Climbing the Mango Trees: A Round Up of Delectable Indian Dishes

28 09 2010

If ever there was a time to wish for a real potluck for our talented Cook The Books members, it would be after seeing all the delicious Indian food dishes that were inspired by Madhur Jaffrey’s “Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India.” With every post that came in, my mouth watered just a that much more! If only we really could sample each others cooking and enjoy a fabulous meal… I was happy to see and hear how many of you enjoyed Jaffrey’s tales of her childhood and especially the descriptions and recipes for some of the wonderful food she enjoyed growing up. Whether you chose a recipe from the book, adapted a family favorite, sourced one of Jaffrey’s numerous cookbooks, or searched the web, you were inspired to create some amazing dishes. It is my pleasure to round them up, and get the tissues ready for more drooling! ;-)

An early entry came from Wanda from Poppyseeds and Tiger Lilies joining in her first cook the Book’s event and making Jaffrey’s Cheese Vali Gobi. Wanda says, “I remember my own childhood as a newcomer to this country, bringing my lunch to school where it was different from the lunches of my friends. Like Jaffrey, I thought their lunches were much more interesting than mine. I loved reading about the spices and flavors detailed in this book. I wanted to make one of her very own recipes rather than developing one of my own.I was particularly drawn to the cauliflower dish. … I especially loved it reheated the second day when the flavors had mellowed and blended.  When I make it again, I’ll prepare it the day before and reheat it for a meal.

Rachel, The Crispy Cook and one of my CTB co-hosts, used home-grown beans to make her dish  from Jaffrey’s “An Invitation to Indian Cooking.” Rachel says, “I found the perfect recipe to make: Green Beans with Onion Paste, which really deserves a much more glamorous name as it is redolent of so many spices. The beans are infused with so many levels of flavor as they slow cook in their tomato and onion gravy and it makes a hearty vegetarian meal over rice. Try it over basmati rice for extra fabulousness. I have made the recipe twice now to rave reviews from my family. It is a slow food dish, requiring a good bit of time in the slicing of the beans, the sauteeing of the onion paste and spices, and then a bit of simmering, but the result is exquisite.

Andreas from Delta Kitchen chose to adapt one of the many delicious recipes from “Climbing the Mango Trees” for his entry, selecting Jaffrey’s Potatoes with Tomatoes, full of exotic, warming spices. Andreas says, “For the current edition of Cook the Books Club I chose yet another dish featuring tomatoes. Visually it’s a bit uh.. unpretentious, but it makes up for this on the taste side.

Natashya from Living in the Kitchen with Puppies chose a recipe from Jaffrey’s “World Vegetarian” to soothe a sick hubby and says, “India is a milky country” Madhur Jaffrey… They also know a thing or two about cooling the body. Which is a good thing as I have one body at home with a cold and fever. To soothe his heated and parched throat, and in celebration of her autobiography Climbing the Mango Trees, this month’s Cook the Books bookclub selection, I made Madhur Jaffrey’s Kelay ki Lassis. Sweet banana lassi. Cool, sweet, and nourishing.”

Claudia from Honey From Rock chose a recipe from the book, Meatballs (Kofta) in Curry and a Potato Tamarind Raita from an old cookbook she owns. Claudia says, “The meatball curry turned out to be a good illustration of the one disadvantage of even great cookbooks, and learning by doing. Some things you can pick up by watching, which just don’t communicate in a recipe. … Now, doing that as prescribed, makes for a very runny curry.  Perhaps it is supposed to be.  Who knows?  The chef was not there to question. The taste was fantastic and full of spicy flavors, but next time I will know to adjust for what is perhaps a Western liking for more thickened sauces.

And about the raita, “This dish makes a tangy, sweet adjunct to the spicy meatballs and crisp green and white salad.


Foodycat made a bevy of delicious recipes for her entry and says, “This is what inspired the dishes I cooked. I made mutton and spinach curry following Ms Jaffrey’s recipe (very different from the one I usually make) which she describes as being like the curries her Muslim school friends had brought for lunch. I made her grandmother’s delicious spiced cauliflower cheese. I made dhal (she says that at a pinch you can substitute Mexican black beans for the whole urad dal. It really isn’t a great substitution and not one I would repeat). And I made naan. Delicious, homely food with a history. You can’t really ask more of a dinner; a fascinating story with wonderful recipes, you definitely can’t ask more of a memoir.

Simona from Briciole knew immediately what she wanted to make, saying “It’s that as soon as I read the title, Grandmother’s Cauliflower with Cheese (Cheese Vali Gobi), I knew I would make it, because I like cauliflower and I am always looking for recipes where i can use my homemade cheese (formaggio fatto in casa). As you can see in the photo of the dish, I used some white and some purple cauliflower, so the dish was quite colorful (both cauliflower and peppers were acquired at our farmers’ market). I don’t know how different my rendition is from the dish mentioned in the book. What I know is that I loved what came out of my oven and will certainly make it again. In fact, I already have some peppers in the fridge that I have roasted with the idea of adding them to my next realization of this recipe.

Joanne from Eats Well With Others chose the Chicken Cooked in a Yogurt-Almond Sauce (Murgh Korma) from the book and says, “The thing that I find hardest about cooking Indian food is finding an authentic recipe.  One that is not Westernized and completely altered to suit our maladapted American palates. This is where Jaffrey comes in.  Her reverence of her culture is so great and made so obvious in the book that I am sure the recipes she offers are no less than the real McCoy. And after tasting this Murgh Korma.  You will be too.  Never have I created a dish that is so rich in flavor, so spot on, so intensely delicious that you just.  Can’t.  Stop.  Eating it.  Whole chicken pieces stewed with a creamy yogurt sauce that, although rich in texture, is actually quite light.

Heather of girlichef went for a sweet treat making the squiggly Jalebis along with some Garam Chai. Heather says, “I can imagine how perfectly a cold glass of milk tasted alongside the jalebis in the heat, but I was craving another treat mentioned in the book…one that I’ve only ever ordered from coffee houses…or tasted from a weak, boxed blend.  I definitely wanted a cup of homemade chai alongside my jalebis… I made the chai a day in advance, and then re-heated a cup to eat with my jalebis once they were hot and ready.  I also tried it with a cold cup of chai, which was equally good…but a whole ‘nother taste sensation.”

My other wonderful co-host Johanna of Food Junkie not Junk Food, although a a big fan of Jaffrey’s writing was enamored of the chicken dish in the book and says, “The recipes at the back of Climbing the Mango Trees looked really enticing, and I decided to try the chicken curry, as it is a staple in every Indian restaurant. I was intrigued by the use of whole spices instead of the more common powdered “masala” and since I had all the ingredients at hand I set off to bring Delhi into my kitchen. Thickened by yoghurt, onions, and garlic, this curry is relatively light in calories, although it feels and looks substantial. It made the whole kitchen smell delicious and tasted completely different from what I used to have in England.

Kelly from It’s a Food Life found that she didn’t have servants or could order in food from her kitchen so she made up for it by cooking an entire Indian feast–Rotis, Cucumber Raita, Basmati Rice with Dill and Cardamom. South Indian Style Stir-Fried Green Beans, Chickpeas Cooked in Tea, and Salmon with Mustard Seed and Coriander. She says, “I find it quite ironic that Madhur Jaffrey has made such a success out of cooking and did not learn to cook until she had left home.  Her mother taught her to cook by “air mail” when she found herself longing for the tastes of home and had no kitchen or servants to order her food from.  She had to do it herself if she wanted to eat in the manner which she was accustomed. I tried to order some food from my “kitchen” but nobody listened so I had to do it myself.

Finally over at Kahakai Kitchen, I made a simple dinner from one of my several Jaffrey cookbooks, “Quick & Easy Indian Cooking“–Fish Fillets in a Curry Sauce, Simply Roasted Tomatoes and Rice with Peas and Dill. Everything went together easily and tasted delicious. I used a local opah, (moon fish), which was moist and delicious, local tomatoes and fresh dill from my garden. Great flavors and a healthy meal that even my visiting Mom enjoyed.

What an incredible array of yummy dishes! Thanks to everyone who joined in this round of CTB.

For our judge for this round, I’d like to introduce you to a new friend and fellow blogger Ann from Split Pear-sonality  – A Cooking Journey, joining us from Texas. Ann is a member of  another great virtual foodie book club, This Book Makes Me Cook. Since her group read “Climbing The Mango Trees” back in January, we thought it would be fun to have her judge our take on this foodie memoir. Ann cooks a variety of International cuisines at her site, and  knows her Indian food so we can expect that she will use her discerning eye and passion for good food to pick a deserving winner of the coveted Cook the Books Winners Badge! ;-) Go by Ann’s blog and read her Climbing The Mango Trees” book club post and her funny story about spending Hurricane Ike, copying the recipes out of Jaffrey’s book! Then take a gander at her version of Cheese Vali Gobi too.

We’ll have our winner posted at the end of the week (and we will get our next three book picks posted too!) before I turn things over to Jo with our next selection, Bill Buford’s “Heat.”

Hope you are enjoying your week!








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