When I have a new book out, I’m excited to hold it in my hand. My newest book, For the Love of Parvati, is no exception. I stare at the gorgeous cover (and my publisher does beautiful covers for my series), and then I start worrying about promotion. This is a big job, and I do the usual—guest posts on blogs, library events, bookstore signings, online promotion. But this year, for my new book, I wanted to do something different. I decided to do simple giveaways, and I settled on recipe cards. But I got a surprise when I started looking for mentions of food in the earlier Anita Ray books.
Have you ever reread something you wrote and been surprised by what you found there? I have. I reread Under the Eye of Kali, the first Anita Ray mystery, to find any foods I’d mentioned, so I could pick one for a recipe. I mentioned meals on eighteen pages, and not just one meal. Some of the references read like a menu from an Indian restaurant. I had no idea I was so into food. Or rather, that Anita was so into food. That character seems to have done nothing but eat.
When we lived in India, our maidservant, Lakshmee, made very traditional meals. She never used a cookbook, borrowed recipes for new dishes from friends, and tried to make anything different that I asked for. When I asked her for recipes, she described what she was doing, and I wrote it down. My notes are laughable. Here is one example of Lakshmee’s instructions.
Coconut Chutney: Coconut, chili, salt, onion, and grind. Raisins and a little ginger.
Whenever I asked her how much of this or that ingredient, she held up her hands and positioned her fingers and said, This much. But she did make wonderful coconut chutney.
Here’s the recipe for Kiccari.
Boil cut cucumber. Grind coconut. Add ciraka and little garlic (cumin and garlic) and grind. Boil with cucumber. Mix.
Lakshmee spoke very little English and had trouble remembering the difference between sauté and boil. She sometimes couldn’t spell, and used alternate spellings for spices (ciiraka and jiiraka for cumin).
Despite all these setbacks I’ve come up with three recipes so far that I hope to put on postcards to give away to people at events. I will probably use bookmarks with book covers also, but the recipes are more fun to work with. Look for recipes for Curried Potatoes, Curried Chicken, and Cabbage Thoren.
And if you can’t wait to find postcards at a signing, here’s my version of Lakshmee’s recipe for Curried Potatoes. And it comes with many thanks to David Scott Allen, who knows far more about cooking than I do, and helped me work out the recipe. www.cocoaandlavender.com
1 Tbsp oil
1 Tbsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp ground cardamom
1 Tbsp butter
1 inch fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 onion, diced
3 large Yukon gold potatoes, cut in half and boiled until almost soft
½ cup water
Heat oil and cook mustard seeds. When they pop, immediately add spices and cook for 3 to 5 minutes. Push to the side of skillet (do not remove). Melt the butter and sauté chopped ginger and onion. When the onion is translucent and ready to brown, mix with spices and continue to sauté. Cut par-cooked potatoes into small chunks and add them to the skillet; mix well. Add ½ cup water and continue to cook, simmering until most of the water is reduced.
Serves 4 as a side dish.