I have been gushing about this book all week long on social media. Well, it is not so much a book as a hand-written diary, carried down from my paternal grandmother to my mother and then to me. Here is a little bit of history: The diary itself dates back to 1972, a brief period during which my grandfather, one of the leading leprologists in India during his time, was working in Iran. He lived there for a year or two with my grandmother and two of his then unmarried daughters.
The book was probably commissioned by my grandmother to help my aunts evade boredom because the diary itself is filled with both their meticulous hand. The book has three parts: traditional South Indian, little bit of North Indian and baking/canning which, I suspect, was copied from random American cooking books they found in Iran (the Oz and °F in some of them gave it away). So fast-forward twenty five years, my grandmother unofficially gave the book away to my mother when she handed over the kitchen to her (a periodical occurrence in Indian joint families) . Now, my mother is so absent-minded that she reminds me of Dori (Finding Nemo) sometimes. But whatever she misplaced, she held on to this book tight. Andh this time, when I went to India, I asked her if I could photocopy the book. She refused. And gave the book away to me!
I had a wonderful time drowning in it. While the book itself contains so many basic recipes, it has wonderful ones for squashes, pickles, jams and jellies. I should applaud my grandmother’s futuristic thinking here: she had no oven, had no clue what a pie was but she decided not to pass them recipes up (I certainly would have!) and asked my aunts to write them down for future contemplation. Also, all the baking recipes here are eggless because eggs were a strict no-no in our household back then! Can you imagine that?! I so cannot wait to try all the recipes out. To start the project off successfully (I shall name this Project: Diary), I decided on making the easiest one first: a basic jam tart.
You could ignore it but I should warn you: these are the butteriest, gooiest cookies ever!!
Jam Tart Cookies
1 pie crust or make your own:
Two cups flour
One stick/half cup chilled butter
Half cup sugar
One tsp salt
Two Tbsp cold water
Half tsp baking powder
One tsp vanilla essence
Quarter cup jam (I used my homemade apricot jam. What a way to show off!)
Make the pie crust:
Pulse the dry ingredients and vanilla together with the butter. When it reaches the, what Ina Garten calls, Parmesan (coarse) stage, dump it on a clean surface and mold into a dough. Add the two Tbsp water as you need to bring the flour together. Shape it into a log, seal it with cling wrap and refrigerate it.
Meanwhile set the oven at 400°F. Bring the pie crust (or should I say log?) out. Cut it into 14 circles and place on a lined baking tray. gently press the center of each tart cookie and fill it with a generous amount of jam. Bake for 15 minutes. Let it cool and enjoy!