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Review: Made in India, Cooked in Britain by Meera Sodha

Much as I love exercise, one time when I really don’t fancy is the cold air rasping against my windpipe and into my lungs when I’m not feeling well.

I’ve been nursing one of those colds that hovers just below the surface, not quite coming out into the open.  Last week, the week just before half term, was phenomenally busy, with a Full Governors, meeting, two Meet the Parents evenings, and a County Governors get together.  So you can imagine how ill-disposed towards the world it made me feel that my sister had organised a “let’s go to Mum and Dad’s cook for all the family” on Saturday.

To be fair, it was a nice idea, as it was my parents’ fortieth wedding anniversary.  It is just neither of us have ever cooked for 12 people with varying dietary tastes before, so we had to work out what to do.

Luckily, I had heard about this book

india

on the radio a few months ago, Meera Sodha’s Made in India, Cooked in Britain.  It contains recipes for a whole variety of Gujarati dishes, which are all eminently cookable, healthy and tasty.  In particular, it covers starters, mains, desserts and drinks.

I have to say that I was too tired to learn how to make samosas for starters, but I figured that spring rolls were similar enough:

spring

I’ve never made this many spring rolls before!  LD#2 helped by rolling them all up for me, otherwise I don’t think I could have done it.

One of the amazing things that the book has taught me is how to make rice!  Chinese people use a rice cooker, so it’s automatic… there’s also a bit of a Chinese attitude that plain white rice is the “carrier” for the food, and any sort of fancy rice is to make it a bit more palatable to Westerners.  Whereas I’ve realised that there are lots of different spices you can add to rice to make it more interesting, and the key to getting the softness/wetness right is a pot with a clear lid.

rice

curry

Everyone I’ve given Meera Sodha’s fennel seed shortbread says it’s the best they’ve ever tasted.  Also there’s a recipe for spiced chai which is very special to me now – it calls for one tea bag between two mugs.  And when you have a daughter like mine who often says No to what’s on offer, it’s really nice to say, “I’m making a chai… do you want one too?” and be able to give her something without making her worry that I am going out of my way for her.

The only thing that didn’t work out with the meal was my sister’s lamb curry, the recipe for which didn’t transfer well between her slow cooker and my parents’.  (Why she didn’t turn it up to “High” when it was clear that it wasn’t softening, I don’t know.)  Anyway, after she’d gone home on Sunday morning, we ended up with a lot of undercooked lamb leftovers for lunch.  “All it needs is more cooking,” I said.  So my dad said he would sort it out.  Now, my dad is a good cook, but he is not that experienced with a microwave.  Still, I assumed that he knew what he was doing when he put it in on low heat for 60 minutes and then went out to buy a paper.

About 45 minutes later, I smelled something strange, and went into the kitchen, where there were a lot of fumes and something on fire inside the microwave!!  I turned the power off and watched the flames dying down while we decided what to do.  We all found it quite funny, apart from my mum, who rushed around berating everyone.  In the end, when the flames were at a minimum, my dad threw the stew and cracked pyrex out into the garden.  The stew must have dried out and overheated, melting the plastic cover my dad had placed over the top of it.

I have to admit, it was a pretty good weekend, despite all my grumblings in the run up.

When I got home I downloaded St Vincent’s current album.  The tracks available on Soundcloud make it seem like it’s going to be a lot more hyperactive than it actually is.  It ranges from the beautiful:

all about the powerlessness of standing by and watching someone go into self destruct,

through to this kind of intensely searing commentary

on our emotional reliance on social and other media.

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27 Comments

  1. We use a rice cooker every day. My wife couldn’t survive without rice. She puts it down as a special dietary requirement if we go on holiday. Sadly she doesn’t like spicy Indian food but my club does superb curries so lamb curry is a perennial favourite at lunchtimes. I think I might pass on the microwaved version. Your spring rolls look fantastic and spiced chai sounds delicious. I feel hungry now.

  2. Denise, I wish you lived closer. We could roll spring rolls, you and me. And since I have a rice cooker, we could make rice with plum vinegar and peanut sauce. I have had bronchitis for a very long time. The codeine cough syrup gives me hot and cold flashes and makes me itch. So I can relate. Thanks for the book and music recommendations. So interesting. And for the story of your father just throwing the entire meal out into the garden. I like his spunk!

  3. Oh Denise, I love the story of your Dad and the microwave. How funny he went to buy the paper and then came home only to chuck his meal into the garden! Your spring rolls look the business – I admire your culinary skills!

    • Oh dear, I’m sure I replied to this earlier… Me and my dad tend to be very calm about things, we were staring at this thing planning out what the best course of action would be. It was very much stroll out, get paper. Hmmm. Oh dear. Let’s throw it in the garden. Then get on with the rest of the morning, cooking some more lunch.

  4. What an undertaking! Cooking for 12 would put me in bed for a month – although the way I cook? I cook for 12 all the time. I’ve never figured out how to make a small pot of soup, a small roast, a small casserole …….. and we get so sick of it by the time it’s gone. Now the undercooked lamb was funny ……. and I can just see your mother being super cheesed off about having to clean the microwave after the fire! Every family weekend should end with a laugh.

    • They are thinking about replacing the whole microwave for safety reasons!

      Roasts and casseroles and soups are good for crowds.

      • I bet they want to replace it – I would. After it once blows up like that, it gets the thingy that’s nuclear hot. Whew!

      • I wonder if you are allowed to claim on the house insurance? Might count as misuse though…

  5. I have a cold too and have stopped running the past few days hoping it will mean I’ll get better faster. I think I overdid it last week and made my cold worse.

    I’m with you on the rice cooker too; couldn’t live without mine. Well actually, I’m forced to live without it at the moment as we’re still waiting for our belongings to arrive but rice cookers make the best rice. The cookbook looks great too. I love Indian food.

    • The frying the rice before adding made all the difference. It was so delicious. Someone else commented you can do that with the rice cooker too, just fry first and then add to the rice cooker as normal. I have to agreed that a rice cooker takes away the anxiety of having to remember the timing, and not leaving it on the stove to boil dry… don’t want any more fires in the house, do we 😉

      Hope your cold is better.

  6. We’ve had/are still having that cold too!! It’s a real nuisance. It sounds like the day ended up being a lot of fun, and I did laugh at the 60-minute microwaving story. I shudder to think what my dad would do in such a situation. When he briefly had to live away from home for work, he’d call my mother up about five times over the course of boiling potatoes for mash, checking he was doing it right. Oh and fennel seed shortbread sounds gorgeous!

    • I stopped tasting the fennel seed for a while, partly the cold, partly I’d made so many practice batches. I thought all the praise was people being polite. Then I had some yesterday and I realised how good it was!

      The reasoning with the curry was that he’s put rice in for 30 mins with no ill effect… forgetting I suppose that the rice was surrounded by lots of water.

      I did have a very nice day, surprisingly so.

  7. Holy moly Denise, that was an interesting interpretation of ‘low heat’! Glad that almost all of you were able to see the funny side. Sounds like a lovely weekend. Hope your cold is on its way out 🙂

  8. Hee I have no idea how to cook rice in a pot either! I’ve done basmati rice with spices in a rice cooker, first frying the spices and the rice in a pan then transferring to a rice cooker and letting that do the work.

    Homemade spring rolls are the best! I have to resort to my nearby dimsum restaurant though as frying them seems too much work right now….

    Oh and about your question on cookbooks, I’m trying to figure out! I guess I don’t really have much Chinese cookbooks! If you’re interested in japanese cooking, I think Harumi’s Japanese Cooking is a great one. See here: http://olduvaireads.wordpress.com/2014/03/22/weekend-cooking-harumis-japanese-cooking/

    As for Singapore-style food, Terry Tan has written quite a few cookbooks, although not sure if it’s available in the UK, plus I’ve not really read them myself.

    Bee Yinn Low, who runs the Rasa Malaysia website, also has a cookbook called Easy Chinese Recipes. Also have not read this myself but I do use her website recipes!

    Hope that’s of some help!

    • Well, I have splashed out on Harumi! The one that you mention is not available in the UK (well not at a sensible price anyway) but I have gone for the Home Cooking book as it seems to have lots of different sections. It had very good reviews.

      Actually Japanese and not Chinese is good, as I don’t want to compete with my dad, who does Chinese fused with a bit of Malaysian spice.

      Thanks!

    • Yes, spring rolls are very time consuming. I forgot my one-cal spray and the whole thing was threatening to be a disaster, but then my dad produced this amazing non-stick frying pan and everything was good!

  9. Oh no! So glad you were able to see the funny side of the cooking disaster. Had one or two of those myself…hope your cold is getting better and many congratulations to your parents on their 40th wedding anniversary. A wonderful celebration! So glad you enjoyed the weekend and always great when our daughters join in with something they like. Aspie D tries her hand at Japanese food from time to time and I wish she would cook it every night 😉

    • It’s lovely when your children can make nice food. Not just the skill, but I like that my daughter has pride in the food she presents, and in the taste of it, and wants to be involved – she came down into the kitchen wanting to take part without me asking.

    • The food was soooo good, and so was the afternoon! I can still taste it in my imagination and it makes me feel happy. Which is unusual with my family. It is nice making new, happy family memories.

      • New food adventures, and cooking together, have worked for us, too, to build new, happy family memories. I love this story. I’m going to look for this cookbook. !!

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