Books & Literature

Cookbook Review: Parsi, by Farokh Talati

From Persia to Bombay: recipes & tales from the ancient culture

A beautiful collection of authentic recipes for passionate cooks.

Feature image credit: Bloomsbury

When dining at a Parsi table, you’re likely to hear the phrase, “Jamva Chalo Ji,” which translates to a call to action that is most fitting for Farokh Talati’s collection of recipes: “Come, let’s eat!”

Championed by Nigella Lawson herself, Parsi chronicles some of the most delectable dishes from an ancient culture with roots in Iran and a lasting legacy in South Asia. Parsi people are the descendants of Persian Zoroastrians — those belonging to a monotheistic religion that predates Christianity and Islam — who migrated to India from Persia to escape Islamic persecution in the eighth century (via Britannica). In his colourful book, Talati dives into Parsi culture, which has been shaped by many influences over the years, including descriptions of his family history. Part of the appeal of this cookbook is that there are so few others like it. At least in Australia, Parsi culture and cuisine remain relatively unknown, with fewer than 3,000 Zoroastrians living in the country as of 2018, per ABC News. This is in spite of the fact that one of history’s most iconic musicians, Freddie Mercury of Queen fame, came from a Parsi family.

Parsi contains over 150 recipes, many of them hearty and perfect for comfort eating. It opens with a foreword by scholar Homi K. Bhabha and writer and recipe taster Leah Bhabha, and includes chapters on Breakfast, Snacks, Salads, Rice and Lentils, Vegetables, Fish, Meat, Sweet Things and Ice Creams, Biscuits and Cakes, and Drinks. The first few sections also feature foundational recipes that are often needed for more complex recipes later on, including Spices and Masalas, Pickles, Preserves and Dips, and Dairy. Though you can sub these basics if you don’t have the time to make ingredients such as ginger-garlic paste (page 43) or cashew and coconut masala (page 47), this presents the opportunity to make truly authentic dishes from scratch.

Even though some of the recipes are more complex, Talati includes helpful instructions on the most basic yet essential of dishes, such as his guides on cooking white and brown basmati rice. Interweaved through the recipes are useful tips that aspiring cooks will appreciate, including how to choose the right spices and store them so they don’t lose their punch.

Presentation-wise, Parsi gets top marks for a gold-embossed hardcover and remarkable food and travel photography laid out within by photographers Sam A. Harris and Oliver Chanarin. When you’re finished cooking, this is definitely one to keep on the coffee table (and for goodness’ sake, don’t get it dirty).

Papeta Ma Gos – Meat and potato stew (page 219)

Flavour explosion! This recipe is flexible with what meat you can use but recommends meat on the bone. I opted for boneless chuck steak but still found the result to be tender and bursting with taste. This is a particularly good and easy recipe for winter, and though the recipe only calls for potatoes, you could easily add other veggies (Talati suggests beans and peas in the summer).

I had to change the recipe slightly as I overcooked the meat, somehow missing the clear “gentle simmer” instructions. The liquid evaporated so I added some stock, which may have changed the flavour, but the stew was still delicious. I can only imagine how amazing it would have been if I had cooked it perfectly!

Keri nu ice cream – Mango ice cream (page 311)

This mango ice cream was another easy-to-make, easy-to-impress-with dish — we love those! It was a little tricky to find mango puree at Drake’s (though it looks like it’s available at Woolworths), so I went with frozen mango chunks that I pureed in the blender. The result was rich, refreshing, tangy, and perfect for summer.

Reviewed by Vanessa Elle
Instagram: @vanessaellewrites

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not necessarily of Glam Adelaide.

Distributed by: Bloomsbury
Released: November 2022
RRP: $52.99

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