The Three Sisters Indian Cookbook

The Three Sisters Indian Cookbook

The Three Sisters Indian Cookbook

The Three Sisters Indian Cookbook was an event at the Electric Theatre in Guildford, one of the last events of the Guildford Book Festival. It clashed with the Anarchist Bookfair in London, to which I would have liked to have gone, especially as John Pilger was speaking, but I had seen The Three Sisters Indian Cookbook, liked the look, and thought signed copies would make excellent Christmas presents. The previous evening I had been at an Amnesty International event with John Kampfner talking about his book Freedom for Sale.

On my way to Guildford I learnt from Mike Dawes and Amy Turk they were at Guildford Oxjam. I would have liked to have seen them but that is another story.

I arrived at the Electric Theatre around midday which was quite handy as I met Jenny Lord, author of Purls of Wisdom, a knitting book. She signed a copy for me. Whether it is any good, I am in no position to judge, but some of the ladies present assured me it was. They also made the point that no men were present at her talk!

The Three Sisters Indian Cookbook was very poorly attended, maybe three rows in the theatre, which was a pity as the three sisters were very good. The format I do not like, TV chat show host style interviews author. If an author knows their stuff, and if not why are they there, they are more than capable of talking about their book, but it worked this time.

The three sisters were born in Kashmir. Their father left to study for a PhD in England when they were very young, then their mother left to join their father, leaving them in the care of their grandmother. Eventually the girls were sent for and went to join their parents in England. For them it was a culture shock. The last time they had seen their mother she was in a sari, now she was in heels and a miniskirt! Their father they did not recognise at all and had to be reassured that it was indeed their father!

From a very early age, the three sisters cooked, learning from their mother and grandmother. When they arrived in England, their mother expected the girls to prepare the meals. They were also encouraged to cook, their parents often arranging cooking competitions between the three sisters.

The Three Sisters Indian Cookbook came out of a wish to record their mother’s recipes. A little of this and that was not good enough, they needed precise measurements. It was a collaborative effort, the three girls, mother and father. The intended readership was themselves, family and friends. It was a self-published book, sold to those who were interested, hawked around food fairs.

It was at one of these food fairs, that Simon and Schuster took an interest. They liked the concept and wished to publish the book. Thus out of what was intended as a project to record family dishes has evolved The Three Sisters Indian Cookbook (Simon and Schuster, 2010).

Now scattered across three continents, the project has also given the sisters an excuse to meet up. Now even more important as tragically the nineteen-year-old son of one of the sisters was murdered.

We do not refer to European cooking, thus it is meaningless to refer to Indian cooking. The Three Sisters Indian Cookbook is Kashmir cooking. Apart from the big cities that cater for foreigners, Indians do not eat in restaurants, they eat at home or at the roadside. The Three Sisters Indian Cookbook is a book of Kashmir home cooking, the cooking Priya, Sereena and Alexa Kaul grew up with. They are hoping this will be the first of series and they are going to look at the food of other parts of India.

Essential to any Indian cook is her spice box, masala dabba. So important is the spice box that the three sisters have created a spice box to accompany their book with thirteen essential spices. Expensive, but if you are serious about Indian cooking then you need it.

Indian food you should be able to taste the food. Spices are there to enhance the food, not to mask it.

Spices keep for about 18 months. The spice box should be kept in a cool dark place. If they still have a pleasant aroma, then they are usable. If the aroma has gone, then throw them away.

A very enjoyable event. My only regret that my lovely friend Sian was not there as she would have loved it too.

Top story in Gourmet Chef’s Daily (Monday 7 February 2011).

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2 Responses to “The Three Sisters Indian Cookbook”

  1. marie-christine Says:

    Dear Keith,
    “The Three Sisters Indian Cookbook” sounds deliciously inviting.
    What a good idea to put in writing your Mother’s recipes. You can raise funds that way for a Charity.
    I have had the opportunity of tasting Indian food, it is great and it takes a lot of time to prepare.
    I like the tip about the spices also, if the aroma has gone, dispose of them. Spices are very benificial to your health
    I noted also the “Purls of wisdom” the knitting book did not attract men. Obviously did not want to get into the knitteeng gritty of things.
    Thank you for sharing

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