A Family Affair: Brunch with the Sood Family and their Cookbook

Sunday Brunch. Chattarpur Farms.
Launch of a Book and Review of Food. 
Anyone Interested?

When I received this message from Food Bloggers Association of India (FBAI), I must admit that I agreed to go without knowing much. I wasn’t even sure what the afternoon was exactly about.

Wait, no plus one either? What would I do? Who would I talk to? How would I even get to Chattarpur on my own? The place isn’t the easiest to find your way around, after all.

But boy, am I glad I went.

Turns out I had nothing to worry about. I met some lovely people. Ate some very unique food. And even had a ride to and from the venue, sent by the organizers themselves.

But let’s start at the beginning shall we?

Aparna Jain is an Integral-based, CEO and leadership coach; as well as a marketing and strategic Consultant. She is also the author of The Sood Family Cookbook. It is in this capacity that I had the pleasure of meeting her, at a Brunch hosted by her and her family, last week.

Image Courtesy: Google

Image Courtesy: Google

The Sood Family Cookbook is a collection of ‘101 unique recipes gathered from the collective memories of the Sood Family, which came down from the mountains of Shimla to New Delhi three generations ago.’

Every family has certain recipes that are unique. Certain dishes, which other family members always remember with fondness. I can identify a few in my own family. The Pork Chops and the Chicken Liver Salad my mother used to make many, many years ago. My Nani’s amazing Mutton curry with Rice and delicious Pudina Chutney. My mother-in-law’s Kathal (Jackfruit) Biryani, and Chocolate Mousse. His maami’s Mutton Pickle that my husband cannot get enough of. Or his Dadi Ma’s Mango Custard Ice Cream he remembers so fondly.

How lovely would it be to have the recipes for all these unique dishes, consolidated in one book! That is exactly what Aparna has done. She has collected all her family’s recipes, from old aunts to cousins and relatives living all over the world. And she has documented them in this cute little cookbook, published by HarperCollins.

As a part of the book’s pre-launch, HarperCollins invited a few foodies to an exclusive food tasting of ‘Pahaadi Khaana’ from the Sood Family Cookbook. The lovely Winter Brunch was hosted by the author, Aparna Jain at her family’s farmhouse in Chattarpur, New Delhi.

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It was a lovely afternoon, bright and sunny; the family was warm and welcoming. The tables were beautifully set, there was Champagne and Cocktails to greet us, Santa even left us little presents, a copy of the cookbook included. 🙂

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The cookbook itself is a compact little treasure, simple to decipher and illustrated very adorably. With each recipe, comes a story, of how the dish came about, or who in the family can be credited with it. There are also tips on every page on how best to enjoy that particular dish, and in some cases how you can even experiment to make it your own.

Recipes are bifurcated into sections: All-Day Breakfast, Home Food Comfort Food (which contains all the Pahaadi dishes), From Near and Far (with dishes such as Pastas and Grilled Chicken), Light and Healthy (for salads), When under the Weather (there’s a recipe for Amla – Indian Gooseberry – Soup as well as Karela – Bitter Gourd – Soup), Anytime Eats (if you fancy Snowdrop Cookies or Crunchy Elephant Ears), Chutney’s with Oomph, Sood Grog (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks, including a recipe for Mulled Wine), and of course, the Sweet Somethings.

The Sood Family is originally from Kangra in Himachal Pradesh, and eat Pahaadi Food (loosely translated as food ‘from the mountains’), at home. So the brunch was dedicated to introducing guests to their signature Pahaadi dishes. I must admit, this was the first time I had even heard of dishes such as Pahaadi Madra (a staple dish from Himachal), Pahaadi Mittha (a sweet syrupy dry-fruit dish, that Pahaadis usually eat drizzled on top of rice at the end of their meal), Rali-Milli Daal (a mixture of 5 different lentils, made in pahaadi homes and served with a mango chutney called Maani). But what an introduction it was! Most of the food was delicious, and so very different from anything I have ever eaten.

Yes, I hogged, and I’m not afraid to admit it!

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Believe it or not, each of the dishes was actually prepared for us by the family member credited with that recipe, starting with Aparna’s 82 year old Aunt to her 16 year old niece. Thank you!

Here’s a quick snapshot of all the food we got to try.

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The best part is that the recipe for each and every dish we sampled that day is included in the book. While the Pahaadi recipes section is the lengthiest, the Sood Family over the years has become fairly pan-Indian and Global. So the book also includes recipes that have come to be included in the repertoire on account of someone who is married into the family, or someone who has developed their own fusion recipe over time living in cities around the world. As a result, we have a recipe for Kashmiri Kofta Curry from the North, and Spicy Drumstick Sambar from the South. Globally, we have one for Baked Tomato Spaghetti as well as one for Vietnamese Pho. Ok really, I cannot wait to get started trying some of these recipes.

Go buy The Sood Family Cookbook. Pre-order it on Flipkart, or buy it in stores from the 25th of December. Read it, cover to cover. Find yourself getting familiar with all the family members. They’ll feel a bit like your own aunts and uncles. Linger over Aparna’s endearing preface. And I assure you, each and every one of you will relate to it, in some way or the other. You will understand the idea behind it. You will appreciate the effort it must have entailed. And you will love the final outcome. Like I did. But more than anything, you will want to try some of these recipes for yourself. Like I do!

I’m starting with Raja Maamu’s Diabolical Mulled Wine in the Sood Grog section, as part of the Christmas dinner I’m attempting to make for my husband! Good place to start, eh! 🙂

So, what are you cooking today?

5 comments on “A Family Affair: Brunch with the Sood Family and their Cookbook

  1. Just want to clarify -being a Sood or Sud from Shimla, who’s ancestors are from Kangra, there is no such thing as “pahadi” mandra, ” pahadi” meetha and definitely no pahadi maani mango chutney! We simply call these dishes mandra, maahni & meetha. Maani is made with a mix of roasted makki atta, wheat or rice flour with black Chana cooked in the gravy and the one ingredient that makes it sour is amchoor with a few dried mango slices thrown in.

    • Hi Tanu,

      At the onset I’d like to thank you for stopping by the blog.

      Yes, the names of the dishes are in fact Madra, Mittha and Maani. The Author of the cookbook mentioned in this post is also from the Kangra region, and I think her idea behind it is simply to introduce the rest of us to these wonderful dishes. I for one am very glad she did, as each dish I tried that day was absolutely delicious.
      In the cookbook, she has taken the artistic liberty of adding the prefix of ‘pahaadi’ before these signature dishes, so that the rest of us who are not familiar with them can associate them with the region they are from. For instance, a popular dish you will find in many Oriental and Pan-Asian restaurants around Delhi these days is the Burmese Khao Suey. In this case, while the name of the dish is just Khao Suey, the word Burmese is added as a prefix just as an indication of where this dish originated. You will find similar prefixes very often: Malaysian Laksa Curry, Thai Red Curry, or closer home the Hyderabadi Biryani.
      I’m sure no harm was meant by it, and I’m also sure it will only help in the long run by bringing the delights of this pahaadi food to the limelight.
      That being said, thank you for bringing the nuances of Maani to my attention, I shall definitely make a note of it.

      Best,
      Upasna

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