When Bharti Saincher first began collecting her late mother-in-law’s recipes, her goal was to pass them down to her own children, as they had been passed down to her.
Now, more than 12 years later, the South Surrey mother of three has compiled the recipes into a self-published vegetarian Indian cookbook, Pass the Masala.
Through food, Saincher says, she hopes to strengthen the connection the next generation has with their culture and family history.
“I started (compiling the recipes) when my kids were born. I wanted them to have the Indian flavours in their cooking, and when they grew up, I wanted them to know how to cook Indian food.
“Then the kids helped with formatting the recipes and said, ‘why don’t you make it into a book, like a family heirloom.’”
Sitting in her kitchen, Saincher, 56, flips through the hard-cover book, held together by spiral binding so that it lies flat, she explains, instead of closing while someone is in the midst of making fresh paneer or a crisp, crepe-like south Indian pancake called dosa.
While she and her family are omnivores, Saincher wanted to make all 200 recipes in the cookbook accessible to anyone who wanted to try their hand at Indian cuisine.
“Vegetables are universal, and they’re healthy. I wanted to start off with vegetables and, hopefully, my next edition will focus on other dishes.”
The cookbook has been a labour of love for Saincher, who was born in New Delhi, with countless hours spent writing, editing, photographing and, most importantly, replicating the dishes in order to record them for future use.
“My mother-in-law was a wonderful cook. All her recipes were passed down for generations,” Saincher says, noting they were rarely written out. “I said, ‘well, I have my work cut out for me.’ So I had to go through all the recipes and measure them out.”
Born in India’s Punjab region, Saincher’s mother-in-law, Rajni Saincher, was able to explore different areas of the vast country with her husband, who was a member of the air force.
The travel had a huge influence on her cooking, Saincher said, as she was able to sample and learn recipes from each region she visited.
Rajni’s experience is reflected in the cookbook, which is something that she would be proud of, Saincher says, noting that while she passed away before the book was finished, she will be remembered through the dishes she shared.
“She left us a lasting legacy. I think she would be so happy to see what we’ve done,” Saincher said.
Like Rajni’s cooking, the book is not focused on one region’s cuisine, rather a sampling of traditional recipes from all over the country, including southern India, where Saincher’s husband, Rajeev, a family physician, spent seven years.
“My husband was a big part in this. He financed the book and he, of course, was the biggest critic in tasting the recipes.
“After I married him, I had to learn south Indian cuisine. I was really lucky in that way, to be able to try different areas of cooking rather than just narrowing into one area.”
Pass the Masala is sold privately at White Rock Supermarket, 15236 Russell Ave., and at Time Out Convenience, 101-6351 152 St.