Family meals so good that she needed to know how to replicate them is where Jayshri Ganda’s culinary journey began.
Jayshri is the first to admit she didn’t really know how to cook. Growing up in New Zealand with Indian parents, Jayshri and her siblings never needed to learn kitchen skills. Cooking for everyone was their mum, Laxmi’s way of bestowing love.
So Laxmi cooked, completely recipe-free; which her children deemed amazing, but confounding if you wanted to reproduce something later. “It was a running joke in our family that if we asked how something was made, there were no measures mentioned,” Jayshri says.
“Everything was concocted with ‘a little bit of this and a little bit of that’.”
And when Jayshri prodded her mum for more information about why her own culinary experiments weren’t turning out identical flavours and textures, the answers lay with where ingredients had been sourced. Oh, and exact quantities.
“It turns out you can’t get your chilli or your garlic from a jar of the minced stuff. You actually have to grow your own, or go to an Indian store and buy the original ingredients – especially lentils, in the raw,” Jayshri says. “Any extra processing like fumigation affects things like cooking times.”
Jayshri researched to see if a classic, basic Indian recipe book existed. Only two came close to her vision. So she decided to commit all her mother’s cooking method secrets to paper for Kiwi-born generations. In a nutshell, it’s the art of Gujarati cooking and it looks gorgeous in a professionally produced, globally-awarded cookbook, ‘A little bit of this, A little bit of that’.
The initial print sold out quickly. The first re-print has just finished, and more will likely follow suit, as the self-published book has garnered two Gourmand World Cookbook awards in Yantai, China. It was awarded ‘best in the world’ under the ‘Indian’ and ‘Spices’ categories.
Jayshri’s own favourites are her mum’s lamb curry, masala chops and Sunday chicken curry. “It’s exactly like the Sunday family roast… every time we all get together, we enjoy eating the same meal.”
As Laxmi, now living in Christchurch, comes from a still-developing seaside village called Avda Falia in north-west India, Jayshri is donating all profit from the re-print of the book to projects there. Initially the cash is going toward library books for the local school. Another cookbook might soon follow. Watch this space.