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Fortnightly Favourites:
Authors, Issues, Ideas

As our physical world continues to remain restricted, largely out of bounds, and we all look for different ways to stay connected to the people we love and the things we love to do, Women Unlimited brings your favourite authors and their writings a little closer to you, our dedicated community of readers. We present Fortnightly Favourites: Authors, Issues, Ideas, a focus on an author, an issue or an idea that we explore through our books.

A glass of wine, a feast of food, a prince-in-waiting…

These Covid times have not been easy on anyone. Though gradually we've started stepping out of our homes, wearing a face mask and maintaining physical distance, there is always an underlying distress and the looming fear of disease. The great pleasure of packing one's bags and taking off on a trip to discover some unknown destination or sample some exotic cuisine, today, seems like a faraway dream. But fear not! We bring you the next best thing: a book that is all about experiencing the wonders of nature and of enjoying good food in the company of fascinating people. This fortnight, come celebrate the spirit of wanderlust with Jasleen Dhamija!


Food! The joy of discovery, the delicious tingling of the palate, the adventure in sampling the cuisines of the world… Jasleen Dhamija, gourmet cook, inveterate traveller and taster of delectable dishes, offers up a feast of recipes and a platter full of stories in A Gourmet's Journey: Discovering the Exotic & Erotic in Food.

Savour some exciting recipes from Iran, Turkey, Egypt, Ethiopia, South East Asia… along with a liberal sprinkling of unforgettable encounters: childhood walks with Bapu, delightful conversations with an Italian film legend, a special airplane ride with a swashbuckling prince, pleasurable picnics under flowering apricots in Iran and more!


Jasleen Dhamija is an internationally renowned expert in the field of living cultural traditions, intangible heritage, rural non-farm development and history of textiles and costumes. Her stint in the UN has taken her to several parts of the world, including Iran, Central Asia, Africa and the Balkans. She has authored several books on textiles and folk arts, on women's employment and on food.


Jasleen Dhamija, the renowned Indian art textile historian, has painted vivid pictures with her writing in her latest book A Gourmet's Journey….

— Outlook Traveller

Read more: https://www.outlookindia.com/traveller/books/book-review-gourmets-journey/

Dhamija…has gifted us a collage of food and friends, with just the right bit of Tabasco on it.

The Hindu

Read more: https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/a-carefree-caviar/article23390921.ece

Jasleen Dhamija writes about food and flirtation, balancing spontaneity with discretion, in A Gourmet's Journey.

The Indian Express

Read more: https://indianexpress.com/article/lifestyle/books/story-of-the-senses-5067028/


Acclaimed expert of cultural traditions, author, and gourmet cook, Jasleen Dhamija, in conversation with Suneet Tandon on her book, A Gourmet's Journey: Discovering the Exotic & Erotic in Food .



Enjoy this excerpt from A Gourmet's Journey, and yes, do try out the amazing recipe in the end…

I learnt Middle Eastern cooking from my friend, Elsie Shallon, and later from my Egyptian admirer, Mounir Girgiz, an exiled Copt, who lived in Addis Ababa and looked after the interests of the Polisario. Mounir was quite a character and dashingly good looking, constantly falling in love with exotic women and pursuing them with his superb cooking. We enjoyed both his food and his provocative conversation. Mounir had a number of interesting friends, such as Nawal el Saadawi, the Egyptian feminist, who had written a number of books, and her leftist husband, Sherif Hetata.

A favourite resort of mine was Wondo Genet, originally reserved for the favourite daughter of Haile Selassie, where she had built beautiful tokuls, thatched rounded huts, which later became a resort. I often spent a weekend there. A beautiful winding walk through the forested area led to the hot sulphur spring—it was a joy to bathe there and feel all my tension and tiredness vanish.

On one occasion I witnessed a special festival on a full moon night, when young Ethiopian couples came and bathed together. Their dark, naked, beautiful bodies glowed in the moonlight and drops of spray clung to their curly hair, glistening like diamonds. In the distance someone would play the flute creating an atmosphere of ethereal beauty.

One day I got a call from Mounir to say, ‘Habeebti, you must come today for I am cooking special food for Shem-el-Nassim, which falls on the Monday after the Coptic Easter, and is celebrated by everyone in Egypt.’ When I arrived, he was busy cooking. His hands were covered with flour as he embraced me. ‘I am making kunafeh and basbousa.’ Basbousa translates as ‘just a kiss’, and he kissed me all over. ‘Oh, I am so happy. I have discovered my princess, so warm and so beautiful. You deserved to be kissed all over. You are a Basbousa perfuming the air with your fragrance.’

Egyptian Semolina Cake
Serves 4

2 cups semolina
90 gms (1 cup) dried, grated coconut
75 gms ( cup) self-raising flour
200 gms thick yoghurt
200 gms unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
25-30 blanched almonds

1 cups sugar
1 cup water
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp rose water

  • Heat oven to 200c.
  • Mix the semolina, coconut, flour, yoghurt, melted butter and vanilla. If mixture is too stiff, add a little milk and blend, it should still be stiff.
  • Butter a baking dish, 30 cm x 25 cm x 5 cm, and spread the paste on the tray.
  • Cut into diagonal shapes. Place an almond in the centre. Bake for 35 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, in a saucepan, put in the sugar and water and bring to a boil. Stir until the sugar dissolves. Simmer for 5 minutes without stirring. Add lemon juice and rose water and remove from the heat. Set aside to cool. Pour the syrup over the cake, while still hot.
  • Cool to serve.