Given that her book is considered a Bible by foodies around the globe, she’s got fans from at least three generations if not more! Parsi cookbook author Jeroo Mehta has certainly made life easier. Her book “101 Parsi Recipes”, which first came out in 1973 was an instant success. In 2008, a revised edition was published by Popular Prakashan. Last year again, a new edition of the cookbook hit the stands.
“When the book was out in 1973, it was the first cookbook in India to have colour pictures. I refused to settle for black and white pictures because I didn’t want a delicacy like Dhansak to look like a mound of mud twirling in some lumpy dal,” she laughs, as she recalls.
Divulging that for the longest time she could smash an egg but couldn’t break one, the food connoisseur also reveals: “When I got married, I didn’t know how to cook. But once I started getting a hang of it with the help of my mother’s recipe book, my passion for cooking became intense so much so, that I penned three books. The main reason why I chose to do this was because I didn’t want any other bride to go through what I went through.”
Over the past hundred years, the Parsis have contributed some distinctive characteristics to the Indian way of life, their culinary art being one such example. Originating from the shores of the Caspian Sea, their food, with its myriad flavours, has over the years, absorbed exotic tastes from the kaleidoscope which makes up Indian cooking. They have also experimented with western flavours and introduced to their food a happy blend of East and West which makes it unique.
“You can say we’ve cheated a little to create the perfect blend in taste. Parsi food isn’t very spicy so our cuisine has a huge fan following in the West,” she says.
Ask her how India has contributed to the Parsi way of life and Jeroo Mehta replies: “India has become home to so many of us. You find Parsis everywhere and being the foodies that we are, we like anything delectably Indian.”
The author makes it a point to add that she’s a masala dosa aficionado.
The recipes in this book are traditional and include many of those that have been passed on to Jeroo Mehta by her mother. The writing style is simple and each step has been explained in detail. For those abroad, substitutes have been suggested for the ingredients that are not readily available there.
For the busy housewives in India, there are shortcuts listed with ready-made masalas and essences which are easily available in the markets.
“I would never know how much salt to add when I would read ‘add salt to taste’ in any recipe. So in my book, I’ve given exact measurements,” she chuckles. “Also the most common complaint against cookbooks is that the recipes often don’t turn out the way they appear in the pictures. But in this case, one can rest assured that a dish will turn out exactly as it appears in the book.”
Giving some insight into Parsi cooking, she informs: “Every dish we prepare has a different flavour to it but the two ingredients Parsis cannot do without are ginger-garlic paste and fried onions. All our meat dishes require this as a base.”
The joy she derives from cooking aside, Jeroo Mehta is happy that she’s been able to help many a household. “I even received a letter from a husband thanking me for my book which taught his wife how to cook,” she quips, as she concludes. The new edition of her book “Cooking For The Family” will be out in the near future.