At Home with Madhur Jaffrey

Author Madhur Jaffrey with IAAC founder Aroon Shivdasani

Last week the Indo-American Arts Council hosted a book launch event to celebrate actor and author Madhur Jaffrey‘s latest release, a cookbook designed for busy people who love Indian food but find the prep time overwhelming.   Loins of Punjab Presents star Ajay Naidu stopped by briefly to offer his good wishes, followed later in the evening by author, former diplomat and Minister Shashi Tharoor, with his recent bride in tow.

At Home with Madhur Jaffrey: Simple Delectable Dishes from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka is full of enticing photographs and uncluttered pages, accented by Jaffrey’s charming illustrations on the chapter dividers and her own adorable variation on the Knopf Borzoi.   The book starts with starters – even though, as the author explains, the service of a first course is a concept Indian restaurants adopted to please non-Indian diners – and proceeds to cover vegetable dishes, meat, fish, rice, breads and desserts.

Madhur Jaffrey’s purpose in writing this book was to help those pressed for time spend less of it grinding spices and browning and the like, by exploring flavorful shortcuts that one could use “and then go and watch Mad Men.”

I am particularly keen to try her recipe for sweet-and-sour butternut squash (given that we’re in that season right now) and to try the kheer.   As we discussed her early days in New York as a United Nations tour guide and friend to Ismail Merchant and James Ivory, I confessed to Madhur Jaffrey that as much as I love Indian food, I find replicating it at home rather intimidating.   “Then this is the book for you!” she exclaimed.

(As soon as I have a chance to try out the recipes – maybe for Thanksgiving? – I’ll provide an update.)

Madhur Jaffrey got into the cookbook line by accident, finding herself alone in London and missing her mother’s ghar ka khana.   Soon, her Mum was sending detailed instructions in her letters, and Madhur was on her way.   I asked if she still has those missives, and she confirmed that she does indeed.

If you’d like to read more about a day in the life on the road for the author as she cooks and chats with people in Dublin, check out this Irish Times article on her recent visit.

And if you’d like to see some of her recent wonderful film work, catch her in a moving role that will break your heart in Hiding Divya and as a web-surfing, matchmaking Mom in Today’s Special.

At Home with Madhur Jaffrey: Simple Delectable Dishes from India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka
Knopf – 320 pages – $35

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