When one thinks of south Indian cuisine, the first dishes that pop up in their heads are idli, dosa, sambar and rasam. However, the cuisine from down south has much more to offer. This is what author Chandra Padmanabhan wanted to prove when she wrote her first recipe book, Dakshin, back in 1991-92. “My first book happened by accident. Harper Collins India asked me to pen a book of my recipes and I decided to give it a shot. Since I have travelled all across India, I had come to realise that the perception of South Indian cuisine was limited to sambar, rasam, idli. I wanted to change that perception. That’s why I decided to explore South Indian cuisine through my book,” recalls Chandra, whose latest and fourth book, Southern Flavours recently hit the stands.
After her first book, the author came up with two more books – titled Southern Spice (Penguin) and Simply South (Westland). And, her fourth book, Southern Flavours is a combination of 100 recipes from the previous books and an addition of 50 new recipes. “Most people asked me to create a single volume of my best recipes,” she shares, adding, “That’s how I decided to come up with a ‘gift edition’, which includes all sorts of simple recipes as it is targeted at beginners.” Chandra says that it will make an ideal gift to newly weds, and also to students who are going abroad to study and have to depend on their own cooking.
Always been a foodie
Chandra, who has always had an inclination towards cooking, says, “I took to cooking very naturally because I have always been a foodie.” She further recalls as to how she started cooking at the age of 15 itself. “I have always found cooking very interesting. And, since I have travelled across the country, I have experienced all kinds of cuisines in its authentic way and loved it. I like good food – as long as it’s vegetarian.”
Health comes first
After Chandra tied the knot with her husband, she felt that it was her responsibility to ensure that her family maintained good health. “After my marriage, I realised that my family’s health depended on me. So, I would always make sure that whatever I am cooking is healthy, and interesting as well,” she shares, and adds that the same has been kept in mind with her books. “All the recipes in my books are healthy. I have also included a few foot notes explaining how the ingredients that I have used are healthy and add nutritional value to one’s diet.”
Recipes from the family
The recipes that Chandra has incorporated in all her books have been taken from various members of her family. “The recipes have been taken from my mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and many other people. If I found something interesting, I would ask them for the recipe. And, if I figured that some recipe has gone extinct, I would try to get it back. But, all the recipes have been tried and tested to perfection before being used in the book,” points out Chandra.
Simplicity is the key
Chandra believes that the best thing about her book is that all the recipes have been cooked to perfection. Apart from that, she also points out that the ingredients that have been used are freely available. “All the ingredients can be easily found in the kitchen. Also, they can be in any part of the world, and the ingredients can be bought easily and hassle-free. If there are any vague ingredients, I haven’t used those,” she says, adding, “Furthermore, my style of writing is very simple and all the recipes have been simplified by using a step-by-step method.”
After exploring the South Indian cuisine, which includes foods from Kerala, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, Chandra plans to get innovative using yoghurt. “In my next book, I want to explore all kinds of yoghurt recipes. I haven’t started working on it yet, but will start soon. Since it will require a great amount of research and understanding, the book will take at least two years to come out. Apart from that, I also want to write a recipe book accommodating all the green vegetables.”