Redefining Indian Cooking with Sameen Rushdie

Sameen Rushdie took the culinary world by storm when Indian Cookery was first published in 1970. Now, with the re-publishing of her classic cookbook, Sameen introduces a younger generation to the vastly diverse world of Indian cuisines.

Lei Anne Rabeje, Writing for
2-minute read
Episode #201

book cover Sameen Rushdie Indian Cookery

It’s hard to pass down family stories and family recipes when mom or dad aren’t home, let alone in another hemisphere. But in Indian Cookery, Sameen Rushdie compiles the oral recipes given to her by her mother, passed down from generation to generation. Both a personal gift to her daughters and a broader gift to a younger generation hoping to preserve their Indian cultures and traditions, Rushdie’s first cookbook takes readers and home cooks on a journey through India’s diverse culinary world—from explaining each dish’s origins to detailing different types and uses of spices.

Rushdie transforms these oral traditions to print without losing their touch of familiarity and family history. Indian Cookery breaks away from the traditional cookbook structure, shifting away from exact measurements of time and ingredients, and instead guides her readers on what to do, how to do it, what to look for, and why.

“My mom’s kitchen didn’t have anything that exactly measures or gave the exact timing, so everything was about do this, and when it looks like this, then you move on to doing this,” recalled Rushdie. “So I think it’s better to imagine this as a friendly guide sharing tips and pitfalls that you might look out for.”

First published in the 1970s, Rushdie’s cookbook continues to redefine Western misconceptions of Indian food, as being too spicy, too oily, or too time consuming to cook. To do so, Rushdie returns to her mother’s lessons on cooking. “I was taught to cook by my mom, and I was told to hold back, restrain your use of spices,” explained Rushdie. “You have to be able to taste you ingredients, have to respect the original meat or vegetable.”

Whether you’re an amateur cook or a professional chef, Indian Cookery offers a new taste of India’s vast culinary world. And with Rushdie’s classic cookbook, you can take this journey through India right in your kitchen. 

Listen to this first installment of Cookstr Classics, and hear more about Rushdie’s journey to debunk Western perceptions of Indian foods, learn about her extensive knowledge of spices, and how vegetarians can indulge in new cultures and traditions through Indian food.

Picador Cookstr Classics is a series collaboration between Cookstr and Picador. It brings to the forefront some of the beloved cookbooks that many of us have grown up with in the last few decades and preserves a piece of history in the culinary world. If you enjoyed Sameen’s insights, check out Indian Cookery and take a journey through India’s vastly diverse regions of food and culture.

About the Author

Lei Anne Rabeje, Writing for Clever Cookstr

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