Indian Regional Cookery by Meera Taneja is a favourite cookery book of mine, but in fact I think I’ve read it more than cooked from it. It is just a lovely book and I’m not sure where I got it from, or when. It may have been from one of those book clubs there used to be where you picked books from a leaflet/magazine, and maybe had to have one a month, or a certain number a year, or maybe were sent random books from a selection of genres you’d submitted. There was always the surprise element with book clubs, and as far as I can remember they were mostly lovely surprises! It may have been that I bought it from a publishing representative who used to come into school where I worked, and I know I did get some great books in that way, but no, I think Meera came through the post to me and was a lovely surprise!
On the front of the book is a photo of Meera herself, a beautiful young woman, calm and serene, kneeling or sitting, and wearing a lovely patterned sari in autumn colours with stylised animals including a rather perplexed looking elephant and what maybe a jaunty monkey. She has her hands lightly clasped and she gives a sense of confidence and friendliness. There are no biographical notes in the book, and for some reason I’ve never tried to find out more about Meera although she’s been my cookery friend for so long.
I had a quick Google and wasn’t surprised to find she had written eight other books. Then I was very sad to learn that she died far too soon at the age of fifty-seven in 2004. She was described as “a pioneering food writer and chef… instrumental in popularizing Indian cookery and cuisine in the UK from the 1980’s onwards.”
On the front cover of the book I have, Meera is surrounded by a wonderful display of neatly arranged vegetables and neat hessian sacks full of herbs, spices and other ingredients. The back cover is another picture of spices, condiments, herbs and all the ingredients anyone would need to cook her recipes. Luckily, inside there is the photo again with a handy diagram and list of the seventy-six (yes 76) items shown. There is another photo of fruit and vegetables, with its handy diagram, and list of the thirty-nine items. The book contains some fabulous photos,
It is just a lovely book, lovely to look at, lovely to handle, lovely food that you can cook from the recipes, with weight equivalents in avoirdupois, metric and Indian, There are maps, introductions to the different regions, cultures and explanations of the different cuisines and traditions, a glossary, of herbs, spices, oils and essences, fruit and vegetables, basic Indian implements, cookery terms, and useful basic recipes. I forgot to mention that the pages are a soft golden colour, the printing ink a warm brown which makes it all so inviting. No wonder I often sit and read it!
Here is a link to a programme from 2014, where one of Meera’s two daughters, Preti, talks about her mother