With the gazillion cookbook’s I own, it would be a shame to let them collect dust. I do pick up my favorites and rummage through the pages greedily for some ‘flashbulb’ recipes, but the rest of them are read once and relegated to the back shelf. Samar’s book runs the ambiguous path of a cross between ramblings of one’s life and recipes that relate to that phase, scribbled onto pages of a scrummy diary. As he states in the preface to the book – he is a glutton. And if he needed to feed his rambunctious appetite without upsetting the balance at home (his wife is a vegetarian), he had to learn how to cook. Years of living away from home, coupled with hosting innumerable impromptu parties has given him the ammunition to be creative with his cooking techniques. The book is a result of him documenting his attempts to create palatable meals through a blog in the Hindustan Times and a column in the Mint.
Judging a book by its cover: Well, it’s a paperback with Samar’s face taking up the majority real estate and a quizzical fish looking up at him. Illustrations by Farzana Cooper really bring the stories that accompany the recipes to life. There are about five pages of colored photographs of some popular dishes and another set of photographs of Samar’s travels and his experiences in foreign shores. The recipes are neatly laid out, one per page and written in a conversational style.
Finding Fanny: Recipes are organized by the theme of the stories and don’t really follow a set pattern. You will find an index of the 85 recipes by a broad ingredient set at the back, but the names are so goofy that you will need to refer back to the original recipe to see what exactly it is. He’s liberally peppered the book with numbers of everyone from his Fish Monger to his Spice Seller.
Tried and Tested: His all-time favorite Goan Fish Curry is a breeze to make and actually tastes great for such a simple recipe list. The Curry Leaf Kingfish is a pimped up version of the regular masala fried fish and I urge you to give it a try. The Old Monk Pork Chops are great for keeping a group of grown men occupied at a BBQ party and the Hot Afternoon Couscous can definitively liven up the table.
Bookmarking for another day: Just the thought of this is making my mouth water – Steamed Eggs with Mint and Kebabs. Fish Bhoozana, a recipe of marinated fish tossed with coconut and lime is a family recipe and anything that’s pulled from the annuls of time always gets my goat. Finally, the Hunkar Begendi – a meat and aubergine entree inspired by Turkey has me very intrigued.
Final Flourish – 2.75 out of 5: A book that makes for great reading on a lazy afternoon with Samar’s humorous banter and anecdotes clearly one upping the actual recipes. (Most of the recipes need a lot of creative tweaking before you can say ‘aahah’!). Also, don’t let the title fool you – it’s not a bible for married men trying to whip up easy meals to impress their families and friends. It definitely leans towards being friendlier to the non-vegetarians. I would buy the book however, just to get his tips on how to throw a party for 15 people without being fazed. Especially if that party was tonight.