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Ammu: TIMES BOOK OF THE YEAR 2022 Indian Homecooking to Nourish Your Soul

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With a minimum of peeling and chopping, and the judicious addition of spices, familiar vegetables become exciting food in Khan's book.

The La Martiniere and Loreto College alumni proudly mentions that her children wore sweaters knitted by her mother through primary school and how she even included a ball of wool for their cat, Bagha, to play with, in her parcels to her daughter. Complete with all the scrumptious dishes she grew up eating, Ammu features recipes ranging from simple Bhindi Sabji to the Bengali favourite Palong Shak Chingri.The recipes pay homage to her royal Mughlai ancestry and follow the route of the Darjeeling Express train from the busy streets of Bengal, through Calcutta, where she grew up, and along the foothills of the Himalayas to Hyderabad. Flipping through Asma’s Indian Kitchen is rather like sharing a cup of chai and a good old gupshup with the author herself – the conversation frequently food-focussed but meandering off into an anecdote about a much-loved family cook here, the tale of a dying tradition there, the odd history lesson thrown in for good measure.

I instantly fall in love with most of the recipes – there’s everything from chicken biryani to zarda, and while I don’t quite have time to try and test one ahead of our chat, I am buzzing with questions. Khan’s nostalgic description of the long nights of storytelling during the monsoon after eating khatteh ande (eggs in tamarind gravy) for dinner had me reaching for the eggs from my fridge. She started with easy dishes, like parathas and koftas (“I didn’t want to pick things I thought I may not be able to do”), and the recipes came easily because she was already so familiar with them. Celebrated Indian-origin chef Asma Khan used the COVID-19 lockdown to pen an ode to her Kolkata-based mother “Ammu”, her cooking and brave defiance of patriarchal stereotypes, and the result is a recipe book with a difference.She also instructs in the judicious preparation of chili peppers to please both the timid palate and the fire-eater. The connection was appreciated and after dinner, I was asked whether a link was available to Khan’s recipes.

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