He was West Bengal's chief minister for 23 years but he was no Bengali at heart when it came to his favourite food. Jyoti Basu was a European gourmet fan who loved 'light pastas, salads, soups...', says his grand-daughter Mallika Basu, the latest Indian cook-book author.
'Dadu (grandpa) loved Western food. Whenever he stayed with me or I was home, he would tell me to cook pasta - a light variety of rigatoni pasta with tomato base sauce or mushrooms. He liked mild vegetable soups with croutons and vegetables sauted lightly,' Mallika told IANS here.
But he had a bugbear. Jyoti Basu, India's Communist legend who passed away in January, was finicky about his meat, according to his London-based entrepreneur grand-daughter.
'He loved his meat cooked succulently soft - almost like the texture of a fish,' Mallika said.
Her book, 'Miss Masala: Real Indian Cooking in Busy Living', published by Harper-Collins was released in the capital Friday. The book throws the kitchen in trendy focus - making cooking sassy, smart and hilarious.
Mallika, the eldest of Jyoti Basu's three grand-daughters born to Chandan and former actress Dolly Basu, 'discovered the joy of Indian cooking in England as an under-graduate student'.
'I realised that I could not survive on take-aways or the chicken tikka masala. I began researching recipes from cook books. I made umpteen international telephone calls home to my mother, who sent me the National Indian Association of Women's Cookbook. I was self taught. At times, the chicken curry turned bright green. But 10 years on, I have perfected the art of Indian cooking,' said the tall and vivacious Mallika, who is expecting her second child.
Two-and-half years ago, Mallika 'started writing a blog, www.quickIndiancooking.com, primarily to teach my sister and friends to cook Indian food at home in UK - and to go global to project the real image of Indian food'.
'But I have not been to convert my sister as yet though most of her friends have tried all the recipes on the blog,' she said.
The blog paved the way for the book.
Walking down memory lane in the Kolkata of her childhood, Mallika said the 'weekend lunches at home were a huge meal with 'masoor dal' (lentils), 'shukto' (white vegetable stew), 'macher kalia' (fish cooked in spicy gravy), 'shorshe Ilish' (hilsa fish with mustard sauce) and 'chorchori' (curried dry vegetables)'.
'My dad made one of the best 'biryani' while mom stuck to roast lamb and spaghetti bolognaise,' Mallika told IANS.
Her maternal grand-parents, the Berry family of Delhi, 'passed on the legacy of north Indian style Berry (moong )Dal' to Mallika, which she has incorporated in her book as well.
However on a personal note, Mallika loves 'egg raita' that her old friend lent her and 'macher chop' (lightly fried fish chops), which she often eats for dinner with ketchup.
'I often serve egg raita with soft roti or parantha to stretch their imagination about Indian food,' Mallika said.
The cook-book author says the best way to enjoy Indian food cooked at home was to prolong the experience.
'A simple meal of dal (lentil) with light spices, Basmati rice and stir fry vegetables should be cooked double the amount and sealed in tupperware and refrigerated. But after refrigeration, the food must be brought down to room temperature. The longer one leaves food in the freezer, the flavour enhances because the spices penetrate the food,' Malliak said, dispelling a myth that food cooked and refrigerated loses flavour.