Fresh India

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Meera Sodha’s ‘Fresh India’, published July 2016 by Penguin imprint Fig Tree has fast become my new favourite cookbook.

Living in the overseas student halls for a year while studying for my MA in Manchester, I grew used to the smells of my friend Amritha’s Keralan cooking, first thing every morning. She had a huge cupboard full of spices and several vast copper vessels I’d often find steaming away on the hob.

One day, in the middle of our final projects for the year, we went on a long walk in search of wild garlic, which we eventually found.  On our way back Amritha insisted we stop for some Dosa at a small restaurant of that name.  It was delicious.  How come I’d not seen this kind of Indian food before?

Meera Sodha writes that one of the things that led to her career as  a chef was this very absence of authentic Indian food in the UK.

So far I’ve made flat breads: parathas, and my favourite, cheesy cauliflower chilli rotis.  I’ve also made a mast biriyani, which I called “the biriyani monster.” Beetroot pachadi was also delicious, with its coconut sauce.  The kitchari/kedgeree makes for a lovely brunch.  Aubergine and pea masala, with its sweet and salty sauce has also become a staple. And I’ve made the roadside chai recipe several times now, each time allowing myself to dream that I’m a chai wallah 😉

The great thing is – apart from the affordability of most of the ingredients – that, with 130 recipes, I’ve nowhere near exhausted this book.  And there are many ways it can be used, thanks to the author’s helpful menus for eating seasonably, and for different kinds of cooking (ie. ‘dinner for two’ or ‘feast’).

I try to eat seasonably myself, and though we’re on the edge of spring, the cold hasn’t quite gone away.  I certainly feel it when I’m in my shed, working away at my wheel with a wet lump of clay.  What better dish to make, then, than Meera’s Gujarati Dal?  And what better way to test a new homemade bowl, than filling it with four mealsworth of bright yellow, spice infused lentils?  😄 It’s safe to say that both dal and bowl passed the test.

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