'The Tambram's Recipes' is a collection of tried and tested dishes by 'The Tambram', as Sundar Rajgopalan is fondly called by his wife, Jayshree M. Sundar – the author of the book. Sundar Rajgopalan, "a chef by trial and innovation" and the CEO of a large media company by profession, cooked with such fondness and diligence and his food was such a hit with friends and family that his wife thought that it was imperative to publish a book based on his scrumptious dishes and invaluable tips and tricks. In a brief conversation, Jayshree talks about the idea behind this book, the things that make it unique, and the reason why young, working people should buy it.
The Tam Bram's Recipes is a unique cookbook written for people who need ''deep'' tutoring when it comes to cooking. What was the idea behind publishing the book?
The pandemic was raging. A lot of young people had to get into cooking to manage their lives safely. Prime among them was our daughter, continents away. And also the other millennials in the family. This group of people were craving good vegetarian options, healthy food, and easy recipes. Sundar being an amazing cook was the one they would reach out to. He would write down or voice note recipes. This led me to ask him if he would collaborate with me on a book of his recipes. Where he cooked and wrote the recipe and I did the rest. He agreed to my surprise. I thought it would be a good opportunity to put a spotlight on this cuisine. Which is so much more than just idli-dosa.So that was the primary reason.
Did you have the conflict of what to include in the book and what to leave out, considering the vast repertoire of recipes that Mr Rajgopalan is known to own?
Palakkad region in South India is where my husband comes from. Most of the recipes are from that area. His maternal grandparents came from Manjeri In Kerala. As a young boy growing up, every summer vacation was spent there. All those food influences shaped his cuisine. And of course, he is a Tamilian. His parents were amazing cooks – so it is a legacy of family recipes and his individual touch. Lots of thought went into it.
So while dosa idli vada sambhar and chutney define popular dishes of the South – very few non-experts know how to make them really well. How do you grind the batter so that it rises? How do you get the softest idlis or the crispest dosas?
So even traditional recipes are explained in a simplistic fashion. We wanted to put a spotlight on the forgotten or less known dishes – like Olan and Upma Kollakatai and aval etc. We also wanted to focus on variations of dishes – there is a multitude of rice recipes varieties of rasam sambhar etc – just to show the depth. With the rising trends in preference for vegetarianism – gluten-free and lactose-free options we felt this cuisine really supported those ideas.
Healthy and easy to make for people rushed for time – therefore we have five-minute options – one or two or three ingredient options – no adding unnecessary masalas and bells and whistles to complicate matters.
How is Tamil Bramin food specifically different from South Indian food?
Palakkad region in South India is where my husband comes from. Most of the recipes are from that area. His maternal grandparents came from Manjeri In Kerala. As a young boy growing up, every summer vacation was spent there. All those food influences shaped his cuisine. And of course, he is a Tamilian. His parents were amazing cooks – so it is a legacy of family recipes and his individual touch.
What according to you is the secret of making good food?
Patience. Following the steps correctly and not adding too many ingredients so that the real flavour of the foods get minimised. And of course a whole lot of love and good energy.
Any tips on how to minimize cooking time in the kitchen, for working people?.
Buy our book! It's all slanted towards the millennial who are crushed for time – with variations and special tips to get it right!
You have mentioned about the 'fine art of cutting vegetables' in a chapter in the book. Can you please elaborate on it?
Sure. Vegetables cut the right way add flavour to the particular dish. So when do you dice, julienne, fine chop, long cut- all make a difference to the appetite appeal and the cooking of the dish. Apart from the art, there is also a science to it. How close you cut to the skin, the size, refrigeration storing – aids the release of enzymes and preservation of the real taste.
There is a whole chapter in the book about South Indian Tiffin. What tiffin is actually and what is its significance in South Indian cuisine?
Tiffin is actually loosely termed as a snack in South Indian cooking. Tiffin time is post-lunch or mid-morning with filter coffee. It’s a term unique to South India. It has its origins in the British Raj. If you go to restaurants in South India, the boards outside will say meals and tiffin on offer. Which means snacks and full lunch and dinner.
Some cooking secrets not shared in the book….?
All the secrets are in the book. Wanted to share everything with our valuable customers.
Any plans to write on North-Indian/other regional cuisines in the future?
Never say never. I have done some signature recipes of my mother in a book called Dolly’s table -that’s Bengali cuisine. It was private for circulation. I may bring a more detailed version to the public.