video cassette library and cooking at weddings to acquiring a love of food while doing sewa in the legendary kitchens of the Golden Temple, Vikas Khanna's journey has traversed many lifetimes. As a young chef, he made the journey of a lifetime to New York, grappling with poverty and racism. Buried as his potential was, it was nevertheless just waiting to awaken—taking him to heights few have enjoyed in the culinary world.
Indian-ish—Recipes and Antics from a Modern American family
By Priya Krishna; Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 2019
Named 2019's finest spring time cookbook by New York Times, this colourful, cheeky book is food writer Priya Krishna's loving tribute to her mum's "Indian-ish" cooking—a brilliant collection of Indian-American super creative fusions. Take your pick from Roti Pizza, Tomato Rice with Crispy Cheddar, Whole Roasted Cauliflower with Green Pea Chutney, and Malaysian Ramen. Priya's mom, Ritu taught herself to cook after moving to the U.S. while also working as a software programmer. Priya's work features that legacy.
Tiffin: 500 authentic recipes celebrating India's regional cuisine
By Sonal Ved; Roli Books; 2018
The first ever cookbook to feature over 500 authentic regional recipes from all 29 states of India, this award-winning book is a narrative of India's culture, climate, ethnicity and preoccupations reflected in the use of locally available spices, herbs, vegetables and fruits. A fun and flavourful read, for sure.
The Wholesome Grain
By Vikas Khanna; DK Publications; 2018
In this book the noted chef explores the world of forgotten ancient grains to create contemporary recipes. From listing their benefits to remembering forgotten food traditions, Khanna shares his experiences of working and experimenting with the grains he discovered while travelling the country—not to forget a host of delicious dishes and their permutations and combinations. What is particularly noteworthy is the manner that it links sentimentality to the science of healthy grains. The beautiful pictures take the book a few notches higher.
The Flavours of Nationalism
By Nandita Haksar; Speaking Tiger; 2018
In her award-winning memoir, human rights lawyer Nandita Haksar writes about how food shaped her awareness of politics, patriarchy, nationalism and socialism, from a childhood in the backdrop of the Nehruvian era. Even as she takes the reader on a thoughtful journey from her Kashmiri Pandit family settled in Old Delhi and Lucknow, to human-rights activism on behalf of Nagas in Manipur; from grappling with feminist ideals, to considering the impact of a globalized food industry in Goa, the book explores the links between food and human priorities. Above all, it asks that uncomfortable question: how can a country that won't eat together, stay united?
The book's USP is her examination of how tastes and attitudes to food are shaped by caste, race, gender and class—even as she revisits the eternal debate on inter-dining. Tongue in cheek accounts of sharing meals with Burmese and Iraqi refugees, and arguing the politics of chai in the Naxalite movement, the book also contains recipes from the assorted people she has eaten with.
Farm to Fingers: The Culture and Politics of Food in Contemporary India
Edited by Kironmoyi Bhushi; Cambridge University Press; 2018
The book looks closely at the political and economic institutions that are responsible for the production and distribution of food, and the role of the state and global policies that influence agrarian policies at home. From meat-eating in India to examining how and why fermented food from North-East India does not fall within the representation of 'Indian' food; the ideas of health and food safety that inform the making of sweets; the growing role of fast-food eateries and blog-writing and above all, the importance of the concept of food sovereignty.
Zaika: Vegan recipes from India
Romy Gill; Orion Books; 2019
With over 100 innovative Indian vegan recipes, Romy Gill celebrates the zaika or flavours of Indian cooking. A good part of Indian food is plant-based, and Gill lends a delicious excitement to these Indian vegan recipes that include curries, drinks and side dishes. The British-Indian chef is inspired by her Indian heritage and the recipe collection delivers simple but scrumptious flavours.
Pakodas: The Snack for all Seasons
Sangeeta Khanna; Westland; 2019
The popular food writer and blogger pays homage to this quintessential Indian snack that instantly spells good times and fun—golden-brown fritter star, Pakodas from across different regions in India. The popular Indian snack, a platter of pakodas, has derailed many a dieting diktats, spread cheer on a gloomy day and instantly evokes the magic of rains and good times. The author chronicles several known and little-known varieties of batter-fried (and sometimes steamed or poached) delights and also includes recipes for accompaniments, including chutneys. Going beyond the onions, potatoes and spinach varietals that are popular in most households, this biography of pakodas has three neat and helpful sections: vegetarian (including flowers, leaves, fruits, roots, seeds, nuts, cereals, diary), non-vegetarian and a wonderful array of lip-smacking chutneys to elevate the pakoda experience. Featuring intricate details and tips from street vendors in small towns who are masters at dishing out perfectly golden, crunchy pakodas that are almost impossible to turn out in our clean sanitised kitchens, this book is a handy guide for every pakoda-lover in and outside India.
Bake with Shivesh
By Shivesh Bhatia; Harper Collins; 2018
The ace 22-year-old baker Shivesh Bhatia, reveals fool-proof tips on food styling that can be easily followed at home with tools that you already own. An extension of his popular blog, the book, along with baking techniques and over 50 recipes, is also a handy guide on how to make your dessert look pretty and photograph it right. Think about props, backgrounds, angles, lights, composition and photography equipment. For social media fans, the book reveals Bhatia’s favourite styling techniques, and what works or doesn’t on different social media platforms. With short and crisp instructions and simple processes, the book is for everyone looking to elevate the way they present food, and whip up delicious cakes, cookies, tarts, pies, pavalova, panna cotta, muffins, cupcakes, mousses, cheesecakes and lot more.
By Pooja Dhingra; Self published; 2018
Pooja Dhingra's book is a masterclass in eggless baking, born from the idiosyncratic food-based restrictions in Indian homes. Master baker and acclaimed entrepreneur, Dhingra combines her skills as a classically-trained pâtissier with her love for taking on a challenge to create over a hundred eggless recipes. The book has everything—from cookies and brownies to decadent cakes, doughnuts and mousses. Having baked without eggs herself, and catered to customers at Le15, her beloved chain of patisseries and cafes, I Can’t Believe It’s Eggless lives up to its name with delicious recipes that are second to none. From making modifications and finding alternatives for recipes and ingredients such as eggs to offering invaluable tips on how to stock your pantry and perfecting the art of baking, this book is for baking enthusiasts. For non-bakers, there’s a dedicated ‘No Bake’ section in the book which has recipes that you can refrigerate instead of baking and a hit with kids.
By Devang Singh and Varud Gupta, Penguin, 2018
Two young adventurers travelled the length and breadth of India to put together an ensemble of experiences that tie food and culture. Singh and Gupta offer a refreshing perspective, aimed at younger Indians, to a lesser known life of India and how food culture has evolved due to socio-cultural and geographic reasons. The book also offers traditional recipes reconfigured for the modern Indian kitchen.
Daastan-e-Dastarkhan—Stories and recipes from Muslim kitchens
By Sadaf Hussain; Hachette; 2019
The dastarkhan is a Turkic word for the ‘tablecloth’ and refers to the place where the family lays out the spread to dine together. The author establishes the premise in the title, and prompts you to turn the pages for recipes that take you on a historic journey through food. Hussain shares recipes and cooking techniques of “30 intimate dishes from the culinary history of Muslim communities across India.” Evocative, intimate and masterful, the author, who was a MasterChef India contestant, takes you on a flavour trail of dishes such as Bihari kebabs during Eid, vegetarian dishes from Mappila cuisine, and lost recipes from the Nizami era. The recipes have been adapted for modern kitchens, the stories and recipes so deliciously entwined that you are wont to try these scrumptious recipes in your kitchen.
The Essential Indian Instant Pot Cookbook
By Archana Mundhe; Penguin Random House; 2019
Featuring over 75 time-tested recipes, learn how to make favorite chicken, lamb, and vegetarian curries; daals, soups, and seafood; breakfast delights like ginger almond oatmeal; and much- loved sweet treats like rose milk cake and halwas. Meant especially for all those working folks that love the convenience of one pot meals. Recipe developer and food blogger Mundhe gives it her all.
By Michael Swamy; Om Books, 2018
The masala dabba is a quintessential part of an Indian kitchen and that is the literal theme of this compendium of recipes. Written in easy-to-understand language, the book also gives you an insight into unique culinary traditions, cooking techniques, spice blends and mixtures that would guarantee a delightful dining experience.
The World of Parsi Cooking: Food Across Borders
By Niloufer Mavalvala; Jostens Commercial Printing; 2019
An anthology of Parsi recipes, this book has recipes that have evolved over 2,500 years since Parsi cuisine was born. Just as the people, the food too travelled great distances and has evolved. The author’s aim with these dishes is to showcase the fresh and simple ingredients but also adapting to food trends of organic and local eating. The book is divided into unique culturally-relevant themes including family heirloom-style recipes, desserts and more.
From The Table of Mary S. NarielwalaBy Nicole Mody; Spenta Multimedia; 2019
The Narielwala family was renowned for their gatherings, and it was the matriarch, Mrs Narielwala, who knew how to keep guests surprised and satiated. The recipes, tips and tricks were all documented in a red diary. When her son, Adi Narielwala found it, he knew instantly that this was a story waiting to be told. Et Voila! From the Table of Mary S. Narielwala compiled, edited and made relevant for the future by Nicole Mody.