April 12, 2010

Italian Khana: A Review And Spaghetti With Peppers


Every Indian knows how much we love Chinese food (well, our version of it), but another cuisine that has come in from across the shores and become firmly entrenched in our hearts (I should say stomach) is Italian, with its pastas and pizza.
Even small restaurants with no pretensions to serving anything but Indian food will invariably have some “pizza” on their menu! It is an entirely different matter that no self respecting pizza would even look at this rather sad street version smothered in tomato ketchup topped with melty cheese!

It is probably to remedy this situation that Ritu Dalmia decided to write a book on authentic Italian food.
Ritu Dalmia, chef and restaurateur, owns and runs Delhi’s well known Italian restaurant – Diva. She also runs the café at the Italian Cultural Centre and Latitude at Good Earth. Even though she doesn’t have a culinary school background, her passion for food has made her an authority on Italian food and wines.

The word “khana” in Hindi means food, so Italian khana is nothing but Italian food. It’s also the name of Ritu Dalmia’s cookbook which features purely Italian recipes. The original cookbook was published in 2008, but a version of that book has been recently published as a set of 4 mini cookbooks.
The publishers, Random House India, sent me this series of 4 books along with their Biryani book.




These very affordable books are titled Pasta, Vegetarian, Dinner Party and Desserts and each book contains recipes specified by the title. All the recipes in each book also come with a Hindi translation.
Since the books in these series can be bought as individual copies and not necessarily as a set, it gives the person buying it the freedom to choose exactly what would suit her/ him.


Spaghetti/ Linguine With Peppers


The recipes are simple with quite short ingredient lists, well presented and quite easy to follow, though some of the techniques like “cooking al-dente” and “saucing the pasta” could have been better explained.
The recipes are for easily cooked food and perfect as an introduction to Italian cooking. Each recipe comes with a short introduction from the author with her sharing some information about it.
Ritu Dalmia also offers suggestions for variations on some recipes, as well as helpful tips on almost every page in her books.


Banana Semifreddo


On the negative side, I couldn’t understand why all the pictures in each of the books were bound together right in the middle. I would have preferred it if the pictures had been placed along with the respective recipes as this would have made a more visual impact on the cook.
While all the recipes in English have been printed with black text on a white background, the Hindi version of these recipes have been printed in white on green (or purple/ orange/ red depending on the book) backgrounds. This makes the English recipes easy to read while the Hindi recipes are more difficult to see!

I would also like to point out to the Ritu Dalmia or whoever it was that decided to add the Avocado Mousse to the “Vegetarian” book, that one of the ingredients for making the mousse is gelatin which is most definitely non-vegetarian!

Going through the books, a couple of things would have added to these books.
Since these books are meant to introduce Italian cooking, it would have been nice if the author would have included a small chapter at the beginning on the various types of Italian pasta and their shapes with small pictures/ thumbnails of each type.

The other thing that I felt would have been welcome was a list of alternative ingredients to substitute for some of those which are either expensive or difficult to source.

The author says that ingredients like Philadelphia cream cheese, ricotta or mascarpone, fresh mozzarella, double cream, ready-made filo pastry, zucchini, asparagus, etc are easily available in the shops. While this might be true in the bigger cities (metros), they can be quite expensive. I’m not sure these ingredients are even available in the smaller cities.
While I appreciate that substitution of ingredients means that the recipes are no longer authentic, that list would have been welcomed by home cooks eager to try some of the recipes.

If you are like me, cook without kitchen scales and use cups to measure ingredients when you have to, it will take you a little more time to convert all the weight measures into cups! I’m not sure how many Indians use kitchen scales to weigh their ingredients.


Bruschetta With Tomato And Basil


I did try some of the recipes from the books (one from each of the four books). I made the Bruschetta with Tomato and Basil (Vegetarian), Pesto (Dinner Party), Linguine with Peppers (Pasta) and Banana Semifreddo (dessert).
I have to say that all the dishes were easy to put together and absolutely delicious. Based on this, I would say these books are not at all a bad a buy if you wanted to try your hand at Italian cooking in your kitchen with minimal fuss.

Here is Ritu Dalmia’s recipe for Linguine with Peppers. I didn’t have linguine and used spaghetti instead. I also left out the breadcrumbs and the tomato sauce.



Ingredients:


200 gm linguine

100 gm fresh mozzarella

2 yellow and/ or red peppers

30 ml extra virgin olive oil

400 gm basic tomato sauce

250 gm fresh tomatoes, de-seeded and chopped

50 gm bread crumbs

a handful of fresh basil leaves

1 clove garlic, crushed

salt and pepper for seasoning



Method:


Roast the peppers in the oven or over the fire till they’re well cooked. Peel the skin, remove the seeds and cut the peppers into bit sized pieces.

In a small pan heat the oil and cook the garlic till brown. The idea is to infuse the oil the aroma of the garlic. Remove the garlic with a slotted spoon.

Add the chopped tomatoes and the basil leaves. Add the peppers and cook for another 7 to 8 minutes. While the sauce is cooking, boil the pasta in a lot of water and cook till al-dente. Drain.

Sauce the pasta and for every pasta recipe, add a little bit of the water in which the pasta was cooked.

Remove from the fire, add the mozzarella cubes and serve. Make sure the mozzarella is added after the pasta is off the fire. The idea is that it should melt slightly with the heat of the pasta.

This recipe serves 3 to 4.


23 comments:

jayasri said...

Wow, your clicks are really good, the sphagetti one is really looking yummy, yup, the dish is very simple,adding bread crumbs is new to me!! very Interesting books

R said...

Aparna, my first time here. u have a great space. especially love ur presentation, u have such gr8 pics!! ur daughter has picked put a really nice name for the blog :)) am adding u to my blogroll, would luv to be in touch.....

Julia @Mélanger said...

It's so interesting to read about different cuisines that become popular in other countries. I feel so lucky here that most things we can get hold of easily enough. But still, not everything. Though it sure is fun to experiment with something new!

arundati said...

yay!! one more pasta dish to try!! the pictures are fab

Indrani said...

wonderful review...your clicks are so tempting

Aps said...

Aparna each nd evry pic luks damn tempting :)

Raaga said...

Nice review and lovely pictures.

You get veg gelatin here (something that works like gelatin)... maybe when I do send you the egg replacer, I shall send you that too ;-)

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

That's a great review Aparna! Sounds like there are some great recipes in it. I know what you mean about the binding of photos in sections though-it's very user unfriendly!

Saswati said...

Aparna gr8 pics,nice review and thats so true about the non availability of ingredients in smaller cities!

Aparna said...

Thank you, R. Honoured to be on your blogroll.

Non-availablility of ingredients can be blessing sometimes, Julia. I become very inventive. :)

Really? I use agar usually in place of gelatin. Looking forward to that parcel, Raaga. ;-D

Usha said...

Detailed and interesting review Aparna! Lovely pictures, the bruschetta looks very inviting!

Manggy said...

I had no idea that Indians loved Chinese and Italian food so much! I knew we'd get along really well together (well,,,,,,, apart from the ketchup pizza!). The pasta looks great - very simple but with fresh flavors :)

Aparna said...

Oh we do, Mark especially if its all spicy! LOL
Though I'm with you on the ketchup issue.

Cham said...

Gosh the pasta dish is fantastic and colorful!

Aparna Vijay said...

Hi
First time to your blog. Lovely space and yummy recipes. Do visit my blog also whenever time permits.
Aparna Vijay
http://vegetarian-dishes.blogspot.com

anavar said...

Great review and thanks for another recipe I! It looks delicious and I must try it!

Deeba PAB said...

How wonderful that you got the books for review from Random House. They appear to be a nice set of books. I recently bought Ritu Dalmia's Italian Khana, but am yet to cook from it. Love the bruschetta! YUM!!

Raaga said...

Done... I shall send you the parcel this weekend!

Malini Satish said...

Since this is a cookbook review post I thought I will post my pov....here goes..I have stopped buying cookbooks simply because they have become redundant. I find it much much easier to find recipes online which tend to be from more authentic sources and tested by real people who might even suggest realistic substitutions. Cookbooks written by chefs need not be "written" by them, but put together by a publicist once a list of recipes has been submitted.

For example the brushetta recipe is dead simple and extremely common. I really don't need to by RD's book to know about it or to make it. Almost all of us have come across this appetizer which has become a staple in any quasi-western cuisine based restaurant in India. This book is a complete turn off for me for precisely this reason. It is equivalent to writing a cookbook about Indian food and the first recipe is to boil rice! It would have been fine if this book had come out 20 years ago but now it is a complete waste of resources.

Aparna, I applaud your fair review. I love the pictures you have posted which look more realistic than the sad ones on the book covers.

Kitchen Butterfly said...

Let it be said that if I ever have to do a cookbook review, I'm coming to you! Serious, reserve me a slot.....great commentary and that linguine is full of colours from heaven!

PreeOccupied said...

That bowl of Spaghetti with bell peppers looks so good for the Summers. Great photo too.

Aparna said...

Thank you, Aparna. Will definitely drop by.

Italian Khana is not a bad book, Deeba.

Ok, then. Waiting for that parcel. :)

Glad you liked my review, Malini. Your comment is interesting, but I'm not sure everyone feels the same.
I do agree that the net is an excellent resource for recipes and I use it a lot myself. Yes, I have fewer cookbooks than many people and always put a lot of thought into it before I buy one.
I also agree that cookbooks are sometimes put together by publicists.
But I'm not sure cookbooks are redundant. Here are some of my reasons.
In India (and many other countries), a large part of the population has very little or limited access to the internet.
There is still an older generation of cooks who actually are not net savvy/ or might prefer books to the screen.
There are cookbooks written by very good chefs with excellent recipes, all of which are just not available on the net.

Thanks, Oz. I'm flattered. :)

Aparna said...

Thank you, Aparna. Will definitely drop by.

Italian Khana is not a bad book, Deeba.

Ok, then. Waiting for that parcel. :)

Glad you liked my review, Malini. Your comment is interesting, but I'm not sure everyone feels the same.
I do agree that the net is an excellent resource for recipes and I use it a lot myself. Yes, I have fewer cookbooks than many people and always put a lot of thought into it before I buy one.
I also agree that cookbooks are sometimes put together by publicists.
But I'm not sure cookbooks are redundant. Here are some of my reasons.
In India (and many other countries), a large part of the population has very little or limited access to the internet.
There is still an older generation of cooks who actually are not net savvy/ or might prefer books to the screen.
There are cookbooks written by very good chefs with excellent recipes, all of which are just not available on the net.

Thanks, Oz. I'm flattered. :)