Book Club Tuesday: Mumbai Modern

Processed with VSCO with f2 presetAs we ate this meal together, I was reminded of why we were really gathered here. The food, the laughter, and the tears were for my mother. She had just passed away. And this meal tasted as if my mum had made it. Tears flooded my eyes as a lifetime of memories, triggered by this food, rushed to my head and heart. Fourteen years ago, I had no way of knowing this was just the start of my food journey. (11)

Reading these words from the introduction to Amisha Dodhia Gurbani‘s Mumbai Modern: Vegetarian Recipes Inspired by Indian Roots and California Cuisine, it shows how deep the connection to food can be. It brings us together to nourish us and, food ties us to so many things — the crucial one being our memories. The most interesting cookbooks, in my mind, are the ones that share a story — the tangible things that link a recipe developer to their recipes. With so many recipes available to home cooks in this digital age, I want to know why the recipes matter. So, in the case of Gurbani, it was the recipes, techniques, and Gujarati food traditions that mattered and then inspired her to begin her blog, Jam Lab. And it was her blog that gave way to her new book, Mumbai Modern, which is full of recipes inspired by her mother and Gujarati heritage as well as the Mumbai street food she grew up with and the beautiful fresh California-grown produce she buys from the Bay-area farmers markets. Mumbai Modern is full of seasonal and joyful recipes to inspire home cooks.

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Cilantro Mint Chutney, p. 42

The recipes are organized into 7 chapters: 1) Pantry and Refrigerator Staples, 2) Breakfast, 3) Appetizers and Salads, 4) Mains, 5) Desserts, 6) Drinks, and 7) Accompaniments and Snacks. I found ingredients easy to source at my local supermarket or Indian grocer (if you live in the Halifax-area, then I highly recommend Dhaba Sweets and Spice Shoppe). What I noticed when cooking from Mumbai Modern is that Gurbani takes great care to provide home cooks with explicit and detailed instructions because providing the cook with a specific culinary experience is important to Gurbani. While I haven’t tried her recipe for Chocolate Cardamom Pastry Cream, Halvah, and Pistachio Danishes, I saw how thorough her instructions for making laminated brioche dough are. Along with the pages of step-by-step instructions she also shows the process in photographs. Gurbani works to ensure the success and enjoyment of the home cook.

My favourite chapter of the book is the Breakfast chapter! My daughter and I made her recipe for Breakfast Naan Pizza, and it was delicious! Soft Garlic Naan topped with thinly sliced potato, red onion and bell pepper, spices, cheese, and eggs. The combinations of toppings are easily customizable, which is perfect for family cooking because everyone gets what they’d like. This recipe was also very quick to pull together, and I’ve found it makes a great lunchtime meal too. Another tasty recipe from this chapter is the one for Pudla (Chickpea Flour Crêpes) w/ Carrot and Purple Cabbage Salad, which is perfect for any meal. I’ve made it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner (and may have even snuck a leftover from the fridge as a snack). Chickpea flour has a lovely savory flavour and along with the turmeric, ginger, cilantro, and chili powder, these crepes taste great. I served them as Gurbani does, with ketchup or Mint Chutney.

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Pudla (Chickpea Flour Crêpes) w/ Carrot + Purple Cabbage Salad, p. 110

Along with the savory breakfast recipes I’ve tried, sweeter recipes such as the one for Dried Fig, Walnut, and Chocolate Chunk Granola, are delicious too. This recipe was inspired by and made for her dad. The orange zest in the granola really brings out all the other flavours and the light brown sugar and maple syrup lend a caramel-quality. Her recipe for Almond Cinnamon Waffles w/ Summer Berries is the recipe she makes for her own family on Sunday mornings. The batter contains a blend of AP flour as well as almond flour which gives these waffles a lovely crispness. Topped with whipped cream and fresh berries, these waffles feel like a treat to enjoy on the weekend.

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Almond Cinnamon Waffles w/ Summer Berries, p.88

It only took the first line of the recipe for Vegetable Frankie w/ Caramelized Leeks and Red Onion for me to want to make it: “Frankie is another street food that is mouthwatering delicious.”(235) In her head notes for the recipe, Gurbani goes on to give a quick history of the Frankie and how the place where she’d buy them as a child was within walking distance of the school, making Quality Frankie a perfect afterschool snack. Gurbani developed this recipe as a way for her own children to get a taste of a favourite dish she grew up with. Over the weekend, I made her Vegetable Frankie for my family. Patties are made from mashed potato, peas, and carrots which is seasoned with a special seasoning blend (Frankie Masala). Since I don’t have a pressure cooker, I found that peeling and chopping the potatoes first worked well and the vegetables were cooked and ready within 15 minutes. Once the patties are formed, they’re fried golden then put into a flour tortilla along with the caramelized leeks and red onion, some finely diced raw red onion, Mint Chutney, and cilantro. I served mine with some store-bought potato chips, but Gurbani also gives a recipe for homemade Masala Potato Chips that looks amazing!

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Vegetable Frankie w/ Caramelized Leeks and Red Onion, p. 235-237

When I baked the Chocolate Chip and Toasted Almond Cookies for a recent playdate my daughter had, the cookies were an enormous hit! Just the right texture — crisp around the edge but soft middle — and the combination of bittersweet chocolate chunks, semi-sweet chocolate chips and chopped toasted almonds is perfection. My husband even went as far to say that they’re “the best chocolate chip cookie” that he’s eaten!

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Chocolate Chip + Toasted Almond Cookies, p. 279

Amisha Gurbani has written a cookbook that is full of as much flavour as it is joy! Mumbai Modern is a great book if you’re looking to expand your vegetarian recipe repertoire. This is a personal book full of all the things Gurbani cherishes — Mumbai street food, Gujarati cuisine, and all the farm-fresh produce. What I appreciate about Mumbai Modern is how through the recipes and her stories, Gurbani makes the food matter to home cooks and shares such a wonderful culinary experience.

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Dried Fig, Walnut, and Chocolate Chunk Granola, p. 100

I would like to take this opportunity to thank Countryman Press for providing me with a free, review copy of this book. In addition, I would like to thank Amisha Gurbani as well as Countryman Press for sharing ingredients with me to use in the making of some of the recipes — spices from Spicewalla, almond flour from Bob’s Red Mill, chocolate from Valrhona USA, and Figlets from Valley Fig, along with jam from Gurbani’s Jam Lab. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.

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