Monday, January 9, 2012

Gujarati Kitchen - A book review

I love skimming and reading cookbooks the way as some people love to skim and read magazines. Recently, I got an opportunity to review a cookbook on and I immediately expressed my interest. Here are my thoughts about ‘Gujarati Kitchen’ authored by Bhanu Hajratwala. Gujarati cuisine being very close to my heart, I enjoyed reading through this cookbook.

Gujarati cuisine has been appropriately termed as ‘The haute cuisine of vegetarianism’ by the famous cookbook writer ‘Madhur Jaffrey’ in ‘Flavours of India’, which is one of the popular Indian food television shows.  I feel that Gujarati cuisine offers distinctive flavors and a lot of variety in terms of recipes.  In addition to the main meal, the ‘Farsans’ served along side compliment the main meal beautifully. Being a vegetarian, I am also a huge fan of Gujarati recipes and when this book ‘Gujarati Kitchen’ by Bhanu Hajratwala came to my hands, I couldn’t keep it down without reading it in one go. Here are my observations..

About the author :
As given in the book, Bhanu Hajratwala, a cook par-excellence, is fondly called the ‘Martha Stewart’ of Gujarati cooking by her friends and family. The author was raised in a traditional Gujarati family in the Fiji Islands where she developed her initial taste for authentic homemade Gujarati dishes. When she moved to the United States after marriage, she learned to improvise and maintain authentic flavors despite the limited availability of ingredients. Since then, she has compiled several cookbooks for community organizations, recipes for worship during ceremonies and has also conducted cooking demonstrations and classes throughout the US, New Zealand, Fiji, India and Australia

About the book :
Apart from Tarla Dalal’s cookbook, I haven’t come across any cookbook which gives you an assortment of recipes of delectable dishes that Gujarati food lovers would relish. This book by Bhanu Hajratwala is an attempt to document classic Gujarati recipes starting with the basic pickles, rice varieties and rice accompaniments to the more complicated and difficult recipes like the Undhiyu, Mohanthaal etc. In a traditional Gujarati meal, there is no differentiation such as starters, main-course, desserts etc. Everything is served at once in a thali (big plate), like Shrikhand is served with Puri, Kachori or dhokla is served along with main course, and so on. However, you will notice that the author has skillfully bifurcated the Gujarati thali into various courses for easy reference. 

Apart from including detailed recipes for meals, the author has included recipes for quick snacks, tea-time snacks, drinks and after-dinner mouth freshners (popularly known as ‘Mukhwaas’ in Gujarati).

The author has also ensured that she provides the names of each ingredient in English. This makes it easier for non-gujaratis to understand the ingredients and the recipe accurately. 

Each mouth-watering recipe has been presented in an elegant and easy-to-understand manner. This makes the it easy for the readers to follow the recipe. Also, the various easy-to-make spice blends given in this book can be used in multiple recipes. This book also provides comprehensive information on spices and seasonings, kitchen equipment, authentic preparation techniques and suggested menus.  

Some notable recipes :

There are approximately 80 plus recipes included in this book. Majority of the sections contain photographs. Some of the notable recipes include traditional recipes like Kachori, Dudhina Muthia, Khandvi, Methina Gotta, Dal-Dhokli, Undhiyu etc. It also includes basic recipes like Phulka, Puri, Khichdi etc. which are made on daily basis in Gujarati homes. Apart from that it also has recipe of Masala Chai, without which it is impossible for any Gujarati family to start its day.

To my surprise, there are also non-vegetarian Gujarati dishes included in this book. I was totally unaware that Gujarati cuisine includes non-vegetarian dishes also. I will not be in position to comment on the non-vegetarian section due to my limited knowledge. However, the author has included non-vegetarian dishes like Kheema Fataka, Marghanu Shaak etc.

Some more expectations:

Gujarati thali is the most popular thali in Indian cuisine. In my view, some more sample menus from Gujarati thali could have been included in this book. 

Also, the author could have included sections like Farali menu (Moryo, Sabudana khichdi), Gujarati street food menu (Dabeli, Surti Locho) etc. 

As Gujarati cuisine has a rich  variety of recipes, I expect the author to come out with second part of this book and feature more traditional Gujarati recipes like Ubadiyu, Lilva, Kachariyu, Khichu, Adadiyu, Dakor Gota, Methi na Khakra, Handvo, Sambhariya, Lachko,  Vagharela Bhaat, Surti Ghari, Sev tameta nu shaak, Osaman,  Ringan no ollo,  Theplas etc.  

Some  salient features of Gujarati Kitchen  :

  • Includes most of the traditional Gujarati recipes including popular and everyday recipes
  • Includes both vegetarian and non-vegetarian Gujarati recipes
  • Gives general tips like cooking time,  preparation time and washing instructions. These are easy to follow and especially goodfor beginners
  • Lists  down key ingredients and information pertaining to basic spices, herbs, seasoning, cooking oil etc. used in Gujarati food
  • Features information pertaining to various measurements (bifurcated into liquid and solid measures)
  • Provides an  easy to follow recipe of spice blends like Tea masala, Garam masala etc.
  • Recipes includes 6 vegetarian starters, 4 Non vegetarian starters, 14 vegetarian main-course, 11 non-vegetarian main-course, 7 Indian breads, 3 Rice items, 6 Accompaniments with rice,  12 sweets (Mithai), 7 Chutneys and relishes, 6 Pickles, 5 Tea-time snacks, 4 Drinks and 3 mouth-fresheners.
  • Photographs are featured in majority of the sections
  • Gives a sample Vegetarian and Non-vegetarian menu at the end
  • Total number of pages – 161
  • Bookprice in INR – Rs. 395

This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

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