Almost a decade ago, a small Indian Spices & Appliances store in our neighborhood closed down to make way for a new condo building. They had a clearout sale where I picked up a couple of interesting cookbooks before they closed up shop. Although they promised to return to the new building, I am sad to report that, alas, they have not. Instead we have a tennis specialty store and a “Blinds by Tomorrow”. Boy…am I thrilled. At least I’m left with a couple cookbooks and the memory of a great locally owned store that still makes me smile.
Summer Cookery, by Rohini Singh, was originally published in 1996 in India. It features everything from “refreshing coolers”, pulses and rice, to sections called “vegetable platter” and “preserving summer”. This is an omnivore’s cookbook, but is pretty overflowing with the vegetable options.
The preface is a chatty homage to summer cooking. At the end of the preface, Rohini Singh reveals that her six-year-old daughter was her “testing ground.” She says that “a callous, unmindful-of-consequences “Yuk” was often the final verdict when I presented her with one of my new dishes.” She continues, “Most of the recipes featured in this book have passed this stringent test” after some modification so they they would be worthy of a second-helping from her harshest critic. So, if the recipe made it to the cookbook it must be good.
There are several pages of photos and nice long introductions about summer cooking the precede each section.
Each recipe features a little snippet of advice or a description of the dish. My favorite was for poppy-seed potatoes: “Designed to dope you into a deep slumber in hot summer afternoons, these potatoes are a specialty from Bengal.” The author also provides some recipe variations and leftover suggestions as well as what utensils are required. If you stay away from the meat section, everything in the rest of the book is vegetarian.
Flipping through the cookbook you can easily see that a wide variety of ingredients are used. Most are easy to find while others you may have to find an Indian specialty store or use a substitute.
The fenugreek-flavoured potatoes are introduced by the following, “These really get made in a jiffy and are perfect when last-minute guests drop in or for that matter, for any hot day when being too long in the kitchen is a bother.” That pretty much sums up this dish. On the next go round I might spice it up a bit with some red pepper to create more of a bite. Although it says “if you like”, add that lemon juice at the end. It adds a nice punch to these potatoes. And, finally, I halved this recipe and it still made a lot with plenty of leftovers.
6 largish potatoes, peeled, boiled, and cubed
2 tomatoes, chopped
2-3 tablespoons cooking oil
1/2 teaspoon cumin seeds
1/2 teaspoon turmeric powder
2 teaspoons dried fenugreek
juice of 1/2 lemon
salt to taste
Utensil: a heavy-bottomed pan or karhai with a lid
1. Heat the oil. Add the cumin seeds. Don’t let them turn too dark.
2. Add the turmeric, fenugreek and salt. Fry from a few seconds.
3. Add the tomatoes and fry till the fat separates.
4. Add the potatoes, stir well, cover and keep on the fire for 7-10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
5. Sharpen with the lemon juice if you like, before serving.