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Now, hope for recipes

Charmaine O'Brien: the author of

Charmaine O'Brien: the author of "Recipes from an Urban Village, a cookbook from Basti Hazrat Nizamuddin."  

THE BOOK "Recipes from an Urban Village, a cookbook from Basti Hazrat Nizamuddin", comes just at the right time. As Diwali and Id approach, the kitchens of feasting and fasting people must be fragrant with delectable dishes from the cuisine of the famed Basti Hazrat Nizamuddin in New Delhi, a hub of age-old, never before penned, vegetarian and non-vegetarian festival food, desserts and snacks, now documented by Charmaine O'Brien, an Australian author, a trained chef and a coordinator of Emergency Catering for the Australian Red Cross (Victoria). Deputy High Commissioner, Australia, Michelle Marginson, launched her book at her residence in New Delhi this past week. Running into 148 pages, the book may not be one with glossy pictures accompanying each delicacy, as is the vogue these days, but it has all that a connoisseur or those with fleeting interest in cooking might relish. Some of the dishes in the book also come straight from the kitchen of Khawja Hazrat Nizamuddin, who would serve them to his guests seven hundred years ago.

So you have everything from paiy to pasande, from malai kofta to murgh mussallam, from kathal kabab to bread biryani, from chutneys to sweets, from legumes to breads, grains and rice.

The measurements are not overly specific, as the author says she learnt the recipes in the traditional manner. Thus, we have directions for two cups, one pinch, one bowl, a few drops and so on. The result is the delectable food that is a trademark of the typical old families and small hotels and dhabas in the basti.

The book is a product of the joint efforts of Charmaine and an NGO called Hope Project, a charitable trust, founded by a Sufi teacher Pir Vilayat Inayat Khan in 1975, son of Hazrat Inayat Khan, an accomplished musician and Sufi saint who spread Sufism in Europe. While researching on Indian cooking, Chairmaine got to know of Hope's cookbook project through a friend and volunteered to write it.

The recipes, says Charmaine, have been collected from the restaurants and residents of the basti, like Rukhsana, Lipi, Sabiha, Anwari, Chandbibi and others, while they were preparing them during the month of Ramzan. "These recipes were taken from as many as 50 women and restaurants of the area which I believe have not been penned so far. These are genuine Indian recipes, mostly from Muslim families and some from Christian and Hindu families living in the area."

For Charmaine, who has already penned a history of food in Delhi, "Flavours of Delhi: A food lover's guide" published by Penguin this year, her English language "was not much of a problem in interacting with local people of the basti," for some of them spoke English, and she had an interpreter too. But she assumes, "I could have got to know some stories related to these foods, if I knew their language."

Priced at Rs.295, the proceeds from the sales of the cookbook will go to Hope's different projects, such as cr�ches and health and educational centres.

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