Wednesday, December 22, 2021

Those Delicious Letters - a year and half

It has been more than a year since my book Those Delicious Letters was published. After last October (Oct '2020) , I never got back the mojo to promote it and I didn't do anything. Really nothing. I am thankful to the many reviewers who reviewed it on their blog, Instagram, media et.  I am sorry I was not able to reply to many of them or thank them for their kindness.💓

This holiday season, Dec 15th being the global publishing date (August 20th, 2020 the original date), on a whim I checked the book rating on  Amazon, and guess what ? 

Those Delicious Letters - -- The darn book has a rating of 4.3 with effing 241 reviews, 97% of which is organic. I am a chhota mota author and that is a lot of reviews for me!! Yes, 3% of the initial reviews are from friends and few readers, whom I had coerced to  write one 😝, soon after the book was out. But rest all were folks who read it without me forcing them to 😍

Those Delicious Letters - -- 4.4 with 177 reviews

Those Delicious letters - Goodreads - Goodreads rates it at 3.88 with 225 ratings and 83 reviews !!

Of all the reviews, the one most precious is a review written by my Baba. I am not sure if he read the book in its entirety, we did not have any discussions over the content or the plot line. The book was not in one of the genres he would read. The font was not big enough and though my mother mentioned that he sat around with it in the month of last September, I doubt that it held his interest. It was my Mother who actually read the book  as I would have expected her to.

But that is not important. What is important is Baba was very excited about the book and would religiously tune in to all the lives I did as part of book promo last August-September. He shared all my book posts on his own FB wall (something I was very embarrassed about at that point). He was excited about the web series offer asking details that even I had not asked my publishers.

And then he wrote a review on I DID NOT ask him to write it just because I thought it would be difficult for him to post a review on a platform other than Facebook! He didn't even tell me that he had posted a review. But there I found it one fine day much later.  Notice how he has put in a sales pitch about discounted price and no delivery fee 😂😂

My Baba was not a foodie at all. He had no love for food unless it was a Bengali mishti. He did not like cooking and found the whole process highly over-rated.  Many a times when we would urge him to learn some cooking, he would say he could make tea, buy his mishti from stores and put together a Doodh-Pauruti-Gur for dinner, that is all that was needed for him to survive!!

When I got an offer for my first book from Harper Collins, he was happy but could not fathom how "me" of all people could write a cookbook. "Tui physics ar engineering pore ranna r boi likhbi keno bujchi na" !! Maybe he was worried about the kind of recipes I would unleash on the world. Or "Ranna r Boi" was not a thing he felt was worth writing, though once the book was out he championed it the most.

So anyway, I had really wanted to write a novel which was not a "ranna r boi", a cookbook, and show it to him. I don't know why as a 40+ woman, I felt like I had to prove my literary merits to him but I am so very thankful that I could do that and he could be a part of the book even if for a short time.

Thanks to all who read it, enjoyed it, loved it and shared your stories with me. I am so glad that I could spread a little happiness and cheer through my books.

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Monday, December 20, 2021

Thakurbari r Beet Baata -- Beetroot paste

Thakurbarir Ranna | Beet Baata | Beet Bhorta

Though we get each and every vegetable around the year and at all times, every season I tend to gravitate towards those vegetables which were specific to that season  while growing up. 

Well, I make an exception when it comes to three of my favorite vegetables -- tomatoes, cauliflower and coriander leaves. These were very much winter vegetables in my childhood and even while waxing merits of seasonal eating, I am so very glad that now I can have them at any time of the year.

With veggies like Beetroot, I have seen I inadvertently end up buying and cooking more of this veggie in winter than summer. Similarly with Lauki or bottlegourd, which I am pulled towards in summer months but not so much in the winter.

So anyway, every winter, beetroot reminds me of 3 things, Yes the rule of 3 is ruling me today.
Bhejetebil Chop with grated beet and carrots, Beet Gajor er Chechki and a soup that my mother would make with big chunks of carrots, beet, thick slices of onion and potato sautéed in butter and then cooked in a pressure cooker with lots of broth spiced with whole black peppercons, cardamom and probably ginger.

No doubt I loved #1 and #2 but hated #3. I have tried to make that soup a couple of times as an adult and quite enjoyed it but I don't know why LS calls it "chemical jhol" and refuses to have anything to do with it!!

This time when I got beetroot, I wanted a quick easy recipe and found the Beet Baata in the slim book titled Thakurbari'r Ranna.  Now in contrast to popular belief, the recipes included in this book were not necessarily what was cooked in the Tagore Household, neither were they Rabindranath Tagore's favorite dishes.

This book is written by Purnima Thakur, daughter of Nalini Devi and Pramatha Chaudhuri. In the preface, the author very clearly says that these recipes are collected from a tattered recipe book handed down to her by her aunt, Indira Devi Chaudhurani. Indira Devi, the favorite niece of Rabindranath Tagore, had never entered a kitchen or cooked on a regular basis. But she was a connoisseur of good food and whenever she liked a dish that she tasted, she made sure to collect the detailed recipe from the cook and diligently note it down in her book. Purnima Tagore has also included some of her mother's recipes in the book. 

Surprisingly, never once in the book has the author mentioned a dish being cooked in the Tagore Kitchen nor anything about Rabindranath Tagore enjoying "beet baata" on a winter afternoon. She has very deftly and cleanly kept Tagore out of it and yet every time, someone cooks and shares a recipe from "Thakurbari r Ranna"  they want you to believe that the dish will make a poet of you.

If that is your intention, you have to skip this recipe. However you would be foolish to do so. From whomsoever this recipe of "Beet Baata" was collected, was a genius. It is the  easiest thing to do with beets and gives you way more value than the effort you put in. 

Thursday, December 02, 2021

Pig In a Pumpkin with Indian spices -- from Chef John's Pumpkin-Braised pork

Braised Pork in Pumpkin, Chef John

Pig In a Pumpkin with Indian spices | Chef John's Pumpkin-Braised pork 

Pig In a Pumpkin is a fun, seasonal recipe where the pork is braised for hours in seasonal sweet pumpkin.The original recipe is from Chef John as shared in AllRecipes. The husband-man has used Chef John's braising method and technique but his own blend spices. He has basically used the Goat Sukka Masala as his dry spice powder and marinated the meat with sharp stinging mustard oil, ginger-garlic paste and sliced red onion. Recipe Cards included in this post.

Back in 2019, the husband-man had made this dish for our Thanksgiving get together. Pig-In-A-Pumpkin might sound like the title of a bad murder mystery or a children's book, but it was huge hit with all who had a chance to taste it. I was in India at that time and missed that chance. 

Once I was back, everyone still kept raving about the dish. I still had not tasted it.
Then whenever any pork dish was made for a party, everyone still kept telling the husband-man, "Oita ja baniyechilis, uff"!! I had still not tasted it.

The thing is, this is a dish which is as seasonal as they come. Mid October to end of November -- that is the short time period ideal to try out this recipe as that is when you will get the type of Pumpkin(small sweet pumpkins used for making pies) needed for this recipe!! The pig you can get any time, that is not seasonal.

This year, I had looked up the Panchang, consulted the Almanac, put in my request early and had committed his Pig-in-Pumpkin for the Thanksgiving get together by October end. Smart move eh?. The husband-man was notified the same well in advance. A week before Thanksgiving, we went in search of the perfect Pumpkin and none were to be found. After scouring through four different Whole Foods and couple of Farmer Markets, the right sized Pumpkin was finally brought home. The Pig was a way easier hunt.

Braised Pork in Pumpkin, Chef John

The original recipe is from Chef John as shared in AllRecipes. The husband-man has used Chef John's braising method and technique but his own blend spices. He has basically used the Goat Sukka Masala as his dry spice powder and marinated the meat with sharp stinging mustard oil, ginger-garlic paste and sliced red onion. He then followed the method as shared by Chef John.

The dish is really delicious, with the pork being cooked in the pumpkin for almost 4 hrs, the meat is tender and soft. The warm spices and sweetness from the pumpkin play together to bring a delicious flavor to the dish.

Goat Sukka masala