The second book chosen for both Cook’s book club and Thoughtful Thursdays were coincidentally the same – A Thousand Splendid Suns. After having read and liked The KiteRunner, I was curious to read the second book by Khaled Hosseini. It is one thing to impress with a well-written first book, after all there is no reputation at stake, but quite another to keep that up and come up with a winner the second time over. While I wouldn’t call this a winner, Khaled did not flatter to deceive.
The book, again set in Afghanistan, is the story of two very different women, one old enough to be the mother of the other, and whose life touches and by a twist of fate, merges. The book, written from the perspective of Mariam and Laila alternatively, gives us a sneak-peak into a woman’s life in war-torn Kabul. The two women, married to the same man and forced to live together, slowly accept the presence of each other in their life, bond with each other over tea and end up caring for each other when the husband becomes their common nemesis.
This book, like life, is all about relationship: father-daughter, mother-daughter, boy-girl and wife-wife. The various relationships mish-mash and form the core of the book. This made me think about my life and the very many wonderful relationships that are part of it. I never really cooked with my mom; I learnt most of the authentic South Indian dishes from her – either over phone or through her written notes. Inspired by this book and my mom, with whom I share the love for cooking amongst other things, I made her Bisi Bele Bath.
Tamarind – 2-3 Tbsp thick paste
Mixed vegetables (Small Onions, Green Bell pepper, Drumstick)
Water – 2 cups
Rice – 1 cup
Lentil – 1 cup
Oil – 1 tsp
Mustard seeds – 1 tsp
Curry leaves – 10
Ghee – 1 tsp
Hing / Perungayam – 1 tsp
Roast and grind to a paste
Coriander seeds – 2 tsp
Peppercorn – 6
Red Chillies – 4
Coconut – 4 tbsp
Khus-kus – 1 tsp
Roasted Split Gram (daria dal / pottu kadalai) – 2 tsp
Pressure cook the rice and lentil in a cooker till they are completely cooked (typically, about 3-4 whistles)
In a thick-bottomed vessel, splutter mustard seeds in oil, add perungayam, curry leaves and saute the vegetables. Add the tamarind paste and water, cook till the vegetables are fork tender.
Add the cooked rice-lentil, the ground paste and ghee to the tamarind water and mix well. Add some more water, if it is too thick.
Serve hot with appalam or potato roast.