Season of Salt & Honey by Hannah Tunnicliffe – a Review + a Giveaway

If there’s one hobby or passion of mine that has stayed constant over the years, it’s my love for books and reading.

I am happiest when curled up on my couch with a good book in hand. And no matter how tired or harried the day might have been, sleep would never come if I haven’t read a few pages. And ever since my love affair with food started, I have added cookbooks also to my list of must reads.

So very naturally, I got excited when Pan Macmillan Australia approached me to review ‘Season of Salt & Honey’ by Hannah Tunnicliffe.

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A novel of love, grief and antipasti; penned by a food blogger and writer…..do I need to say more??

Season of Salt & Honey is a heartwarming tale of young Francesca Caputo and her gut-wrenching yet beautiful journey through life, love and loss. After the death of the man she loved, Frankie feels an irresistible need to escape from her over bearing Italian American family. She takes refuge in an old wooden cabin set in the idyllic Washington forests, where she slowly begins to recover from her personal grief, where her past relationships take on new meanings and her path crosses with her forest neighbours, quirky and interesting fellow beings.

I connected with Francesca (Frankie) on so many levels (especially the relationship she has with her sister) which made the book even more delightful to read. Peppered throughout the book are Sicilian-American recipes which the foodie in me is just waiting to try out especially the ‘Roasted almond cookies’ and the ‘Spring risotto’. You ought to get this book just for these recipes.

Season of Salt & Honey is a light read but one that stays with you a long time after you have finished reading it. Hannah has a way with words that brings the characters alive as if you have known them all along.

I experienced a strange sense of sadness and joy at the same time after finishing this book. All of us have known grief at some point, especially the grief that comes with the passing away of a loved one. And no matter how difficult it might seem, we all move on too. And sometimes, it can be an eye-opener too as it was for Frankie when half buried truths came to life challenging her emotions once again. Does she give up or does she fight?

Season of Salt & Honey releases today (April 1st) and is available at all leading bookstores across Australia. Make sure to grab a copy!

This is Hannah’s second book, the first being ‘The Colour of Tea’. Love the titles of her books!

I had the opportunity to have a chat with Hannah and here’s what we spoke about;

Hannah Tunnicliffe_2_Copyright Jody Lidstone

1. A bit on the real Hannah Tunnicliffe…

She is a writer, a Mum, a wanderer, a foodie and a dreamer.

2. How did this writing journey start? Was it a conscious decision to become a writer or a random result of life?

Great question. I made a conscious decision to be and do something different but I was unsure what that something was. Previously I was the Director of Human Resources for a 4,000 employee business in Macau, China. After becoming dissatisfied and burnt out I finally decided to quit my job and actively follow my ‘natural curiosities’. I did a range of things including career coaching, fundraising for a local orphanage and eating a lot of macarons! At the same time I dedicated myself to writing 1,000 words a day. The sum of those efforts and days eventually became my first novel, The Colour of Tea (published by Pan Macmillan).

3. And food! When did you discover your love for all things food?

I can’t remember a time I wasn’t in love with food. I believe that food is our earliest memory of love and that ensures our ongoing fascination and affection for it. Nourishment and sensory pleasure – what’s not to adore?


4. Personally, I find the best kind of cookbooks are those which tell a story. So far, there has only been one that has fulfilled that promise. Now looking forward to yours…..where did the idea for this book come from? How excited are you with this project?

I am very excited! While food was always a strong feature in Season of Salt and Honey it wasn’t until recently it was suggested to me that I include recipes for some of the food mentioned in the story. So I got cracking on recipe testing! I have had requests for recipes from readers of my first book, The Colour of Tea so I am thrilled to include them in Season of Salt and Honey.

5. How different is this book from your first one, ‘The Colour of Tea?’

Season of Salt and Honey has a very different setting from The Colour of Tea – the cool and serene Washington State coastal rainforest vs. thriving, bustling Macau – but the themes in the books are similar and include love, grief, escape and hope. I also hope I have created characters that are as intriguing and endearing as my readers tell me they found those in The Colour of Tea.

6. In keeping with the characters and location, Season of Salt and Honey features Sicilian American recipes. Any particular reason behind choosing this cuisine?

Francesca (Frankie) Caputo, the protagonist in Season of Salt and Honey is Italian-American. Her father’s family are from Sicily and her mother’s family are from Calabria so the book contains Sicilian, Calabrian and American style recipes. All the recipes were created using food already mentioned in the story and many recipes are quite symbolic of the plot and the characters within it.

7. What is your favourite food/cuisine in the world? And your most memorable meal?

I am a huge fan of Japanese cuisine (but will gladly eat almost anything fresh and delicious!) A memorable meal that immediately springs to mind was a dinner I had at The China Club in Hong Kong for my thirtieth birthday. Beautiful Chinese dishes served amongst 1920’s private club style décor while a jazz singer serenaded us and then wished me a very happy birthday. I was in heaven.

8. Currently settled in Auckland, NZ do you see the nomad in you packing bags soon again?

I am so happy to return to New Zealand after many travels abroad that I’m not looking to move anytime soon but…. you never know! These days my adventures are local – to food markets, galleries and museums, and taking road trips up and down the stunning NZ coastline.

9. Ria Voros and forkandfiction.com – how did this collaborative venture happen?

Ria Voros is a fellow author, Mum and food enthusiast. I met her during a writing course (she was the teacher!) and we became firm friends. When I suggested that we collaborate on a blog about our dearest topics – food and writing and books and family – she was keen as mustard. Ria writes wonderful children’s / YA fiction, you should check her out here: www.riavoros.com

10. Finally, what does the future look like?

I have no idea! I cross my fingers that it includes more books, more delicious food, a healthy and happy family.

Pan Macmillan has been generous enough to provide me with an extra copy of ‘Season of Salt & Honey’ to giveaway to one lucky reader. So while I am off to bake a batch of the almond cookies, you head over and take part in the competition. All the best!

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To be in the running for this giveaway, here’s what you must do;

1. Subscribe to my blog using your email id.
2. Leave a comment stating the name of your favourite book/novel. (Only entries with comments will be considered).
3. Cross your fingers!

Note – The competition is open for only Australian residents (sorry to my other readers). This giveaway will run from April 1st, 2015 to April 10th, 2015. The name of the winner will be notified on the blog and all my social media channels (if you aren’t following any, this would be a good time to). The winner will have 48 hours to get in touch with me; failure to do so will result in the drawing of another winner.

The Flame Bar N Grill – a Review

I turned 35 last week and very consciously decided to spend the entire day with my boys promising myself to keep my hands away from ‘my devices’ and social media accounts.

The day started out with a special movie preview organized by Nuffnang for ‘The Book of Life’ at the Village Cinemas in Jam Factory (Chapel Street, South Yarra). After a good start to the day, we decided to make a long due visit to the Eureka Skydeck, the highest viewing platform in the Southern Hemisphere. But first lunch, which had to be en route…..

We hadn’t made a booking anywhere since we didn’t really have a set plan for the day. So after the movie, we decided to walk into any restaurant that caught our fancy on our way to the Sky deck. And that’s how we ended up in The Flame Bar N Grill on Chapel Street, Prahran.

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The Flame has both an al fresco area and an indoor dining space, which given the location is a great idea. If not for the sun beating down on us that day, we would have definitely opted for the al fresco space watching the shoppers and strollers going by. There was plenty of space indoors for a Saturday afternoon which didn’t seem like a good thing to me.

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We were seated and the menus bought out promptly; so far so good. The menu had a strong American steakhouse theme with all the regulars available; nothing surprising or exciting.

For drinks, we decided to sample the cocktails. While Sam ordered the Mojito, I decided to try out the in-house special, The Flame Cocktail. No explanations were provided in the menu as to what went into the drink, so I asked the waitress. She gave a sheepish grin saying that she was new and had no clue either (not done!). But she promptly got it clarified from the bartender and informed me that it was a combination of raspberries, vodka, lemon and some other liqueur (which I can’t remember now).

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The drinks were very average and nothing much to write about…which is why probably they gave us a double offer of two drinks for the price of one.

We started with the slow cooked lamb ribs glazed with the Flame sauce. Thoroughly disappointed with this one as the meat was underseasoned, tough and chewy. The sauce was less than a glaze so there was hardly any flavour left on the meat. Served with a basket of mediocre chips, the dish was a complete let down.

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The next dish we tried out was the char grilled salmon with potato mash, green beans and glazed with the flame sauce. The salmon was cooked well, flaky and perfect but the rest of the dish was a disappointment. The flame sauce tasted of bad soy sauce; the mash was well, just mash and the steamed carrots and beans had no real flavour.

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For dessert, it was The Flame Sundae which again, just average. Three scoops of icecream with a handful of nuts and caramel sauce drizzled over it; I would do a better job at home. But ice cream being ice cream and definitely store bought, tasted just fine.

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Service was lackluster; the food was bought in before the drinks. Sigh! But the waitress was warm and friendly; she just needs more training.

Overall, average and a tad bit disappointed given the location and the prices. Not going back for sure.

My rating – 5/10

The Flame Bar N Grill

(Steakhouse, American)

254 Chapel St
Prahran
VIC 3181

Phone no: 03 9510 1510

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TheFlameBarNGrill/timeline

Timings:

Monday – Thursday – 8:00am-10:00pm
Friday – Saturday – 8:00am-11:00pm
Sunday – 8:00am-9:00pm

The Flame Bar N Grill on Urbanspoon

Disclaimer – Not a sponsored post; all the food and drinks were paid for by me

Dhaba Style Kheema Masala

Any food enthusiast will tell you that the true way to enjoy the gastronomic flavours of a country is to eat their street food.

It’s the same with Indian food too. If you were to take a journey along the highways of India across the length and breadth of the country, then you will have a true glimpse into what Indian cuisine is all about. You will be able to understand how food changes from region to region depending on local produce, weather, environment, religion and habits of the people residing there.

Much like the food trucks of the West, India is home to innumerable street food stalls which are referred to by different names depending on the region. In the Northern parts of the country, these food stalls that mostly line the highways (but not exclusively!) are called dhabas. And it is a commonly acknowledged fact that the dhabas serve some of the best Indian food, which perhaps cannot be found anywhere else in the country.

Today’s dish is a delicious Punjabi dhaba style kheema masala that can be easily prepared at home. Resplendent with spices and aromatics, this is an extremely flavourful dish that you will want to make over and over again. Highly recommended to be tried with pav (a type of Indian bread) or with phulkas or rotis if pav is not available.

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Kheema or khaima (as known in many parts of India) actually means meat mince but the term has become synonymous with lamb mince. This is an ingredient that graces the kitchens across the globe and is such a versatile one.

The best way to buy mince is to choose the meat yourself and get it freshly minced from your butcher; this enables you to control the amount of meat to fat ratio, as required for the dish. There are commercial brands that sell good quality mince but most often, the cheap parts get thrown in which makes it sinewy and chewy instead of melt-in-the-mouth.

This dhaba style kheema masala is a rich dish with bold flavours that is just perfect on a cold evening. There is warmth from the spices and aromatics but not overly hot. The flavours are balanced out with the addition of tangy tomatoes; the milk and butter lend a rich creaminess which just makes you go ‘ooh la la’!

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Make it, eat it, enjoy it!

This dish is part of a project for Supreme Seafood Company; so you can find the recipe here.

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Autumn Stew with Chickpeas, Potatoes and Kale

Autumn is officially here! Though we have experienced crazy weather the whole of March with rains, thunderstorms, winds, blazing sun and high temperatures. But then, that’s the beauty of Melbourne….four seasons in a day!

The idea of an autumn stew had been brewing in my mind for a while now though I had not decided if I should include meat or keep it vegetarian. Then a friend gifted me a bunch of Rocoto Manzano red chillies which I have never seen or used before in my life. The idea of the autumn stew slowly started to take shape in my head while fiddling with these chillies.

Rocoto Manzano chillies are native to Central and South America especially the regions of Chile and Peru. Being native to these regions, this chilli is used commonly in Mexican cooking. These chillies are medium hot (for me!) and the idea of an Indian inspired stew began to take form in my head.

Rocoto Manzano red chilli

This stew is healthy and nutritious….proteins from the chickpeas, carbs from the potatoes and a whole lot of nutrients from the red kale. I have also used a generous sprinkling of raw crushed almonds to add to the nutrition factor and texture.

I have used some spices to add a bit of oomph and flavour to the stew, mainly cumin, caraway, cloves and bay leaf. But the real flavour of this autumn stew comes from the chillies…just that right kick of heat to lift the flavours and keep you warm through the cold nights.

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Feel free to use any combination of vegetables that you enjoy to eat. Lamb would be a good choice if you want to make a non-vegetarian version; just make sure to adjust the spices accordingly.

So, let’s get cooking this delicious, comforting autumn stew with chickpeas, potatoes and kale with a generous dose of chillies and almonds.

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Ingredients:

1. 1 cup chickpeas; soaked overnight
2. 1 large potato, diced
3. 3-4 stalks red kale, shredded
4. 2 tbsp vegetable oil
5. ¼ tsp cumin seeds
6. ¼ tsp caraway seeds
7. 2 cloves
8. 1 dried bay leaf
9. 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
10. 3 Rocoto Manzano chillies; remove pith and seeds, finely chopped
11. 2 medium red onion, finely chopped
12. 2 tomatoes, freshly pureed
13. Salt, to season
14. ¼ cup crushed skinless almonds

Note – If you do not have these chillies, use any other type or add some chilli flakes instead.

Method:

1. In a cast iron pot or deep bottom pan, heat the oil and crackle the whole spices.
2. Add the finely chopped chillies and garlic; sauté for 4-5 minutes on low heat to get the flavours into the oil.
3. Next, add the chopped onions and sauté till light brown.
4. Then add the pureed tomatoes and sauté on medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Reduce heat and cook for a further 5 minutes.
5. Add the soaked chickpeas, season with salt along with 2 cups of water; bring to boil and then reduce to low heat. Cook covered till the chickpeas are 75% done.
6. Open and add the potatoes; add more water if necessary. Continue to cook on low heat covered till the potatoes are just about done.
7. Finally, add the kale leaves and cook till done.
8. Add the crushed almonds just before serving.
9. Serve warm with bread. (I had it with freshly baked Afghan bread garnished with herbs and chilli flakes.)

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Shark Fin House (CBD, Melbourne) – a Review

The visit to Shark Fin House situated on Little Bourke Street in the Melbourne, CBD was a planned one. Our friends were giving us a treat and had invited us to this restaurant. There were 6 of us and 2 little ones, a happy (after a successful shopping spree) ravenously hungry bunch who particularly loved Chinese cuisine.

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It was a weekend and we walked in close to 7.00pm. We hadn’t made any reservations so was apprehensive about getting a table. But there were tables empty and we were guided to the first floor and seated within minutes.

From the time we were seated and handed over the menus, the pathetic customer service began.

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Only 2 of us ordered drinks; I chose a glass of The Right Reverend V (Temperantia Riesling, 2014) and another friend got a glass of Glenfiddich Malt. We requested for plain water for the rest of the group.

The Right Reverend V (Temperantia Riesling, 2014), Glenfiddich Malt

The Right Reverend V (Temperantia Riesling, 2014), Glenfiddich Malt

The drinks arrived promptly and we proceeded to place the order. We had a few queries as to the portions for some of the starters which we tried to get clarified from the waitress. The lady had minimalistic English speaking skills which made the job really difficult and she seemed to be in constant state of hurry to actually listen out and help us with the ordering process.

Anyway, we went ahead and completed placing the order. We started off with two soups; creamy corn soup with minced chicken meat and the hot and sour soup with Chinese mushrooms, bamboo shoots, shredded bbq pork, fungus and hot spices. The corn soup was just average and didn’t measure up to the expectations but the hot and sour soup was really flavourful, delicious and packed a punch. It is high on spices and would be enjoyed by only those who like the fiery hit and we did thoroughly.

creamy corn soup with minced chicken meat

creamy corn soup with minced chicken meat

hot and sour soup with Chinese mushrooms, bamboo shoots, shredded bbq pork, fungus and hot spices

hot and sour soup with Chinese mushrooms, bamboo shoots, shredded bbq pork, fungus and hot spices

For starters, we got the vegetarian spring rolls, chicken fillet on skewer with satay sauce and sesame prawn toast. The spring rolls were disappointing; the filling was bland with no real flavour. The chicken skewers were good but didn’t enjoy it with the satay sauce; found it too sweet to my liking. Again, the sesame prawn toast was just average; this was a dish that we were really looking forward to but disappointed especially with a cost of $8.80 for just 2 pieces.

chicken fillet on skewer with satay sauce ; sesame prawn toast

chicken fillet on skewer with satay sauce ; sesame prawn toast

vegetarian spring rolls

vegetarian spring rolls

The mains began with traditional Schezuan spicy fish; I was looking forward to this dish so much hoping to experience the authentic Schezuan flavours but the dish was disappointing. While there was no dearth to the Schezuan peppercorns in the dish, there was no balance of flavours which left an unpleasant aftertaste in the mouth.

traditional Schezuan spicy fish

traditional Schezuan spicy fish

The highlight dish of the evening was the diced fillet mignon with XO chili sauce; succulent, melt in the mouth pieces of meat with delicious flavours. It was the crowd favourite hands down and totally recommended.

diced fillet mignon with XO chili sauce

diced fillet mignon with XO chili sauce

The next main we ordered was Prawns and vegetables with fried noodles. The dish was good but nothing to rave about. The prawns were perfectly cooked and the vegetables flavourful and crunchy served on a bed of fried noodles.

Prawns and vegetables with fried noodles

Prawns and vegetables with fried noodles

We also ordered combination fried rice, again an average dish and nothing spectacular.

combination fried rice

combination fried rice

The last dish was the braised venison stir fried with ginger and shallots and served on a hot plate. While there was no sizzle on the hot plate when it arrived on the table, the venison more than made up for it. Braised and cooked perfectly with the aromatic ginger and shallots, this dish was much enjoyed. Totally recommend it.

braised venison stir fried with ginger and shallots

braised venison stir fried with ginger and shallots

Now let’s come to the customer service part. Never has a restaurant disappointed me so much in terms of its service. One of the first things I noticed on entering the Shark Fin House was the innumerable awards that the restaurant has won over the years.

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But the service was so disappointing. Like I already mentioned before, the waitress had a huge language issue which really made it difficult placing the order. This is supposed to be a high end restaurant where diners pay big bucks so isn’t it a mandatory thing that the staff must be able to converse well and also help out the diners in the best way possible.

There were only chopsticks placed on the table along with the rest of the dinnerware. Now this is totally fine by us but there were others in our group who were not adept with chopsticks and required cutlery. So when we requested one of the staff to provide us with cutlery, he laughed with a smirk and said that he knew we were going to ask for it. How rude!

In between the meal, we requested the waitress for a single portion of steamed rice but she bought over many bowls of rice; she also bought the wrong orders to the table on two counts which had to be returned. There was a sense of hurriedness and confusion throughout the meal.

And the final straw – a wrong bill! We were billed for dishes that we hadn’t ordered, the dishes that were wrongfully bought to our table. The numbers were wrong and if we hadn’t checked it thoroughly, would have ended up paying a huge amount. Then the hassle of having to explain, counter check etc…..by the end of all of it, we just wanted to get out of that place.

I don’t think I will ever be returning to the Shark fin house again; they can serve the most delicious food but if they are not willing to care for me as a customer, then it’s a big no for me.

My rating: Food – 7/10; Customer service – 3/10

Shark Fin House

131, Little Bourke Street
Melbourne CBD
Victoria 3000

Website – http://www.sharkfin.com.au/
Phone no. – (03) 9663 1555

Working hours:

Mon – Fri: 11.30am – 3.00pm, 5.30pm – 11.00pm
Sat – Sun: 11.00am – 3.00pm, 5.30pm – 11.00pm

Shark Fin House on Urbanspoon

Disclaimer – You would have figured by now that this is not a sponsored review.

Meen Peera (Sardines with Grated coconut, green chillies and black kokum)

While speaking to my son the other day, the topic of traditions came up for discussion. He wanted to know why I did something in a particular way and I replied, that’s the tradition.

This got me thinking about the importance of tradition in our lives…the good and bad!

I am not a stickler for tradition. Having spent my childhood away from India, I have seen and experienced the pros and cons of this. My parents instilled a balanced sense of Indianism in me and my siblings; enough to be proud of our roots yet flexible enough to adapt to the society we lived in.

I didn’t grow up thinking India is a poor nation or filled with slums and dirt. I grew up on the stories of patriotic heroism, the power of democracy, the diversity, the colours, the beauty and food!

They also tried to instill a balanced approach to traditions in our lives. There would always be things that would be done, said or practised according to our culture and traditions yet there would also be room for plenty of flexibility. I know, for certain, that this was and is a constant struggle for them especially when they both had different views to life.

This upbringing has definitely helped me become a better parent. Bringing up my son today on foreign shores, I am constantly looking at ways to instill my traditions and culture in him yet provide him enough space and flexibility for growth in this beautiful country. I am constantly trying to teach him how to pick out the best of both worlds to help him evolve into a better human being.

And to all my friends who either consider it beneath themselves to be called Indians (the minute they land on foreign shores) or those who choke their children with their superstitious ideas of culture and traditions, I just have one thing to say as far as culture and traditions go – give your children roots so that they can build their wings!

And staying on the topic of tradition, Meen Peera (sardines with grated coconut, green chillies and black kokum) is a famous traditional dish of Kerala, especially in the Kottayam district and along the backwaters. Usually prepared with sardines (mathi) or anchovies (nethili), this fish preparation is a true example of using locally available ingredients like coconut and kudampuli (black kokum).

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Black kokum is a souring agent that is used almost exclusively in Kerala, and that too only in some parts of the state. Its sibling, the red kokum, is much more famous and is used extensively in the Goan cuisine as well as in parts of Maharashtra.

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This dish is very local in nature and is almost never cooked in other parts of Kerala. I really wonder why…..

For me, I grew up on it and was a staple in my household; a culinary tradition passed on from my dad’s side.

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The Meen Peera (sardines with grated coconut, green chillies and black kokum) is a flavour explosion on your taste buds – succulent pieces of sardines coated with the tangy, tartness from black kokum, the fiery hit from green chillies cooled off by the refreshing crunch of grated coconut.

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This dish is a part of the Supreme Seafood project, so you can find the recipe here.

The F-Word by Mita Kapur – a Review

One of the best cookbooks I have read so far……

I don’t claim to have a great knowledge of cookbooks nor do I have a library full of them. But I have read quite a few of these to arrive at the above conclusion.

The F-Word by Mita Kapur is a food lover’s dream come true, especially more if you love to read. It is a treasure house of recipes, each one better than the other and I have cooked a lot from this book by now.

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Mita Kapur is a freelance journalist and a well known member of the Indian literary scene. Also the founder of Siyahi, an organization responsible behind many literary festivals both in the country and abroad. Mita’s unique way with words is perfectly captured in this book which beautifully showcases her relationship with food and its importance in an Indian household.

If you are an Indian or understand the workings of a large, joint Indian family, you will enjoy this book more because the book unfolds as a story of Mita’s and her family’s everyday life, the food they cook and eat, the experiences they enjoy etc….By the end of the book, you would have formed a personal connection with each member of her family, it’s as if you have always known them.

With plenty of humorous anecdotes and witty comments, Mita brings out her family’s love and craze for food. The book is a joy to read, often bringing a smile to your lips and sometimes, making you burst out into laughter. A very good exercise!

The recipes are from around the globe, so this book is a keeper for everyone. Unlike most cookbooks, there aren’t any fancy pictures or glossy photographs. Instead, there are plenty of illustrations and doodles by Prabha Mallya which adds a shine to the book. Very refreshing!

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The book, from beginning to end, is a riot; a chaotic celebration of food at its finest. There is a recipe for everyone in this book, from traditional Indian ones to fusion to global cuisines; food is celebrated with pomp and gaiety in The F-Word.

Divided into nine chapters, with interesting titles like ‘Papad, Peanuts or Pepperoni’ and ‘Steaming Hot and Subtly Flavoured’ to name a few, this cookbook is sheer culinary delight and a food lover’s dream come true. While the chapters do have a central theme, there are plenty of cross over recipes to keep the story interesting.

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One of the recipes that I have tried from this book is the Malai Kebabs. And I cannot stop gushing about it. Thoroughly enjoyed by my family and a great conversation starter at any party at home, this recipe is now part of my blog also. Find my version, here.

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Well, I could go on and on about this book but then that would spoil your experience of discovering it for yourself. So head to your nearest book store or get one online. Like I mentioned before, this one’s a keeper.

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Kerala style Grilled LeatherJacket in Banana Leaf

It’s a cold, wet day in Melbourne today and it makes me super lazy. And it’s Thursday already, which makes me even lazier with the comforting thought of the approaching weekend.

But there’s a mountain of work that I need to wade through before the end of the day and writing this post is one of them.

In my last seafood post, I did mention this wonderful and delicious project that I have currently undertaken for a seafood company. I also did mention that you are going to see a lot of seafood dishes for the same reason. Now, I am not complaining because I love seafood and thoroughly enjoy cooking and devouring it.

The recipes are mostly going to be based on Indian cuisine but I am aiming at a good, mixed variety showcasing the vastness of Indian food and the sheer variety we have in our country. So do pour in suggestions if there’s anything in particular that you would like to see or if you have any family favourites that I must try out.

Meen Pollichathu or Fish smoked in banana leaf, is a traditional delicacy of Kerala and one of the most popular dishes in and around the Backwaters of Kerala.

Today, this famous dish gets a makeover; one that is more refreshing, low on spices and calories.

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And very untraditionally, I have used the leatherjacket to prepare today’s dish. This fish gets its name from the slight thicker and leathery skin; but with delicious flesh beneath. Being a robust fish, it can take on layers of flavour which makes it apt for this dish. Leatherjacket is best grilled or pan fried with spices and aromatics. To use in curries, remove skin and use the fillets.

You could use any kind of fish for this preparation, especially ones with firm, white flesh.

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The leatherjacket is first marinated with spices and shallow fried. It is then grilled inside a banana leaf with onions, tomatoes, freshly grated coconut and shallots. If you do not have an oven, then you can use a pan grill or an ordinary non-stick pan; just remember to smear a few drops of oil to avoid the leaves from sticking. And remember to grill it on low heat, to let the flavours seep through the fish.

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So here’s Kerala style grilled leatherjacket in banana leaf; and for the recipe, you need to visit this site.

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Enjoy!

Watermelon Curry

What is a curry?

The age old question that has been debated much and beyond with no hope of an answer in sight!

Well, I do not wish to get into the origin of this word; Google and Wikipedia does a good job of that. Neither do I wish to get into what the world defines a curry.

For the average Indian, a curry refers to any dish that is in the form of flavourful gravy. When we cannot find a traditional name to the dish, we end up calling it a curry anyway.

So is the case with this watermelon curry.

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It does not fit in with the global definition of a curry but for an Indian, this would classify just perfect.
Watermelon curry?? I am sure that’s the thought running through your head right now if you haven’t heard of this dish before. It was the same apprehensive feeling I had when I first came across this dish in saveur.com

I knew this curry was going to be an awesome one while scrolling down the list of ingredients but still somewhere in my head was the nagging thought, ‘will it be too sweet’?

Apparently, the watermelon curry is a famous dish in Rajasthan and is enjoyed with both phulkas (Indian wheat flat bread) and rice. I had it both ways and enjoyed it just the same.

Yes, there is sweetness from the watermelon but then there is a whole lot of flavour from the spices that penetrate deep into the melon pieces to give us a delicious, refreshing and light dish.

This is a curry that can be a perfect example to the fact that spices do not mean heat but flavour. The cumin, carom seeds, nigella seeds and dried chillies release all its flavour into the oil and cuts into the sweetness of the melon pieces. The soft rind of the watermelon adds just the right amount of bite and texture to an otherwise soft dish.

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Believe me, this is a dish you will enjoy so make sure to give it a try.

Watermelon curry – sweet juicy chunks of watermelon in a flavourful gravy of spices and aromatics.

Ingredients:

1. 1 kg seedless watermelon with rind
2. 2 tbsp vegetable oil
3. ½ tsp ajwain/carom seeds
4. ½ tsp cumin seeds
5. ½ tsp nigella seeds (black onion seeds)
6. 3 dried red chillies, broken into small pieces
7. 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
8. salt, to season
9. ¼ tsp turmeric powder
10. 2 tsp fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped

Method:

1. Cut the outer dark green layer of the watermelon rind keeping the inner whitish-green rind intact. Remove the red flesh of the watermelon from the whitish rind; dice both separately and keep aside.
2. Heat oil in a pan and add the whole spices; ajwain, cumin, nigella and dry red chillies. When fragrant, add the garlic and sauté on medium heat for about 30 seconds.
3. Add the watermelon rind pieces and turmeric powder, mix well and season with salt. Cover and look for about 6-7 minutes till the rind has browned and softened. Do not add any water.
4. In the meantime, blitz half the watermelon flesh pieces and keep aside.
5. After 7 minutes, add the blitzed watermelon pulp and ½ cup water; mix to combine and cook covered till the rind has become tender.
6. Then add the remaining flesh pieces and cook on high for 3-4 minutes.
7. Garnish with chopped coriander leaves and serve warm.

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Ambarsari Fish Masala

Today, my little one turns 6.

Flash back 6 years ago to the moment I became a mother, the very first time I laid my eyes on him. Love at first sight!

Being a mother is an experience beyond words and I know every single woman who has mothered a child will agree to it. As someone rightly put it, it’s a decision to let your heart walk outside your body forever.

Adi is the most beautiful child; sensitive, caring, friendly…..he is a beautiful human being. And all I ask my Lord for him today is to enable him always to be the amazing person he is, never to lose his kindness, stay humble in this greedy world, never be too busy for his friends and always have time to appreciate the wonders of Nature.

Happy Birthday, my precious little one.

This is a picture of Adi, when he was a few days old. Always been a deep thinker!

This is a picture of Adi, when he was a few days old. Always been a deep thinker!

Adi loves seafood and today’s dish, Ambarsari fish masala, has become one of our family favourites.

This delicacy comes from the beautiful city of Amritsar in Punjab. Bold in flavours and resplendent with spices, the Ambarsari fish masala is rich and indulgent.

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While frying the fish in ghee might sound like a bit of calorific indulgence, it really helps to add a complexity of flavour that frying in oil cannot provide. But go ahead and use oil if you wish to do so for health reasons. Another critical point is the use of mustard oil to prepare the gravy; again vegetable oil will not do the job as mustard oil provides a nutty smokiness which adds to the multilayered flavours of this dish.

Ambarsari fish masala pairs deliciously with steamed rice and dal or with laccha parathas; the former combination is our favourite.

Seer fish is a good choice for this preparation but you can also use halibut, snapper, cod or tilapia.

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Remember I mentioned a couple of blog posts back that I am onto an exciting project. Well, I have joined hands with an extremely popular seafood company, Supreme Seafood, in Chennai, India to develop recipes for their website.
The Ambarsari fish masala is a part of that project so head over to their Facebook page for the recipe.

Enjoy!

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Recipe Courtesy – Jaspreet Nirula

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