Maybe it is best to end the year, or start a new one, with a well-grounded cookbook that brings us back to the very reason we cook: to eat, to satisfy, to share the bounty of our land. Suvir Saran‘s Masala Farm (Chronicle Books 2011) is just the thing.
Much like life, masala invites a combination of ups and downs, bitterness, spice, and sweetness, that bring joy, and interest to the every day. With these contrasts, we can appreciate life with a greater sensibility. That’s why masala is about much more than just adding flavor to a food. It is about living-and appreciating-every moment. (p. 20)
The cookbook is a chronicle of life on the farm Suvir shares with his partner, co-author Charlie Burd, and the geese, goats, chickens, and guest who come to stay in the farm in upstate New York. The stories are funny and touching, and often quite surprising. Masala Farm is ordered by the season, and by seasonal produce (mostly vegetarian) – not one particular cuisine.
It being Winter, Super Chef started with this section – reading about the cold and tough work of feeding the goats and chickens, and coming in for spicy Indian snacks, hot chai, or tea biscuits. The first recipe is for homemade Old-Fashioned Eggnog (p. 164) for which you need 9 extra fresh eggs along with Grand Marnier and cognac. The story, Ebay for Eggs (pp. 166-7) is about buying exotic and heritage breed birds on Egg-Bid.com only to accidentally release the birds to the wild. The pheasants and duck end up populating the countryside. There are photos and an essay about the chickens and other birds that remained on pages 192-195. With a root cellar full for the winter, the recipes for winter squash are especially interesting. Butternut Squash Chaat is roast squash with cumin, chaat masala, and lime. Butternut Squash, Apple, and Cranberry Gratin (p. 171) is coated in butter and flour and flavored with thyme.
There are several good rabbit recipes like Country Rabbit Terrine with Pistachios and Pernod (p. 181) with a photography by Ben Fink and a thick slice of terrine heavily studded with green pistachios. One of the best dishes is Birbal Kee Khitcheree (p. 188), a vegetarian stew of lentils, rice and vegetables, topped with fried onions, ginger, and green scallions is the perfect dish for New Years’ Day or a cold evening in February.
This is a sentimental cookbook – read about Goose Number 1,263 – but one full of love for the land, the surrounding farms, and the animals on them. It is a great way to start the New Year.