Tam Bram’s Recipes is a one-of-a-kind cookbook written for people who need “in-depth” tutoring when it comes to cooking. What is the idea of publishing the book?
The epidemic was raging. A lot of young people had to get into cooking to manage their lives safely. Among them was our daughter, Far Continents. So do the other millennials in the family. This group of people was craving good vegetarian options, healthy food, and easy recipes. Sundar was a wonderful cook who was the person they would connect with. He writes recipes for voice notes. This led me to ask him if he would collaborate with me on a book about his recipes. Where he cooked and wrote the recipe and I did the rest. He agreed to my surprise. I thought it would be a good opportunity to highlight this kitchen. It is much more than just idli-dosa. So this was the main reason.
Have you had ambivalence about what to include in the book and what to leave out, considering the vast array of recipes Mr. Rajopalan is known to possess?
The Palakkad region in southern India is where my husband comes from. Most of the recipes are from that region. His maternal grandparents came from Manjiri in Kerala. As a little kid growing up, he’d spend every summer vacation there. All those dietary influences shaped his cuisine. And of course it is Tamil. His parents were great cooks – so it’s a legacy of family recipes and individual touches. Much thought went into it.
So, while dosa idli vada sambhar and chutney define the popular dishes of the south – very few non-experts know how to prepare them well. How do you grind the dough until it rises? How do you get the softest meal or the softest dosa?
So even traditional recipes are explained in a simplified way. We wanted to highlight forgotten or lesser known dishes – Olan, Upma Kollakatai, aval etc. We also wanted to focus on the variety of dishes – there are so many types of rice recipes from sambar rasam etc – just to show depth. With the increasing trends in favoring veganism – gluten-free and lactose-free options, we felt this kitchen truly supports those ideas.
Healthy and easy to make for people rushing time – so we’ve got five minute options – one, two options, or three ingredients – without adding unnecessary masalas and bells and whistles to complicate matters.
How is Tamil Pramin food specifically different from South Indian food?
The Palakkad region in southern India is where my husband comes from. Most of the recipes are from that region. His maternal grandparents came from Manjiri in Kerala. As a little kid growing up, he would spend every summer vacation there. All those dietary influences shaped his cuisine. And of course it is Tamil. His parents were great cooks – so it’s a legacy of family recipes and individual touches.
What do you think is the secret to making good food?
patience. Follow the steps correctly and do not add too many ingredients so that the real flavor of the foods is reduced. And of course lots of love and kind energy.
Any tips on how to reduce cooking time in the kitchen for workers?
Buy our book! It all leans toward time-crunched millennials – with special variations and tips for doing it right!
I mentioned about the “art of chopping vegetables” in a chapter of the book. Can you clarify that please?
surely. Chopping vegetables the right way adds flavor to a particular dish. So, when you dice, julienne, fine chop, long chop – it all makes a difference in the appetizing appeal and cooking of the dish. Aside from art, there is also science to it. How close you are to the skin, size, storage in the refrigerator – helps release enzymes and preserves the true taste.
There is an entire chapter in the book on South Indian Tiffin. What is tiffin actually and what is its significance in South Indian cuisine?
Tiffin is actually loosely called as a snack in South Indian cooking. Tiffin time is after lunch or mid morning with filter coffee. It is a term unique to South India. Its origins go back to British rule. If you go to restaurants in south India, the boards outside will say meals and dough are on offer. Which means full snacks, lunches and dinners.
Some cooking secrets the book didn’t share…?
All secrets are in the book. We wanted to share everything with our valued customers.
Do you have any plans to write about other North Indian/Regional cuisines in the future?
never say never. I prepared some of my mom’s signature recipes in a book called Dolly Table – Bengali Kitchen. It was private for trading. I may bring a more detailed version to the public.