Is this woman rewriting the future of the cookbook?

A 25-year-old chef’s book may change the way recipes are served up to readers in India.

“When I entered I got the aroma of jasmine flowers. So I told my mum, we’ll dry a batch of jasmine and put it in a bottle to use in gin cocktails the next time we have a party.”

For publishing companies, cookbooks are a regular ingredient in the year’s mix. But whipping up a smorgasbord of stories, history and recipes has almost become a formula, with not much effort being put into innovating on firm.

A forthcoming book by chef Anahita Dhondy, who’s all of 25, may change that. To be published by HarperCollins, the book is closer to the novel (and film) Like Water for Chocolate, in which the young heroine turns to cooking when her mother forbids her to marry the man she loves.

Of course, it’s still a cookbook, made all the more poignant by the fact that less than 70,000 Parsis remain in India. And the recipes, obviously, are from the family vaults. “Handwritten recipes get handed over one generation to another, but food runs in every bawa’s blood. It’s always about what the next meal is going to be.”


Anahita N. Dhondy has been interested in cooking since she was ten, helping her mom icing cakes and tasting raw batter. When she was 13 years old, she spent most of her free time in the kitchen doing what she likes best. By this time she was clear that she wanted to be a chef. Currently the Chef Manager at ‘SodaBottleOpenerWala’ restaurants.

Any Indian household, especially a Parsi family is always about what the next dish will be? On all her travels, she ensured that prior to it, she researched well enough, and made notes of things to eat and places to go, restaurants or markets, everything in a document, written down point by point with locations and addresses and planned day wise for her family to enjoy a great holiday.

When asked to share an anecdote on how she and her mom bond over food, she told us “ Just yesterday, I entered the house and could get the aroma of jasmine flowers so told her that we’ll dry a batch of jasmine flowers and keep it so that the next time we have a party at home we’ll use them in gin cocktails where they’ll float and lend out a beautiful aroma. Those kinds of conversations we bond over – completely food-centric.”

The first thing that Anahita could actually help her mom was mixing cake batter. However clichéd it might sound, she was young and mixing cake batter, wearing an oversized apron! She learnt to bake from her, slowly helping her in more tedious dishes and cakes and icing.

The first recipe that Anahita made with her mother was – The deep dark chocolate cake!

This recipe is important to her because she grew up eating it. Her tiffin was always filled with cake and a fight used to break in their class on who’ll get “The Chocolate Cake” . She further described it, as “a deep rich chocolate cake, no frills, and icing on it. Just a lovely rich sponge… a fragrance which would linger long after it was baked. It was a pure comfort; I would close my eyes and while I took the biggest bite of it, I smiled with it all over my face…Well, there are much more, but this one is a happy memory always.”

Chocolate Cake




– Granulated sugar: 2cups (500 mL)

– All-purpose flour: 1 3/4 cups  (425 mL)

– Cocoa: 3/4 cup  (175 mL)

– Baking powder: 1 1/2 teaspoon  (7 mL)

– Baking soda: 1 1/2 teaspoon  (7 mL)

– Salt: 1 teaspoon  (5 mL)

– Eggs: 2 nos.

– Milk: 1 cup  (250 mL)

– Vegetable oil: 1/2 cup  (125 mL)

– Vanilla extract: 2 teaspoon  (10 mL)

– Boiling water: 1 cup  (250 mL)


INGREDIENTS: For buttercream frosting

– Butter (softened): 6 tablespoon (90 mL)

– Icing sugar: 2 2/3 cups  (650 mL)

– Cocoa: 1/2 cup  (125 mL)

– Milk: 1/3 cup  (75 mL)

– vanilla extract: 1 teaspoon  (5 mL)


– Preheat oven to 180°C. Grease and flour two 9-inch round baking pans or one 9 x 13-

inch baking pan.

– Stir sugar with flour, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large bowl.

– Add eggs, milk, oil and vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer, on medium speed, for 2 minutes.

– Stir in boiling water (batter will be thin). Divide batter evenly between prepared pans.

– Bake for 30 to 35 minutes for the round pans (35 to 40 minutes for the large pan) or until a wooden pick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Cool for 10 minutes on a rack. Turn cakes out from pans; cool completely. (Sheet cake may be left in pan if desired.) Makes 8 to 10 servings.

METHOD: For buttercream frosting

– Beat butter in medium bowl. Combine the icing sugar with the cocoa.

– Alternately add the icing sugar mixture and the milk to the butter, until a spreadable consistency is reached (additional milk may be required to reach preferred consistency).

– Stir in vanilla. Frost cooled cake.

– Makes about 2 cups (500 mL) of frosting.

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