Monday, March 24, 2014

Meet Author Shira Barak


We hope you enjoyed our 5 week series of getting to know the JLB Creatives Publishing Team. If you didn't get to catch all 5 weeks, not to worry - simply scroll down and visit the archives listed on the right hand side of the blog.

This week we return to our author features, and this week we are featuring the wonderful. . .

Shira Barak

Perhaps the first thing you will think of when imagining India is its diversity. There are many languages used in every state. With 28 states and 8 union territories, it has unique traditions, and most importantly, traditions in terms of its food. In fact, food from one region may actually be totally foreign to those living in other regions.

Religion and climate are two factors that have significantly influenced the development of cooking styles and food habits in India. North Indian cuisine is ancient, steeped in tradition, diverse, and an amalgamation of different ethnic influences. Gourmet fare of North India is typically associated with the food cooked in the courts of its royalty, principally those of Mughal emperors in Delhi and Lucknow. It is distinguished by the proportionately high use of dairy products such as ghee, milk, paneer, and yogurt. The common string that distinguishes and runs through most of it is the use of various spices that create flavor and aroma.

Religion has a great contribution to India's culture and tradition. It has deeply affected the North Indian’s eating traditions. Hinduism, per se, advises respect for all life forms and has subsidized the dominance of vegetarianism. One effect of this on cuisine is the use of lentils and beans as the main sources of protein instead of fish and meat. Even though cows are sacred to the Hindus, milk is considered favorable, including milk products such as cottage cheese or paneer, curd, and milk solids. Spices are liberally used to provide variation in the vegetarian diet, but certain sects of Hinduism forbid the use of garlic and onions in food, and due to that, substitute flavorings such as ginger, cumin seeds, and cashew paste have been merged into the cuisine. Later, with Muslim rule being established, the cuisine began to reflect Islamic influences. The chief alteration from traditional Hindu cuisine was the use of fish and meat. Meanwhile, unlike Hindus, who are vegan, and Muslims, who are prohibited from eating pork, most Christians do not have restrictions on the kind of meat that they eat. The Mughal influence resulted in meat-eating habits among many North Indians. Lamb and goat meat are found as ingredients of many recipes. Fish and meat are cut into small pieces to make flavored curries, which was a common use for large families when meat and fish were not affordable.

Climate varies across the country, and as a result, each region is characterized by distinct food habits based on what is locally available. These differences have been erased somewhat by modern transportation, which increases their availability, although much of Indian food—especially vegetables—are grown and eaten locally.

A typical North-Indian meal consists of chapatis or rotis, which is unleavened bread that is baked on a griddle; rice; and a range of side dishes like fried vegetables, dals, curries, chutney, pickles, and curd. The varieties used and the method of preparation can vary from one region to the other.

North Indian cooking features the use of the "tawa" (griddle) for baking flat breads like roti and paratha, and a "tandoor" (a large and cylindrical charcoal-fired oven) for baking breads such as kulcha and naan. Their main courses like tandoori chicken also cook in the tandoor.

Traditional Dip of Mashed Eggplant

Servings: 3

Total Preparation Time: 25 minutes
·                    1 large eggplant
·                    1 tsp cumin seeds
·                    1 large, finely chopped onion
·                    1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
·                    1 tsp fresh garlic, minced
·                    3  medium ripe tomatoes, diced
·                    1/4 tsp turmeric powder
·                    1 Tbsp coriander
·                    1 Tbsp cumin powder
·                    1 Tbsp garam masala
·                    3 tsp red chili flakes
·                    1 Tbsp coconut oil
·                    3 Tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped, for garnish
1.                  Rinse eggplant, dry, and coat with oil.
2.                  Turn stove on high and use tongs to hold the eggplant over the heat to burn the skin and to soften the eggplant.
3.                  Let cool, remove the skin, and mash the flesh, set aside.
4.                  Sauté ginger, garlic, onions, and the remaining spices, cook until tender.
5.                  Add tomatoes and mix well.
6.                  Add the mashed eggplant and mix well again.
7.                  Serve hot, garnished with fresh chopped cilantro.

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I don't know about you, but I'm ready to run to the kitchen and get busy - 
but first I want to grab a copy of Shira's cookbook! 
You can do the same by clicking on the pic below...


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JLB Creatives Editor Dar Bagby (L) and JLB Creatives CEO Janet Beasley (R)