Title: Saffron and Pearls: A Memoir of family, friendship and heirloom Hyderabadi recipes
Author: Doreen Hassan
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Photographs by: Cyrus Dalal
Saffron and Pearls is aptly titled for it has both – Saffron symbolizing the rich and mouth-watering recipes adorning the pages of the book with the essence of each recipe captured beautifully thanks to the photographer and Pearls symbolizing the rich family history along with the age-old traditional bits transferred from one generation to the other over the years.
The book has an aura, probably reflecting the authors. It is not one of those books, which my father calls ‘over-the-top’ simply because half of the ingredients and vessels used in the book are not available and if not that, the book is not comprehensive for a layman. In contrast, this is a very systematic one and most ingredients used are those which are used in an average Indian kitchen.
What struck a chord was the author’s transformation from being someone who didn’t have to bother about cooking to one mortified (if not helpless) and then to being the one excelling at churning up marvels as well as being an amazing host. She, through words, connects with the reader in a very warm way.
What is also noteworthy is the use of photographs from their personal collection. The notes by Doreen’s children are brownie points for the book. Credit goes to the photographer for having captured the food items in an alluring manner which no doubt would make a reader want to try the recipes.
The content, as pointed out before, has been arranged in an orderly manner with recipes simplest to make going first and the more complicated ones following suite. The instructions on how to use the book appear followed by different sections, namely, Vegetables and Dhals, Meat and Poultry, Seafood, Biryanis and Pulaos, Rotis, Pickles and Chutneys, Snacks and Sweets and not to forget Doreen’s advice for hosting parties.
The book reviewer was amazed at the variety of pickles. Did you know that a pickle can be made of eggs too? Don’t believe it? Plunge into this world of Hyderabadi delights and you too would be amazed. One image that caught my eye was the picture beside the recipe of ‘machli mein jhinge’. What initially looked like a huge fried fish turned out to have prawns stuffed inside it!
There is a separate section for desserts (god save the one who came up with the concept of ‘sweet-tooth’). As a sumptuous dinner usually draws to a close with a sweet dish (with the popular tagline “Khaane ke Baad Kuch meetha ho jaaye” tagline instantly coming to mind), similarly, this book has the sweet dishes’ recipes towards the end.
Vegetarians might be a bit disappointed as most of the recipes are of non-vegetarian dishes. However, it remains an essential read for those who love cooking; who do not love cooking but love eating; who love food but do not have any idea about how to prepare food and for even those who would prefer to lick their fingers instead of turning the pages of a book. How else would one know the magic behind appearance of mouth-watering dishes on the dining table and useful tips to be the ‘perfect’ and ‘warm’ host?
The strength of the book is the human touch given to it. It is more than a cookery book. It is a memoir of a lady who has managed to help the reader soak in the beauty of Hyderabad and its rare gems. She, along with her husband, Peter Toghrille Hassan, has preserved a way of life, culture and cuisine. Their pride in the same can be felt by the reader. It is inspiring because it teaches one to value one’s roots and take pride in it. It also encourages us to stay rooted even when we are flying high.
The recipes shared in the book are priceless family recipes from her husband’s storied Hyderabadi family as per her. It, therefore, remains a book worth having on the shelf. Once in a while when it is taken out from there and dusted, one can expect a delicious dish and if extra efficient, Doreen even has a combination ready that can serve as a perfect meal combination.