As a journalist, I appreciate distance, worship objectivity. I mentally doff my hat at a news report in which knowledge is weighted by disinterest, one which keeps aside personal biases for fairness. The rules are quite different, though, when it comes to cookbooks, especially those that claim to be ‘family cookbooks’. That’s when I want a peek–okay, who’s kidding, a whole voyeuristic window–into the writer’s home. I want to know how s/he got interested in food, who he or she cooks for and where, what a regular meal at home is all about, the dining table dynamics, everything. And photographs are certainly mandatory. If you can put names to the faces in the photos, brownie points.

Family Secrets: The Khan Family Cookbook ticks all those boxes. There’s a sense of warmth and authenticity about that book that’s effortless, though, of course, it helps that everyone in Zarine Khan’s family has a public profile and is rather photogenic. Pushing 70 and married for close to half-a-century to one-time film star and TV producer Sanjay Khan, Khan is a good claimant for the throne of the Bollywood grande dame even if the star power has worn decidedly thin with her children’s generation (especially following a certain famous divorce). But that’s neither here nor, beyond the pretty photos (shot by Ashima Narain), there. What we’re concerned with is the book.

But that’s probably pedantic me splitting hairs; it’s entirely possible to dip into the book, find a recipe you like and cook it satisfactorily without bothering too much about its provenance—or, indeed, the celeb factor. And beyond the somewhat predictable Surmai Fry, Sali Boti and Murg Malai Korma, there are recipes that are intriguing as well: the Aash Maash (a Persian stew of greens and mince), a Spicy Green Mango Prawn Curry and even a Tinda Mutton. From the recipes I tried I was very pleased with this Banglori Dal, with South Indian spices.

Banglori Dal (serves 8)

Half cup tuar dal

Half cup masoor dal

2 medium tomatoes (chopped)

2 large onions (chopped)

Half bunch fresh coriander

4-5 green chillies

Quarter coconut (ground)

1 tsp red chilli powder

Half tsp dhania powder

Quarter tsp turmeric powder

2 tsp fenugreek seeds

2 tsp jeera powder

1 cup tamarind water

20 curry leaves

10 cloves garlic

3 dried red chillies

Half tsp mustard seeds

Half tsp asafoetida

2 tbsp oil

Salt to taste

In a large pan, mix in the tuar dal, masoor dal, tomatoes, onion, fresh coriander, green chillies, coconut, red chilli powder, coriander powder, turmeric powder and add enough water to cover all these ingredients.

Place the pan on a high flame to cook. You can even use a pressure cooker and cook the dal for at least five whistles.

When the dal is cooked, mash it into a paste, making sure not to leave any lumps.

Stir in the tamarind water.

In a separate pan, pour oil. As the oil heats up, add curry leaves, garlic, red chillies, mustard seeds, asafoetida, fenugreek, cumin and sliced onion.

Fry this for 2-3 minutes and quickly pour into the dal mixture, stir and cover so that the aroma is packed in.

Serve after 5 minutes.

Family Secrets: The Khan Family Cookbook by Zarine Khan. Published by Roli Books. Pages: 192. Price: 795

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