Every 20–30 miles the cuisine changes—due to the climate, the crops being grown within the local communities and of course cultural habits,’ notes Maunika Gowardhan, UK-based and Mumbai-extracted author of Indian Kitchen: Secrets of Indian Home Cooking. Which is why this nostalgic collection of recipes will appeal to Indians all across the globe as well as pan-India. Most of us will find here something familiar, something just slightly different, and something exciting that we have tried on our travels or while visiting friends from another region, perhaps even the street side favourite of our childhood we are now too grown-up to risk—and always wanted to recreate.

The arrangement of the collection is a bit unusual. Some will find it frustrating to have categories like Hungry, Lazy, Indulgent—how to find a starter or a chicken dish, then? On the other hand, the busy urban kadhai-slinger needing a quick meal plan afterhours will appreciate it, I think—just dip into Hungry in the evening, then Lazy on the slept-in Sunday morning. The lady is quite the rage with endorsements from the likes of Jamie Oliver—whom she has worked with on various projects.

This is not the book for recreating the traditional with complete authenticity—because often, in our modern lives, this is a long weekend’s project, a party-sized all-hands-on-deck endeavour that is divorced from the everyday, by necessity. But then those busy days are often the ones when one most urgently needs to get a taste of the holiday. Of that Goan Prawn Caldinho, Assamese Spiced Potato, Andhra Egg Curry, Keralan Aviyal or Bengali Murgir Jhol.

Then there are the Lazy days when you cannot take off like a bird or an airplane, so satisfy yourself being Superman with almost-armchair street-foodie excursions of Mumbai sandwich, onion bajjis, Amritsari machhi and Bohra lamb chops.

Have time and at a loose end? Treat yourself to Indulgent nostalgia of Mumbai Frankies and Dabeli, Chingri Malai Curry, Bharli Wangi, Punjabi Kaali Dal, Keralan Kozhi Kuttan, Chukandar ka Gosht… Got friends to impress? Do Mirchi bajjis with Malyali Kozhi Biryani, Rajasthani Safed Maas, some Rezala, some Saas ni Macchi, Kashmiri Dahi Baingan, Malwani Hirwa Tisyra Masala, Gharge with ice cream and Bengali Bhapa Doi with strawberries!

There are some surprisingly homely inclusions too, like the masala eggs, for those travellers wandering far from home and hankering for a taste of India. In fact, if the airport allows, the Goda and Malwani masalas make excellent secret spice mixes to pop in the backpack. To jazz up the fast-food fries, the piri-piri sachets have nothing on them. And these are fab little hostess gifts when a kind local invites you home for a surprise dinner. Or teach them to make that magical five-spice cab­bage in exchange for their adobo or laksa recipe?

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