Growing up in a Maharashtrain household in Mumbai’s Dadar, Maunika Gowardhan remembers accompanying her mother to the fish market at the crack of dawn, and returning home with fresh clams. These would be meticulously cleaned by her mother and grandmother and marinated in masala for an elaborate Sunday lunch. The recipe for Malwani Hirwa Tisrya Masala or “clams cooked in coriander and coconut” is one of Gowardhan’s most treasured ones, which find their way in her recently-launched cookbook, Indian Kitchen (Hachette, Rs 999). “Home is where all flavours are,” says Gowardhan.
Indian Kitchen features 120 recipes that span the diverse palate of the country, from Bengali murgir jhol and Andhra egg curry to yakhni pulao and Sindhi dal pakwan. “My neighbours were Hyderabadi and I had Punjabi and Sindhi friends. So, I was exposed to a variety of cuisines from an early age,” says Gowardhan, who now lives in Newcastle, England, and is a private chef and food writer. It was upon moving to London for a business degree in her early twenties that she began sharing her recipes with friends, and considered cooking professionally.
Gowardhan launched her website maunikagowardhan.co.uk on Indian cooking in 2010 and soon, The New York Times had picked up her keema pav recipe. “Even though there’s a generation of Indians who love food and cooking, they have limited knowledge of regional cuisine. For instance, lamb preparations vary across regions; there’s Mughlai nalli gosht, laal maas that is a Rajasthani specialty, the Bengali kosho mangsho and lamb dalcha from Hyderabad,” she says.
Most recipes are accompanied by a story of her childhood association or a memory from her travels when she discovered the dish. About Malayali kozhi biryani, she says, “When I visited Kerala almost a decade ago, I had a delicious biryani which I failed to find again. Then, in Mumbai a few years ago, I was having a meal at an acquaintance’s house on Onam and it tasted exactly the same. I coaxed the aged aunty, who had prepared it, to give me the recipe.” Gowardhan has collaborated with famed Canadian chef Jamie Oliver on several occasions for his online cookery channel FoodTube. “Jamie is so passionate with his work and having him advocate my book feels amazing,” says Gowardhan, adding that she will be in Mumbai later this year to conduct two classes on Indian cooking.
The story appeared in print with the headline Flipping Through Flavours