All in a Weekend Cookbook Club: From Gujarat with Love, all the way to Val-d'Or

A Val-d'Or teacher looking for spicy ways to keep warm and a Montreal mother of two teens tested recipes from Vina Patel's vegetarian cookbook for a month, and discovered the only way to buy curry leaves is on the shrub and pulses come in many shapes and sizes.

How many kinds of lentils are there? Listeners try their hands at spicy vegetarian fare

Danielle Rousset's family loved Easy-Peasy Potato Curry.

CBC's All in a Weekend listeners have been trying out recipes from three cookbooks with host Sonali Karnick. This is the final instalment of the show's Cookbook Club.

Schools were still in lockdown in January when Lisa Silver, a teacher in Val-d'Or, Que., signed on to All in a Weekend's Cookbook Club to test recipes from Vina Patel's first book, From Gujarat with Love.

Silver found it hard to cook for just one after returning from her hometown of Kitchener-Waterloo after the holidays laden with ingredients that were not all easy to find in the Abitibi region.

"So I would pack up little lunches and bring them over to my friend Trish, and I would add the paneer cheese — the tikka paneer I used. She would message me the next day on Facebook and say, 'That was just fantastic.'"

Silver said she is a competent cook, but Indian vegetarian cooking like Patel's 100 recipes, all originating in the author's home state, was new to her.

"It was fun for me. It was a learning stretch," she said.

Vina Patel's From Gujarat with Love explores authentic vegetarian cuisine from the state of Gujarat on India's west coast.

Danielle Rosset, the Cookbook Club's second tester, has a family of four to feed, and she wasn't sure how they'd handle the heat of some of Patel's recipes.

"I was pleasantly surprised that my teenagers actually tolerated everything," she said.

Rosset, who works for a nonprofit organization in Montreal, said the Paneer Tikka that Silver's friend so enjoyed was popular at her kitchen table, too, as were the Spicy Scrambled Eggs.

She couldn't quite believe the ingredients called for three-quarters of a cup of chopped onions for a half dozen eggs.

"It sounds like a lot for six eggs," she said. "But it's fine — it's beautiful."

As Rosset learned, there are a lot of onions in most Indian recipes. The trick is, they have to be cooked down, then cooked down some more.

"The biggest hit, absolutely biggest," said Rosset, was as easy as its name suggests, "Easy-Peasy Potato Curry."

Lentils, many ways

Both cooks tried many of the lentil recipes in the book, some eaten with a flatbread or rice such as the Gujarati Dal, others creamy, like the Masoor Dal.

"I was really surprised they had similar ingredients, but the flavour profiles are very different," said Silver.

Rosset, who had only ever cooked with orange lentils before, stocked up on a wide variety in preparation for a month of Gujarati-style cooking.

"Having an assortment of different pulses is great," she said.

Curry leaves by the bushel

Shopping on Jean-Talon Street in Montreal's Parc-Extension neighbourhood, Rosset had little trouble finding specialty Indian ingredients, from asafoetida – a powder used in the tiniest of quantities to cut bitterness – to curry leaves, which you typically buy as a cutting that looks like you're taking home a small shrub.

"I was absolutely astonished that that's how they come," said Silver, who easily found fresh ingredients like ginger, coriander and tomatoes in the Abitibi region but brought her curry leaves back from Ontario.

"What a game-changer for the dish. It really does make a huge difference, I found, for that lovely flavour."

Throughout January, All in a Weekend host Sonali Karnick tried out recipes from three cookbooks with listeners. (Sonali Karnick/CBC)

Silver said she saw her food bills drop while trying out so many vegetarian dishes and buying so little meat.

Rosset's family is used to eating vegetarian meals regularly, but she said Patel's cookbook provided a little extra inspiration for their regular meals.

"It was easy to follow. The recipes aren't difficult in any way," she said. Her family loved trying all of the new dishes and will add most of these recipes to their regular repertoire.

"It's simple to follow," Silver agreed. "It's just unusual ingredients for me." The trick, she said, is preparing all the ingredients for a recipe before launching into it, to make the whole cooking process easier.

While my family is from India, we aren't from the state of Gujarat, so trying recipes was pretty fun and tasty and a great way to shake up my winter menu at home.

LISTEN | Lisa Silver and Danielle Rosset dish on Vina Patel's From Gujarat With Love


Sonali Karnick is the host of All in a Weekend. Listen to the show on Saturday and Sunday mornings from 6 a.m. until 9 a.m. across Quebec.


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