The true test of a good recipe book is when it excites you enough to want to try out the recipes soon in your own kitchen. The Tiffin authored by celebrated food writer, Sonal Ved, is a bit like that. The collection is vast, but more on that later. Whether you like to go through cookery books hoping to arm yourself with a new tip on an old dish or to finally try a lesser-known regional dish you have always wanted to, the Tiffin is a must read and will sit pretty amongst your collection of recipe books.
The book starts with a foreword by Chef Floyd Cardoz who has championed the cause of regional Indian cuisine over the years. His restaurants, Bombay canteen and O Pedro in Mumbai, are famous for authentic regional fare that brings back the joy of eating good, wholesome food, done with restaurant-style finesse and presentation. Other sections include a Glossary on spices, fruits and vegetables, lentils and other staples, and a collection of Basic Recipes to keep handy. The recipes are divided by region - North India, Central India, West India, South India, East India and Northeast India. Further each region has recipes clubbed under sub-sections like Appetizers, Rice & Breads, Desserts, Vegetarian and Non-Vegetarian, making the recipe search quick and quite hassle-free. Considering this is a big book with 500 recipes, this basic segregation makes finding dishes rather easy.
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The depth of the research in the book and the sheer variety is what makes the compilation stand out. It's true that the length and breadth of regional Indian food cannot be restricted to 500 recipes alone. But the author does a great job of curating them such that it gives you a head start into a journey that will hopefully take you further.
Tiffin showcases more than butter chicken, biryani, dhansak, mirchi ka salan, aloo dum, appam, thupka and khandvi. You will find gems in here that are usually left out of recipe books. When, in fact, it's the little-known dishes that give you a complete understanding of just how diverse Indian culinary traditions are. Take for instance the section on Western India where the author showcases jewels from the states of Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Gujarat and Goa. The chapter begins, like all others, with a note on the culinary influences the region has had over centuries and how they continues to play a role in what is eaten and served across this vast geography. Some of the notable recipes here include Gujarat's kutchi kadak, Bohri-style salan, osaman and malida, Maharashtra's Kolhapuri bhel and sev barfi, Rajasthani dahi samosa maas, bajre ka soyta and khoba roti, and from Goa there are Caril De Galinha, Ambot-Tik and Calangute Clam Pulao, to name a few.
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There's so much we don't explore and celebrate about our regional dishes still. Many aren't known beyond home kitchens or the tiffins they travel in every day. The Tiffin by Sonal Ved, if enjoyed the way it is intended to, should serve the purpose of transporting you hundreds of kilometres away from your own home, into the kitchens of fellow Indians, where food is equally tasty, wholesome and heart-warming.