5 Food Books To Own!

We live in the age of Gastronomy. The golden age for foods from every corner of the world, with every kind of ingredient be it obscure or overused, be it any community or sect who enjoys ‘a’ particular type of food, its all here under spotlight. Being a Foodie is the yuppie equivalent of the culturally superior-sounding “Gourmand”. This movement can be seen in every household too. People have more choices on where to eat out and what cuisine to pick. Even home-style cooking has expanded to include various cuisines from other states or even countries in their daily meals, to suit every mood. Informative and beautifully illustrated cookbooks are a blessing of this food revolution.

Presenting, five of the best books out there, that can be a great addition to your collection to read and learn and expand your culinary horizons, or even to pass on to a loved one who is just trying to make sense of the things in the kitchen, in no particular order.

#1. The Bread Baker’s Apprentice


My mom says that a cook is truly born every time someone learns how to make bread. The bread can be a roti, a pita, a loaf or a baguette, and the process can be as simple as kneading salt, water and flour together or a lengthy, painful process where the dough is carefully mixed with cultures and left to ferment for long hours. Both will produce a satisfying and very distinct piece of bread that can never take the other’s place.

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Covering basic science to advanced techniques, this classic by Peter Reinhart will teach you everything you need to know about bread.

#2) The Science of Good Cooking

Cooking is an art and science. Art concepts might not work if the underlying scientific criterion are not met. Good science makes good food! It is as simple as that. For understanding the science behind our daily cooking processes and how to take the most advantage of them makes this book every cooking nerd’s dream literature. Hailed as ‘The Food Geek’s Bible’ by the Wall Street Journal, it was developed by the Cook’s Illustrated team, USA by boiling down thousands of tests into simple concepts. Read through this book and it can be seen that it will give anyone the confidence and know-how that usually takes years of kitchen experience to acquire.

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A perfect present for your child to initiate them into cooking!

#3) The Flavor Bible


When choices are myriad, one tends to follow their instincts to aid their choice-making and when it comes to food, flavor is what one usually goes with. It took 8 years in the making and that kind of research shows in every page making it a great investment. Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg have authored this book which is a revelation of sorts.

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When one needs a guide to hundreds of ingredients along with the herbs, the spices and other seasoning that will allow one to coax out the greatest possible flavor and pleasure from them, this is the book. 

#4) Plenty


We Indians love to act as the ultimate authority when it comes to vegetarian cooking. And why would we not? We have different established sects even in vegetarian style of cooking, in the form of Jain Vegetarian, Saatvik vegetarian, Ovo-lacto Vegan, Vegan and so on. But,what happens when one comes across this book? Enlightenment is the word that would come close. Plenty is authored by the famed chef of London and restaurateur Yotam Ottolenghi.

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This one book will expand the ways to cook and prepare vegetables, bringing down those inter-cranial walls that have been cemented on by culture and routines. An eye opener to a world of flavor and variety, lighting up the landscapes in a totally new direction.

#5) Curry


How well do you know your curry? The answer would be: not enough. Most of us think we do know our curry but this book is a revelation of sorts. A classic by Lizzie Collingham is a gift to the world of curry. The birth, the childhood, the wandering youth and achievements, its all in here in this book.

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Interspersed with classic recipes, memoirs and historic images, this book is truly a biography on Curry, and indeed a great buy for a curry enthusiast.


The wave of food revolution and abundance of information has left us with choices that are overwhelming and the bad ones can obscure the good ones by sheer numbers, yet, there is hope for book-lovers. These five books are not limited to the cuisine of a region or a sect. These are treasures that will be a great gift to yourself or others that will keep on giving long after you have finished reading them. So now that you know which ones give you the most bangs for your buck and match your preferences, which one will it be? Share it with us and feel free to share your own picks.


Amazing Grace – Bringing God’s Own Country to Nerul

It was one of those days when the husband had a sudden day off and I wasn’t in the mood to cook. We set out to look for lunch with the caveat that we’d go to a restaurant we’d never been to before. You know how it is… you get comfortable with that familiar handful of options and then get lazy, never going elsewhere. And slowly ennui creeps up and nothing really appeals any more. So we drove off into the afternoon sun, seeking new horizons…err, new flavours really!

I’d heard how Nerul had many interesting restaurants and decreed that we had to conduct our explorations for the afternoon in Nerul. After driving around we chanced upon Grace Restaurant – Food from God’s Own Country. Tucked into a line of shops that housed everything from a country liquor bar to a couple of general stores, Grace restaurant looked quiet and unassuming. We strolled in to a spotless space, well lit, and saw a couple of groups of young men, a family, and a bunch of office execs seated at different tables. Many of them looked like they were from God’s own country. And that was quite heartening. Like a stamp of approval, if you will.

We found ourselves a table and settled in to partake of a good meal. The ambient smells from the kitchen behind us were delicious and seemed to bode really well. We glanced at the menu but since we’re not so familiar with Keralite food beyond appams, stew, puttu, etc., we decided to ask the proprietor for recommendations. A very helpful gent, he helped us choose a lavish meal and was happy enough to describe the various dishes so we had some idea what to expect.

In a matter of minutes our table was covered in food. We had the Duck Mappas (250), Chicken Stew (INR 150), Appams (INR 10) , Porottas (INR 10), Beef Roast (INR 150), and as a last minute addition when we discovered they also serve pork – Pork Fry (INR 125). We eat out a lot and I have to say this – it was after ages that our mouths were watering insanely as the dishes were placed on our table. Talk about anticipation!

As the food arrived I was a little thrown to see the appams – they weren’t bowl shaped with the thin crepe like edges and the beautiful spongy dome shaped middle. These looked like little uttapams sans toppings and garnishes. But they were delicious! Paired with the mappas and the stew, the appams were perfect.

Suriani Appam

The stew was different from what we expected too. Yes, it was loaded with fresh green chillies, curry leaves, and was a white coconut based gravy – but it was a thick gravy, not the delicate milky one we’ve eaten everywhere else. Oh it was lovely. The mappas is similar in flavours but has plenty of turmeric and a variation in the spices used. The gravy also had ground curry leaves that left pretty green flecks. I’m not so fond of duck so I just had one little piece, but the mappas gravy was finger licking good.

The Pork Fry was sheer poetry on a plate. Fatty chunks of pork stir fried with onions, garlic, tiny bits of lethal green chillies, and of course fresh curry leaves. Clean no nonsense cooking with good ingredients, a simple dish cooked exactly like it is in most Keralite homes. The Beef Roast (carabeef) was very good too, just  chunks of roast beef smothered in a spicy sauce. We had both these dishes with Porottas, hot off the griddle. It’s a good thing this restaurant is a few kilometres away from where we live because I can totally see my husband sitting there nearly every day scarfing down a porotta or three with a portion of fry or roast, his nose buried in a book, and an aura of deep content glowing gently around him.

Kerala Pork Fry

We ended the meal with a portion of Paayasam. This one had thin slivers of roasted coconut, cardamom powder, and plenty of black sesame seeds.

After this mega meal as we chatted with the proprietor, we asked about the appams and the stew and why they were different from what we’d encountered earlier. He said they followed the Syrian Christian recipes and this is how their food turns out. Subtle differences in what we tend to think of as one single cuisine – Kerala, just like other states, also has regional variations, and we’d just had the good luck to taste one.

Not only is the food really good the prices, if you’ve noticed, are very reasonable, making Grace Restaurant an attractive option for the palate and the pocket.

Would I go back to Grace Restaurant? I already have.

Grace RestaurantShop no 13, F-2 Type Building, Opp Bank of Maharashtra, Sector 3, Nerul East, Navi Mumbai., Tel – 9869206251


Crumbs! Baking Bread in Indian Kitchens Made Easy

For some reason making bread at home has always seemed challenging and even frightening to many of us. I was certainly scared of yeast and was sure that it wouldn’t work for me if I tried. So I didn’t.

Then I met Saee Koranne Khandekar on Chef at Large and she assured me that yeast was not an enemy at all, in fact, it could be a very good friend. And with her help I baked my very first loaf of bread. That moment, when I took that loaf out of the oven and stared at it in wonder, I felt triumphant and stupid at the same time – triumphant that I had made bread right there in my own kitchen and stupid that I had feared it for so long!

I have never encountered a book that explains all this in the Indian context

The reason many of us fear bread making is probably because we don’t see our mothers, grand mothers or aunts making bread at home – at least not the yeasted varieties. We’re all so used to buying bread from bakeries and shops we don’t think we could easily make it ourselves. For those of us who contemplated making it, the recipes were daunting – unfamiliar flours or the need for fancy equipment made bread sound difficult. Most recipe books written by Indian authors dealt with Indian breads like rotis, naans, kulchas, parathas, etc. till Crumbs! Bread Stories and Recipes for the Indian Kitchen came out. This book fills a big gap in the Indian recipe books space making breads, both Indian and International, seem easy and doable in our home kitchens.

Buy Now – INR 293 on Amazon!  


What’s In the Book?

Crumbs! takes you through the basics about bread – Its history, the kinds of bread, etc., and then demystifies yeast, proofing bread, oven temperatures, kinds of flours, the tools required, the techniques and methods of bread baking, and a section on troubleshooting where Khandekar explains what to do in the little crises that can happen while baking bread.

I have never encountered a book that explains all this in the Indian context and bits like the Proofing Time Guide for Your Climate – a tabulated guide that tells us how long to prove dough in the different climates we have around the year – are a godsend. The detailed explanations of terms like APF, strong white flour, etc., in easy to understand language and with examples will make even a first time bread baker more confident.

The recipes cover basic breads, international favourites, artisan breads, classic Indian breads, unleavened Indian breads, and there’s a bunch of ideas for what to with leftover bread. Since most of us eat our bread with some accompaniment or other, Khandekar has also included recipes for nut butters, chutneys, flavoured butters and jam. The recipes are simply written and technical terms have been explained in detail. Each recipe is preceded by general information about the bread. The book is interspersed with illustrations explaining kneading, folding and shaping techniques making it really easy for the reader to understand and follow. There’s also a bunch of colour photos in the middle and black and white photos scattered in the rest of the book showing the different breads in the book.

For the more experienced or adventurous baker Khandekar has given a step by step guide to making a sour dough starter, and many tips on how to care for it.  The instructions are detailed and there is a great sense of ‘don’t worry, it’s not that hard’ in the instructions which I found very reassuring.

What I liked even more about this book is that it’s not restricted to recipes only but there are stories – evocative narratives that take you to the author’s childhood encounters with bread and her later experiences in bakeries and with bakers. You get a glimpse of a day in a Goan bakery as they churn out piles of fresh Poee, a peep into the innards of an Irani bakery in Mumbai, stories of hot bhakris eaten with salt in a humble hut long ago, and much, much more. It is quite evident just how close to the author’s heart bread in all its forms is, and in this book she shares her love for this staple in its myriad forms, quite unabashedly with her readers.

Buy Now – INR 293 on Amazon!  


The Verdict

If you like bread – eating it, baking it, or simply reading about it, Crumbs! is written for you.

Here’s a recipe that I tried from Crumbs! with slightly tweaked ingredients for flavouring the bread. The original recipe uses sun dried tomatoes and olives while I used fresh basil leaves and with sun dried tomatoes and garlic too.

[ultimate-recipe id=”71234″ template=”101″]


Buy Now – INR 293 on Amazon!  

Ruchira: Ode to a Marathi Classic

When it comes to cookbooks, there is always a  category that caters to every personality in the planet. There are restaurant cookbooks for the loyal patrons, there are celebrity cookbooks for the ones whose eyes light up when they see their favourite celebrity chef, there are scientific cookbooks for the nerdy cook (ahem!) and there are regional cookbooks for the ones who get a little squeaky in their voice when they argue which regional cuisine reigns the supreme. But there is that one cookbook in every section that will be the go-to book, the encyclopedia, the bible for that genre of cookbooks. As a collector of regional cookbooks, and as a die-hard fan of Maharashtrian cuisine, I absolutely had to get my hands on the fabled masterpiece Ruchira by Smt. Kamalabai Ogale.

About Ruchira

The original Ruchira is in Marathi and the part one of two was published in 1970. In the 20 years that followed, it has sold over 1,50,000 copies, which is phenomenal for any cookbook, that too in a regional language. I have known gushing neighbours who received a copy of this book, as a wedding gift and even after 30-40 years, still go back to the same book to check on a recipe. Their daughters and daughter-in-laws have received another copy of the same book at their weddings, which goes on to say a lot about how valued this cookbook is, among its followers.

Ruchira imparts immense wisdom from Mrs Ogale and contains a variety of traditional Maharashtrian Brahmin-style recipes which are mostly pure vegetarian except for the occasional appearance of egg in some recipes. The part 2 came out in 1985, fifteen years after the first, in a better format and featured more desserts, tips and a few popular continental recipes with a Maharashtrian twist. Though it didn’t reach the heights of popularity as the first part, by then a brand had been established.

The third homage to Mrs Ogale came in 2013, when due to public demand and the rise of popularity in regional cuisines led into the translation and publishing of the English version of the book in the same name, by Ms Usha Jategaonkar.

The original Ruchira parts 1 and 2, in Marathi.

The English Version of Ruchira, a passable version of the original, left a lot to be desired. But for food enthusiasts, who cannot understand Marathi, this compact, simple volume has been equally sacred, passable or not. “Ruchira: Selected Maharashtrian vegetarian recipes” gives the first impression of a shy volume which may be overlooked easily. But once you get past the foreword, the contents cover everything from spice mixes (in Phodnis and Masalas) to a variety of authentic vegetarian amtis, bhajis and sides. I have always believed the soul of any regional cuisine lies in the spice mixes and pickles that are made there and in order to learn something about that cuisine, the masalas and pickles are where one should start from. In that vein, Ruchira has carefully incorporated most of the essentials that are hallmarks of Maharashtrian cooking.

The recipes ranging from Kala Masala to Amti to Vangi bhat to Dalimbya to Bhakri, everything I tried out from the book, turned out as expected and delicious. The recipes are simple to understand, translated fairly well from the original and difficult to mess up. In fact, I’d recommend it as a good beginner book to Maharashtrian vegetarian cuisine with 4 stars. The overall layout of the book is in an easy-flow format and the Warli designs on the pages, adds to the charm.


The biggest con that I found in this book is the result of the unfair comparison to the original, honestly. With an immensely popular original, it pales in comparison with many vital recipes left out; the wisdom and tips from Mrs Ogale for each dish and techniques are absent. There are very few images and are provided toward the center of the book, though not for all recipes. Though someone who expects a polite introduction into Maharashtrian Brahmin style of cooking might find the perfect book in Ruchira, for the true blue original Ruchira fans, whom are well versed with the said cuisine, the wait is yet not over.

An SOS to the Gods of the Culinary Universe

I guess it is safe to say on behalf of all those loyalists, that we will wait patiently for a complete, translated volume, with nothing lost in translation or for the lack of pages, and a suitable gift to pass on to our newer generations who may or may not understand Marathi so that they can enjoy the beautiful simplicity of this cuisine, that stands out proud and timeless.


Twenty9 By Piccadily – A Forgettable Experience

Nothing is more important than family – work, the people you meet, or the people you call friends. So when it is family dinner time, you go to a place selected by the collective hive-mind hoping better judgement will prevail next time. Nonetheless, dinner time is only about the food and the company. Within these parameters, while the company is something one can make do with, below average food is not something to settle for. Unfortunately, that’s exactly where Twenty9 by Piccadily loses the plot.

It’s All About the Location

Situated next to Janakpuri District Center, the location of the hotel is quite convenient by twenty-year-old standards when traffic congestion used to be perhaps one-tenth of what it is today. However, that is not something that the hotel can be faulted for, just their luck. The seating, layout, the decor, etc. are all quite nice and spacious. However, a lack of clear focus on the menu style is quite evident. North Indian, Mediterranean and the ubiquitous “Continental” words appear in the description of the menu. Fortunately, Piccadily has refrained from going for a dimly lit space, as is the norm at most fine-dine restaurants in city hotels today.

The Indian buffet has a range of selections.
The Indian buffet has a range of selections.

With the surroundings surveyed, twenty of us (yes, that’s a big family) placed ourselves around the dinner table. A less appreciated, nice thing about Twenty9 is that the staff doesn’t hassle you much. To some, it may seem like they (the staff) couldn’t care less and are laggard in servicing the guests. But give those guys a little break, people, they work really hard all day for meagre pay.

The Food at Twenty9

Moving on to the food. The well laid out Indian buffet (1399++ per head) at Twenty9 has starters and soups occupying a corner, of which the chicken soup wasn’t ethereal, but fairly balanced in flavours as compared to the vegetarian option. There’s a certain amount of emphasis on paneer in the menu, which is probably a deference to the patrons, most of whom seem to hail from the sometimes overwhelming Punjabi neighbourhood in Janakpuri. Keeping that same point in mind, there is a golgappa counter as well which seemed to draw a lot of attention from local as well as foreign guests of the hotel. Grilled non-vegetarian fare, however, isn’t the kitchen’s strong point. The fish was overdone and squishy, while the Chicken Tikkas were dried out, both dishes devoid of any real flavours of the meat or the spices.

As good as the food looks, the end result leaves plenty to desire.
As good as the food looks, the end result leaves plenty to desire.

The mains offer a decent amount of choice between vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes, however, the fixation with paneer continues in the vegetarian options. Dal Makhni, Dal Dhaba, Chicken Korma and one more paneer dish (the name of which I can’t recall) were just about average with underwhelming flavours. Hyderabadi Biryani and Mutton Curry raised a few hopes to rescue the evening, but alas, nothing to write home about there either. However, surprisingly enough, the mutton was cooked to perfection, a feat which is rarely seen even at some of the most celebrated restaurants.

A Disappointing Affair


Other than the well-cooked mutton, the only other interesting thing is the name Twenty9. The restaurant derives that name due to the copper lined ceiling and 29 is the atomic number of copper in the periodic table. Apart from that factoid, when it comes to the food, the overall score for Twenty9 is a dismal 2.5 out of 5 for the lack of flavours. However, if one were to consider the simple finding perfectly cooked mutton, that score gets bumped up to 3 out of 5 for the sheer rarity of such an event.

If you are in the neighbourhood of Janakpuri, and want to spend a rather hassle-free evening with the family over some very average food, Twenty9 may prove to be a good choice. However, there are many more (and better) options a little further down the same road in Rajouri Garden.


Joymee Instant Noodles

Companies are beginning to see how instant noodles lure consumers. They’re quick to cook, easy to eat, usually delicious (except Pot Noodles; they’re consistently ‘orrible) and lend themselves to a variety of flavours. I’m quite sure most of us have a pack or two tucked away in the kitchen, especially if your house has kids. 

Joymee is a fairly new brand of instant noodles manufactured by a firm called INBISCO India Pvt. Ltd., which sounds like Indian Biscuit Company, though I couldn’t be sure, never having heard of the brand or the company before. I tried their Masala variant for breakfast this morning. The packet claims ‘real vegetables’, of which I didn’t really see much of. The packet also claims a ‘crunchy fried onion topping’, which part I can happily corroborate.

The noodles cook as per packet directions, albeit mildly firmer than others, which I quite liked. The taste of the final product, with crunchy onions sprinkled over is reminiscent of the mother of all instant noodle brands in this country, though still holding its own. Markedly north Indian, Joymee instant noodles have traces of the familiar and are fun to eat. They aren’t spicy either, so your kids won’t make a fuss.

Nutritionally, Joymee instant noodles are a bit disappointing, with over 84% of the product being composed of carbs and fats, though one would expect that for a pack of instant noodles. I’m not sure what else is there in disproportional quantities, as the manufacturers have chosen not to include quantities of elements like Sodium in the printed nutrition chart, which too is nearly entirely obscured by the pack’s centre flap. Reading the ingredient list though tells us that Joymee instant noodles contain the following:

  • Hydrolysed Soya Protein: Usually used as a flavour enhancer and also because, since this component contains Mono Sodium Glutamate (MSG / Aji No Moto), the packaging doesn’t need to mention the same again. Note the presence of Sodium.
  • Flavour Enhancer 635: This is a flavour enhancing substance composed of disodium inosinate (IMP) and disodium guanylate (GMP). Note the presence of Sodium.
  • Yeast Extract: Used to deliver an Umami punch of flavour, yeast extract too can contain sodium compounds.
  • Soy Sauce: More sodium.
  • Iodised Salt: Even more sodium.

I think I’m beginning to believe I understand why there’s no mention of Sodium in the nutrition table. In any case, what you have is likely a flood of sodium (of which we shouldn’t exceed 1800 mg a day) and 479 calories with little or no health or nutritive benefits.

[quote]Did you know, it’ll take you 1.25 hours of brisk walking, on average, to work off the calories added by a single pack of instant noodles?[/quote]

Having said that, Joymee instant noodles are delicious, easy to cook and the fried onions do make them quite different. They’re perfect for healthy adults and children who eat an otherwise balanced diet and whose daily routine includes a component for physical activity. For the rest of you, look the other way please.


Tupperware Juist – Surprisingly Handy!

At first, a manual juicer doesn’t evoke a great deal of passion. It’s essentially a press to squeeze those luscious juices out of oranges, berries and mausambis among other fruits. So, why do we have a review, an entire article on the Tupperware Juist?

As it turns out, this product has so many design sensibilities, an entire article was indeed called for.

Tupperware Juist: Form

The Juist makes juicing citrus fruits very easy. The pattern of ridges on the plastic make it better at squeezing out the last drops of juice, which otherwise doesn't happen with the traditional metal devices we have at home.
The Juist makes juicing citrus fruits very easy. The pattern of ridges on the plastic make it better at squeezing out the last drops of juice, which otherwise doesn’t happen with the traditional metal devices we have at home.

The Juist is pleasing to look at, easily spotted due to its bright red colour, is made of high quality, food grade plastic, has no corners; only curves and is built to withstand a great deal of pressure. The design is quite thoughtful, if you take a few minutes to sit back and just look at the product. The product consists of three components – a jar at the bottom that holds the juice, a mesh in between and a plunger or press at the top. Each component stacks one on top of the other and is thus easy to store. All the components are easy to clean and a gush of running water is typically enough to quickly wash, stack and store.

The grooves in the rim of the main container interlock with ridges on the border of the mesh, ensuring the mesh doesn’t move (rotate) while juice is being pressed out of a citrus half, or when a citrus half is placed on the reversed mesh and pressed and wiggled. The jar is also marked for volume measurement and quite endearingly, has a slight lip on the side to make pouring out the juice easier. The jar also has a circle of rubberised plastic at the bottom, to prevent it from skidding on smooth surfaces, which is very thoughtful.

The mesh itself is double sided, which means you can either place a citrus half cut side down into the mesh-hole and press down with the plunger, or you can reverse the mesh, making the hole into a mound, and mash the citrus half on it for the same effect. The mesh locks securely into the jar below. The gaps in the mesh are large enough to allow some pulp to pass, while also small enough that seeds do not fall through.

The plunger or press has enough surface area at the top to make pressing down a painless activity; thoughtful, when one considers the number of halves required to press juice for a normal family. A smaller top would have concentrated pressure on the palm and resulted in pain and possibly contusions. Additionally, the mesh and the plunger have a matt finish, ensuring the Juist isn’t likely to slip, even when pressing hard.

Thoughtfully designed, wouldn’t you say?

Tupperware Juist: Function

A rubberised ring prevents the Juist from slipping when pressure is applied at the top in press-mode. Also, the plunger can be filled with raw rice to increase its weight and efficiency!
A rubberised ring prevents the Juist from slipping when pressure is applied at the top in press-mode. Also, the plunger can be filled with raw rice to increase its weight and efficiency!

The Juist is designed to quickly squeeze the juice out of fruits in two ways, one by pressing and the other by mashing. The good news is that juice extracted thus falls under the general category of cold pressed juices, which are inherently healthier and have a longer life, than traditional centrifugal juicing techniques. Read more on this here. Also, you can juice berries, pineapples and many other fruits using the Juist’s press functionality.

  1. Just cut your fruits into halves, reserve.
  2. Place the Tupperware Juist on a level, preferably matt surface.
  3. If you’d like to juice a citrus fruit
    1. Place the mesh on the jar, such that you’re looking at a mound.
    2. Place half a citrus fruit , cut side down on to the mound.
    3. Press down hard and rotate, mashing the fruit on the mound.
  4. If you’d like to juice a non-citrus fruit
    1. Reverse the mesh, so you have a hole in place of the mound.
    2. Drop everything you’d like to juice into the hole
    3. Press down with the plunger until you believe the fruit is spent.
  5. Continue until you have enough juice.
[quote]The Juist‘s plunger is hollow and can be filled with raw rice or other material (such as kidney beans for example) to increase its weight as well as its effectiveness for pressed juicing.[/quote]

There you have it. Cold pressed, healthier juices through the Tupperware Juist, which I think is a superbly designed product and an example of how good product design can make so much of a difference! What do you think? What sort of juices do you drink? What juicer do you use?

Tip: If you don’t refrigerate your fruits, an ice cube or two in the jar will help you quickly serve cold juice.


Paula Deen’s My First Cookbook: Catching ’em Young

I believe that most accomplished cooks, start young. There is something special about finding your way around the kitchen as a child. The first time you peel an onion, or when you use a knife without chopping a finger off, or switch off the stove the right way is a nudge in that direction. Under supervision, guidance and with an essential word of encouragement, children start looking at cooking with new eyes. Not to mention that these skills will definitely come handy every day.

Starting young

Paula Deen’s My First Cookbook is a book written with children in mind. I bought this book to introduce hands-on cooking to my kids. Asides from recipes in this book, there are separate sections for safety talk for kids and their parents, glossary of basic culinary terms, how to measure, how to set a table and good manners… (yes, good manners). She is a grandma, and that too a sweet and spicy one at that!

Easy recipes by Paula Deen

The recipes cover everything from breakfast, snacks, lunch, drinks and dinner to cakes and surprises for parents for special occasions. There are treats that can be made for holidays and towards the end, a fun arts and crafts section (non edible) that covers recipes for play clay, salt clay (that can be baked to harden) and bubble solution too.

Paula Deen, Mexican Omelets, Egg Salad, Stuffed Shells, Campfire Stew, breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks, snacks, canned food, processed foodThe recipes that we tested out in our kitchen were all good, and made with kid-favourite ingredients. The cuisine featured is what I call “typical American”, where most ingredients are store-bought (read processed), or canned. Yet, we had lots of fun making Mexican Omelets, Egg Salad, Stuffed Shells and Campfire Stew, with the kids going crazy adding their own customization. But as an adult and parent, I did wish for a little more wisdom from Paula in keeping with the times. 


  1. Kids are picky eaters. But as much as you want a kid to eat, you cannot feed them cheese, mayo and deep fried goodies rich in sugar and fats, meal after meal. You need fresh, balanced, nutritious and healthier meals than those with current threats like juvenile diabetes and heart diseases on the rise.
  2. This is not much of a con, but rather a mild annoyance that many of the recipes call for canned veggies and processed, pre-made dough. I also understand you can easily substitute fresh veggies and homemade dough for each respectively and go on with the recipes like no big deal.
  3. And lastly, from an Indian point of view, this cookbook though one of the best designated cookbooks for children, is American. The cooking style is distinctly American where the seasonings are limited to mustard, ketchup, and seasoning salts, the veggies come from cans and jars and every single recipe needs something from the grocery store (which can be a special order if you live outside the United States). Even as someone who is very much used to the American way of cooking, I wish there were more recipes like Deen’s pancake recipe or her vanilla cupcakes that actually reminds us that this is a cookbook written by the Paula Deen, with her inimitable overdose of butter and no-fail recipes, rather than playing it too safe with kids as well as recipes.


  1. From the cover to the contents to the recipes, it is beyond doubt, a book for kids. The colouring, binding, page layout and overall quality is suitable for tiny, messy hands and will withstand most rough handling and mishaps. 
  2. The ingredient list has pictures – tiny illustrations that leave out the guesswork and ambiguity, very essential, when it is a kid reading the recipe. Every term, every process has been broken down to simple ideas that are extremely helpful for the kid as well as adults helping them out who might be trying these recipes for the first time.
  3. Tiny glimpses into the life of the author hides behind every family picture and memories that she shares. It is a good enough gift for a little one or a collector’s treasure for the garden variety Paula Deen fan.
  4. Healthy or not, semi-homemade or not, all the kids favourites are here – from root beer floats to inedible play dough to cheese toasts, the recipes are kid and time tested. Parents may love it or not, but the kids will have a gala time trying out the recipes from this book. Substitutions are always possible when the recipes are so simple. And leave it to children to come up with their brilliant ideas for substitutes.

Paula Deen, Mexican Omelets, Egg Salad, Stuffed Shells, Campfire Stew, breakfast, lunch, dinner, drinks, snacks, canned food, processed foodPerfect for the target audience

My First Cookbook by Paula Deen, honestly, is outdated in its contents and leaves a true fan craving a bit for Paula’s original recipes. But when compared with others, this book targeted at very young cooks hits the bulls-eye. It will gently ease the target audience into some serious culinary education, all cleverly camouflaged in fun and deliciousness. And that alone is the reason I give it three stars. Try this simple kid-friendly recipe from the book, with the little ones this summer. 

Vanilla Shake

  • 3 cups Vanilla Ice-cream
  • 2 tsp Vanilla Extract
  • 1/4 cup Sugar
  • 1 cup Milk


  1. Measure all the ingredients into a blender. Put the lid on, turn it on and blend until the shake is smooth.
  2. Pour into 4 tall glasses and serve. 

TOVO Canteen – The No-Fat Restaurant

Tovo Canteen, Besant Nagar is the third of Tovo’s ventures in Chennai. The concept, like any of the other Tovo outlets is simple – healthy organic ingredients cooked without any added oil or water where the flavours are infused into the main ingredients viz. chicken, paneer and vegetables by marinating them overnight. Add to that a menu that is designed for customisation, giving diners unprecedented control over their meal, and it seems like a winning proposition.

Tovo Canteen – Are they open?

My visit to Tovo Canteen, Besant Nagar with a friend was on a weekday evening and our first impression as we stepped in was… are they open? Low-lighting and absence of any customers or service-staff almost had us turning around. Just then one of the waiters spotted us and ran over to welcome us and explain the Tovo concept and method of ordering. In short: choose your base, choose your stuffing, choose your infusion and finally, top it with regional seasonings. Intrigued by the word infusion, we decided to stay and climbed a floor to the larger and better-lit seating area above. The décor was stark and industrial-grungy – all exposed brick and rough concrete, wooden benches and bare vintage, Edison bulbs. 

Tovo Canteen, Besant Nagar, Chennai, chicken wings, paneer, chocolate, caramel, Chettinad
Tovo Tender Winglets

The food story

For starters, we ordered the Tovo Tender Winglets (INR 245) with a Chilli Peppery Infusion and Mogul Lace topping and the Indian Cheese Tawad (House-marinated fresh paneer cubes tempered with assorted spices, INR 245) with Mogul Lace and Chettinad Zest toppings on the side. The paneer at Tovo is deliciously soft and accompanied by a perfectly paired dill pickle relish. The chicken was almost as good – tender, juicy and incredibly flavourful, almost great except for the fact that it was served lukewarm. By the time we got to the second wing, the infusions and toppings were beginning to congeal and the wings were unappetisingly cold.

Tovo Canteen, Besant Nagar, Chennai, chicken wings, paneer, chocolate, caramel, Chettinad
Tovo Slate

For mains, my vegetarian friend ordered the Tovo Slate (a square bun) with the Veggie Mash, Tomato and Garlic Infusion with Cheesy scramble (INR 330), whilst I decided to try their carb-free option called the Tovo Shell with Chicken Mash Patties, Tangy Cheese and Herb Infusion and Garlic Sauce (INR 335+84). These took significantly longer to arrive at the table, and I wish I could say the wait was worth it. The sandwich was a generous sized square bun stuffed with a filling that was oozing from the sides. It looked inviting and tasted good, though slightly heavy on the paneer. My carb-free Tovo Shell turned out to be a large, crisp leaf of Lettuce encasing the double patties of chicken mash. As I bit in, a strange smell wafted out and the flavour seemed a bit off.  I opened up the lettuce shell to find a gooey mash inside, not the round patties I was expecting. I took another bite and detected a slightly fermented taste and decided to stop right there.

Though it took us a while to catch the waiter’s eye, he readily agreed to take it back and replace it with anything else I wanted. However, by then my appetite for infusions had waned, so I decided to cleanse my palate with chocolate and ordered the Caramelo Fudge Cake (INR 230). The dessert was a slice of dense and gooey chocolate-ganache cake/tart with a sneaky caramel filling between the crust and the ganache. Indulgent and chocolatey, it almost managed to erase the memory of that unfortunate Tovo Shell. However the ‘griping’ memory was to come back and haunt me for the next few days.

Tovo Canteen, Besant Nagar, Chennai, chicken wings, paneer, chocolate, caramel, Chettinad
Tovo Shell

The Tovo Canteen verdict

A point to note about Tovo is that whilst there might be zero oil added whilst cooking, some of the infusions and toppings contain mayonnaise and cream, not to mention the intrinsic fat present in the chicken and paneer itself, so overall it’s neither a fat-free nor a low calorie experience. In fact, in this case, it seemed the reverse. Leaving aside the Tovo Shell incident, I will concede that the food at Tovo Canteen, Besant Nagar is full of flavour, as food cooked in their own juices should be. The service is good, though sometimes a bit tardy and the atmosphere is modern and refreshing. I would go back and give it another try.