For Goya's first Cookbook Club lunch, we chose a cookbook that is a culinary classic: Madhur Jaffrey’s Flavours of India - a book that should be part of every serious Indian cook's collection, not only for its extensive coverage of regional Indian cuisine, but also because it was Madhur Jaffrey who, in many ways, gave Indian cooking a global stage.
Madhur Jaffrey who moved to London to study drama and pursue a career in acting, found that she missed home-cooked food and asked her mother to send her recipes – she learnt to cook entirely through correspondence. Interestingly, Madhur Jaffrey almost never stepped into the kitchen prior to her time in London, and almost failed cooking at school. Her editor, Judith Jones, asserts that this is what made her an ideal cookbook writer – that she only learned to cook childhood comfort food as an adult.
To supplement her income as an actor (Shakespeare Wallah is a Goya favourite!), Madhur Jaffrey began writing about food. This accidental foray into food writing was a serendipitous one. She was discovered by legendary editor Judith Jones (credited with introducing the world to Julia Child), and published her first cookbook to phenomenal success. The rest is culinary history. Her TV shows have become staple in the study of Indian cuisine. So it was only fitting that we begin with a Madhur Jaffrey cookbook.
The Goya Cookbook Club was initiated to reaffirm the importance of cookbooks in the digital age. While yes, you could probably find every recipe ever written through a gentle Google prompt, cookbooks play a much deeper role in the preservation of a community's culinary culture, documenting that vital part of the human experience – how we eat.
The cookbook lunch was a potluck-picnic in Cubbon Park; everyone brought along a dish they cooked from the Flavours of India cookbook. The menu featured Goan style lamb chilli-fry, Chettinad pepper chicken, Punjabi chaanp masala (lamb chops), Kerala-style nadan khozi or country chicken curry, and Bengali malai prawn curry. We sipped on cold ginger-lemon squash and camped out on a blanket under the dappled shade of a bamboo grove. Among the sepia-toned fallen leaves of October, it felt very much like a Merchant-Ivory afternoon.