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ENTERTAINING FROM AN ETHNIC INDIAN KITCHEN by Komali Nunna. November 2008. 320 pages. $50.00.

Fusion cook Komali Nunna’s book is not just a collection of recipes, but also a guide to entertaining and décor. The author describes the foundation of a party, from planning to  preparation, design, theme, invites, and favors. One chapter dives into different themes of entertaining  such as Tea Party, Dosa Party, Dinner by the Fire, with appropriate menus. Some chapters focus on Indian cuisine based on regions and festivals. There is even a chapter devoted to western holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s Eve.

Enhancing the book are stunning photos by Sethu Sethuram that accentuate the food and capture the essence of the décor. The recipes are thorough, tested and  standardized.

On the flip side, the book would be more useful if the recipe index had been moved up front, next to the table of contents. The recipe index should also have been organized by category (such as appetizers, snacks, desserts) with page numbers. That would make it a lot easier to access the recipes. Quite a few recipes and section menus are very hard to read, as they are printed on top of background images  Certain spices are listed in the index when they really belong in the glossary.

It is clear that the author has taken a lot of time and effort with the book. Some simple printing changes and meticulous editing could make it much more useful to readers. Given the price tag, I would also have liked a small “peel off” recipe booklet that I could use in the kitchen without ruining the book.
Here are some of my favorite recipes from the book. Enjoy!

Praba Iyer conducts custom cooking classes  around the Bay Area. She also blogs about cooking at

Mango Mousse

Serves  6-8

1 ½ cups of canned mango puree
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons of sugar, divided
1 envelope unflavored gelatin (¼ ounce)
¼ cup water
1 cup sour cream
1 cup heavy whipping cream

In a bowl, stir together mango puree and ½ cup sugar until sugar dissolves. Sprinkle gelatin over water in a heat-proof bowl. Let it stand for 5-10 minutes for the gelatin to soften. Place the gelatin bowl over a pan of simmering water and stir until the gelatin is dissolved. Remove gelatin from the heat, stir into the mango puree mixture and let it cool for 5 minutes. Add sour cream. Stir with a whisk until sour cream is completely incorporated into the puree.

Using an electric mixer with a balloon whisk, beat whipping cream with 2 tablespoons of sugar until soft peaks form. Stir 2 tablespoons of whipped cream into mango mixture to lighten. Fold in the remaining whipped cream. Transfer mousse into serving dish and refrigerate until set. Alternately you can spoon mousse into individual dessert bowls. Let chill in the refrigerator before serving.

Praba’s comments: This is a simple recipe with easy-to-find ingredients. The garnish is a raspberry and mint leaf on each individual bowl of mousse. I enhanced the recipe with a pinch of cardamom powder and finely chopped pistachios. My son loves this mousse and has learnt to make it.

Coconut Ginger Scones

Makes about 18 mini scones

2 cups all purpose flour
½ cup sweetened coconut flakes
2 tablespoons sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons lemon zest
cup crystallized ginger, minced
½ cup cold butter, diced
¾ cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon turbinado sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon powder
½ teaspoon green cardamom powder
2 tablespoons cream or milk

Preheat  oven to 425º F. In a bowl, stir in all the dry ingredients including the coconut, lemon zest and ginger. Using a pastry blender or 2 dinner knives, cut the butter into the flour mixture until it resembles very coarse crumbs. Pour cream over the dry ingredients. Gently mix until moistened. Do not overmix.

Transfer dough to the work surface. Quickly gather the dough until it clings together. Pat the dough into a 9×9 square. Cut the dough into nine 3 inch squares. Cut each into 2 triangles.

Make the topping by mixing the sugar, cinnamon and cardamom powder. Brush the scones with cream or milk. Sprinkle flavored sugar on top. Transfer scones to parchment or silicone lined baking tray. Bake for 20 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool. Serve with jam or lemon curd.

Praba’s comments: Turbinado sugar can be substituted with granulated cane sugar. This is a good treat with masala chai.

Chikkudu Kaya Vepudu(Indian broad beans fry)

Serves 6

1 ¼ pounds chikkudu kaya (broad beans)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 dry whole red chilies
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon white urad dal
1 teaspoon chana dal
10-20 fresh or dry curry leaves
1 onion, chopped
2 tomatoes, chopped
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon turmeric
½ -1 teaspoon cayenne
Wash and trim the ends of chikkudu kaya and remove the fiber from the sides. Cut into 2-inch pieces. Heat oil in a wok or skillet over medium heat. Add red chilies.

When the red chilies turn darker, add mustard seeds and cover until the spluttering subsides. Uncover and add cumin seeds. When the cumin seeds sizzle, add white urad dal and chana dal. As soon as the urad dal turns golden, add curry leaves. As the curry leaves turn crisp, add onions and fry until edges begin to brown. Add tomatoes and cook until soft. As soon as the tomatoes soften, stir in the chikkudu kaya, salt, turmeric and cayenne. Cover and reduce heat to medium and cook until the beans are tender and almost all the moisture evaporates, while stirring occasionally. Season to taste. Serve with plain rice.

Praba’s comments: This dish was different from the usual beans stir fry. I really liked the buttery flavor of the chikkudu kaya.

Praba Iyer teaches custom cooking classes around the Bay Area. She was Associate Chef at Green’s Restaurant, San Francisco. She also blogs about cooking at

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Vandana Kumar

Vandana Kumar is a publishing executive with a 35-year track record in the industry. She leads the India Currents Foundation as President and CEO. As a new immigrant, she co-founded India Currents magazine...