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MUMBAI: If you are a vegetarian, chances are you’ve been at the receiving end of that well-meaning-but-all-too-annoying-puppy-faced-pitying look from friends at restaurants. Former dna food writer, Sonal Ved knew that irksome feeling all too well. But thanks to her Gujarati genes, the 29-year-old’s love for all things food and a knack for combining a handful of ingredients into wholesome, fuss-free treats has resulted in the cookbook Gujju Goes Gourmet. Published as a mobile book by Juggernaut, the collection of recipes not only celebrates local produce, but also combines them with international ingredients for a drool-worthy epicurean fare. Excerpts from an interview with Ved.
Does Gujju Goes Gourmet have any ‘utterly Gujju’ recipe in terms of ingredients or an equivalent of the mish-mash assemblage that the community is so infamous for?
No, it has only clean, hip and healthy recipes that maybe international in their origin, but are made with mostly local ingredients. There are no fusion recipes such as dhokla pizza or panki ravioli. No way!
What makes this compilation of recipes distinct from the plethora of cookbooks already on stands?
A lot of local vegetarian cookbooks play safe with tried and tested recipes. International cookbooks, though experimental, work with a lot of ingredients that aren’t easily available in India. So there was a need for something aspirational, yet not too outlandish. Gujju Goes Gourmet is just that. I’ve put together a lot of flavours that wouldn’t ordinarily be paired — beetroot and strawberries, peanut butter and celery, avocado and orange juice. The idea is to keep the fare exciting, but not too daring.
What is your favourite Gujarati dish?
Vaal nu shaak – butter beans in sautéed onion and tomato gravy. Since vaal has a bitter aftertaste, we add a pinch of sugar and lemon juice to the gravy to balance the flavours.
One dish that you’d like to cook just as well as your mom does?
All kinds of Gujarati mithais, especially gol papdi. Hers has a perfect crunch, sweetness and a refreshing edge coming from crushed fennel seeds.
What are your three staple kitchen ingredients?
Garlic, extra virgin olive oil and black pepper.
What are the three most under-rated ingredients (traditionally Indian/global imports) you are fond of?
Barley, kalongi and amba haldi.
If you had to make one dish for PM Narendra Modi, what would it be?
Chai. Apparently the best conversations with Modi are had over a cup of tea.
What is your happiest ‘food memory’?
During summer vacations, my building friends would gather to make what we called, ‘Marie biscuit cake’. Each friend would get one ingredient. We would powder the biscuit, add milk and cocoa powder before layering the goop into a tin, decorating it with gems and eating it together. It was rather yuck, but very satisfying nevertheless since we’d made it from scratch.
Extract from Gujju Goes Gourmet
Zucchini ‘Pappardelle’ with Avocado Mash
First came the vegans, then the paleo folks, then the very au courant pegans. This dietary style brings together the best of vegan and paleo diets. Most pegan recipes are 75 per cent vegetables and 25 per cent good fat. Now I’m no math lover, but creating this recipe took a whole lot of calculations. I made it for my father, who went pegan for a week – an experiment that made everyone else also want to convert.
2 green zucchinis
2 tbsp avocado oil
1 cup avocado (chopped)
1 fat pinch mint leaves
1 tsp lemon juice
½ cup macadamia nuts (skinned)
Method:· Chop the ends of the zucchini and slice them lengthwise into long and thick pappardelle-like sheets using a kitchen peeler.
· In a pan, heat 1 tbsp avocado oil and sauté the zucchini in it. Stir for 30 seconds and transfer to a serving plate.
· In a blender, blitz the avocado, leftover oil, mint leaves, lemon juice and macadamia nuts. Season and toss with the ‘pappardelle’. Serve immediately.
Tip: Zucchini pappardelle works fabulously with any other pasta sauce as well, especially basil pesto.
Sour Apple and Celery Soup with Herby Mousse
This soup is an attention seeker. Make it for a crowd and watch as the conversation turns to what’s gone into it. Its sweet-sour notes, dairy-rich texture and odd green colour make it a people pleaser. As if adding Granny Smith apples wasn’t daring enough, I drop in blobs of herby cheese mousse to create a wave of complex flavours.
Ingredients for soup
1 tbsp butter
2 tbsp onion (finely chopped)
½ cup celery root (finely chopped)
½ cup Granny Smith apples (finely sliced)
½ cup vegetable stock
3 tbsp whipped cream
3 tbsp cream cheese
1 tsp chives (finely chopped)
1 tsp flat-leaf parsley (finely chopped)
1 tsp tarragon (finely chopped)
2 tsp olive oil
· In a pan, heat butter and sauté onions in it.
· Add celery root and apple slices and cook until they soften.
· Add vegetable stock and continue to cook for 15 minutes on a slow flame.
· Remove from fire, season and allow the broth to cool.
· In a blender, blitz the soup and strain and discard the molasses.
· Transfer the strained mixture back into a soup pot and heat slightly.
· In a bowl, mix all the ingredients for the herby mousse. Whisk with a hand-beater to get a thick spread. Drop a spoonful of this mousse into the soup before serving.
Tip: You can add a spoon of softened blue cheese into the herby mousse mixture. Use any leftover mousse to top a baguette for a quick snack.