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Around the world in 40 dishes

Updated on: 07 June,2020 07:45 AM IST  |  Mumbai
Jane Borges |

A self-taught cook has drawn from her peripatetic life to publish a new e-cookbook put together during the lockdown to raise money for charity

Around the world in 40 dishes

The kitchen can be a lifesaver, especially when everything else appears to be falling apart. Simple acts like applying butter on toast, slicing an onion, or watching the yolk of an egg, slip out of its shell, unbroken into a pan, can make us feel more in control. The experience hasn't been any different for Mumbai-based home chef Ragini Kashyap, who runs the supper club, Third Culture Cooks. "The kitchen has become my playground. Despite the horribly hot weather, I spend an average of four hours a day [inside it]. There is a definite enjoyment here. Also, it's been such an amazing way to connect with people," says the self-taught cook.

Kashyap started by sharing recipes and photographs on her social media page, but the lockdown saw her experiment with cook-along sessions, where she'd cook remotely with her followers. "Simultaneously, like many other people, I felt helpless, watching the reality of the Coronavirus outbreak unfold, not just for patients and their families, but also for thousands for whom the lockdown or social distancing had been difficult." After talking to her husband, Kashyap wanted to raise money to support those working on the frontlines. The result is a new, self-published e-book, Quarantine Cooks (R680), comprising 40 recipes from Kashyap's Instagram page, plus those from her journeys around the world, which inspired her Bordered Series, a pop-up of food from conflict-ridden lands. Hundred per cent proceeds from the book will go to charity.

Ragini Kashyap
Ragini Kashyap

The book, which was put together during the lockdown, saw Kashyap don the role of writer, editor, designer and photographer. "It was honestly a lot more work than I had thought. It started out as a casual product that I was planning to send to friends and family to collect donations. Then, after spending a few nights writing, I realised that I couldn't do this alone. I reached out to my friend, photographer Alisha Vasudev and asked if she would help make this professional. I was confident that I could write, but I was restricted by my iPhone photos and design abilities. Alisha stepped in and edited all the photos for the book, making them look professional."

The book is split into five courses—salads, soups, mains, sides and sweets—with an interesting mix of South Asian, Middle Eastern and European cuisine, reflecting her own peripatetic experiences.

"All the recipes are from my own kitchen. I have a natural tendency to explore the continent of Asia, so that definitely features more in my book. My process is as follows: I identify a dish I want to make; I then research what sort of flavours dominate that particular cuisine, and build a profile for the dish. Then I look at five to six recipes for that dish and identify elements I like, elements that are out of place, and those that are missing, before I write my own recipe. It's a process of trial and error till I come to the recipe that works."

Comfort foods are an essential part of the book, whether it's the Indian rajma chawal, Japanese katsu curry or Canadian tomato galette. "As a third culture kid, I have always had a different concept of 'comfort food'—it has meant a type of food, rather than a specific food. During the lockdown, I've definitely turned to those flavours, so you will notice that many of the recipes are deeply umami, have warm tones and are eaten with some sort of carb."

The shortlisting process, she says, was a combination of choice and availability. "I could choose any recipe from my repertoire, but I could turn to only those that were available to me during the lockdown, and photos I had taken in the past. If we wanted to do this fast, we had to work with what I had."

Canadian Tomato Galette

For the crust
1 ½ cups whole wheat flour
½ cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp granulated sugar
2/3 tsp salt
175g butter, chilled and cubed
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2/3 cup ice cold water

For the glaze
1 egg, whisked
1 tbsp sesame seeds
1 tsp fresh-ground black pepper

For the top
200g cherry tomatoes, halved
75g mature cheddar, grated
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
1 bulb of garlic
3 tbsp olive oil

For the dough: Mix both the flours, salt and sugar together. Then incorporate the apple cider vinegar and butter to make a shaggy crumb. Finally, pour the water in, a little at a time, kneading to bring the dough together. Stop when you have a cohesive, smooth, soft and non-sticky dough. Cover and refrigerate for two hours. For the top: Preheat the oven to 180C/ 350F. Remove the outer skin of the garlic bulb, keeping all the cloves together. Chop 2 cm off the top of the bulb, to expose the tops of the garlic cloves. Drizzle with 2 tbsp olive oil, wrap completely in aluminium foil and bake for 45 minutes. Once cooled, remove the garlic cloves from the skin (they should squeeze out easily, without resistance). Mash the garlic to a paste and set aside. Toss the cherry tomatoes with ½ tsp of salt, and rest for 10 minutes. Now drain and pat dry. Set aside. To assemble: Preheat the oven to 205*C/ 400*F. Roll out your refrigerated dough to a 1cm thickness, and 30 cm width. Spread the garlic on the dough, then sprinkle the cheese and parsley, and finally, arrange your tomato halves in concentric circles, leaving a 3 cm border around the edges. Starting with the edge closest to you, fold in towards the centre. Working your way around the circle, fold the edges in until you have formed a full crust around the centre. Brush the top of the crust with egg, and sprinkle with sesame seeds and fresh-ground pepper. Bake for 35-40 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes, slice and serve warm.

Italian Spaghetti Pomodoro

Italian Spaghetti Pomodoro

300g spaghetti, cooked al dente
1 ½ cup canned tomato
2 red peppers, roasted and peeled
1 onion, diced small
6 garlic cloves
1 tbsp dried thyme
20g parmesan cheese, grated
Fresh-ground black pepper
Olive oil

Blend together the tomato and roasted red pepper to a smooth paste. Sweat the onion and the garlic in olive oil on a low heat for 6-7 minutes. Then add the tomato and red pepper paste and let it cook for 5 minutes. Add the dried thyme and salt, and let it cook for another 8 minutes. Turn off the heat and mix through the spaghetti till it is well coated. Serve and garnish with a drizzle of olive oil, grated parmesan cheese and fresh-ground black pepper.

To buy the e-book, log on to The proceeds will be split between SNEHA, an organisation in Mumbai working with underprivileged women and children, and Family Support Institute in Vancouver, an outfit that works with families that have a member with a severe disability.

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