“From Bombay with Love”
Shamil Thakrar, Kavi Thakrar, Naveed Nasir.
Dive in headfirst and join the authors on a day of food and cultural nostalgia in South Bombay. Or just go straight to the recipes and cook some fantastic food. Your call!
Dishoom is a recipe collection from a restaurant, or more correctly a group of restaurants, with five branches in London and one each in Manchester, Birmingham and Edinburgh. I was gifted the book by a family member who had eaten in one of the London restaurants. The gift arrived with a not-very-subtle hint about which recipe I might definitely consider cooking (Chicken Ruby, in case you’re curious).
Look and feel
A cookery book with a fold out map in the inside front cover is not something you encounter every day. The map helps you to orient yourself on your foodie journey through a half century or so of Bombay’s social history. The theme echoes Leopold Bloom’s day traversing Dublin in Joyce’s Ulysses, but the food is worlds apart, in every sense! The photographs, originals by Haarala Hamilton among others, and historical reproductions from a variety of sources, are myriad and wonderfully evocative. Sumptuous is a word I’m fairly sure I have never used in print before, but there it is, nothing else will really capture it.
On a practical level, the contents are laid out in terms of the meals you will have through your day- long journey, from breakfast in the morning through to tipples at day’s end. The index, if needed, is comprehensive.
What sort of food is it?
Well, Indian obviously, but with substitutions where pragmatic (lamb for the more usual goat, cranberries for difficult to source barberries). Breads, salads, mains, snacks, cocktails, biscuits – it’s amazing how many recipes are squeezed in among all the stories and pictures, but then it does run to 400 pages so it won’t be one of the lighter books on your shelf. Not surprisingly, there are many vegetarian and vegan dishes included (real-world veggie stuff that people have eaten for centuries).
So far I have cooked the requested Chicken Ruby (twice – not a scrap left uneaten), Chicken Berry Brittania, Naan bread, Raita and the Dishoom House Black Daal. I’m not finished yet. Himself declared the Chicken Ruby to be ‘the best Indian food he ever had’ – we are blessed with high-class authentic Indian restaurants where we live so that’s high praise indeed.
Obscure equipment needed?
Yes and no. Most of what I cooked worked well with just regular pots and pans, a mortar and pestle and a mini-processor. The Naan bread was achievable with a heavy oven-proof frying pan, or a pizza stone and a very hot barbecue. One piece of kit that was invaluable was a scale that measures teeny tiny quantities. I had been intending to get one anyway as I was running into difficulty with accurate yeast and salt measurements for bread. The fact that many of the spices are listed in grams rather than spoons pushed me over the edge, my regular digital scale couldn’t really register 5g quantities. I invested in this little beauty which has already proved its worth.
Ingredients easily available?
The lists of ingredients in many of the recipes are very long, sometimes obscure (from a non-Indian perspective). You might even need to first make a sauce or a spice mix from another part of the book because it features as an ingredient in your recipe. DON’T STOP READING! Before you give up without trying, the same ingredients feature across many recipes so won’t be wasted, and your homemade Garam Masala or Garlic Paste will keep for a while and can be used over and over again.
You will probably need to make friends with the nice man in the nearest Asian store for an initial shop for stuff not in your storecupboard. Buying your spices in this setting rather than from the supermarket in little bottles will be much better value for money and they will last a while if kept in the dark.
Who is it for?
Well, almost anyone would love the pictures and the reading bits. Cooking the recipes needs time, patience and a fairly methodical approach. A bit of kitchen know-how wouldn’t go astray. Although the techniques are very well described throughout, the number of steps that some of the recipes involve might throw the inexperienced cook. I’d gift this to someone who loves to cook and isn’t afraid to experiment – also good for entertaining as a fair amount can be done ahead.
I love this book, and the food that I am creating from it. Initially, like many people will, I looked at the lists of ingredients and winced. I’m so glad I persevered – the food has been delicious and producing it has given me a real sense of satisfaction.
Published by: Bloomsbury Publishing PLC
ISBN: HB: 978-1-4088-9067-7; eBook: 978-1-4088-9066-0