Deliciously Yours by Lal Majid is probably the first of its kind in Pakistan. It is a collection of non-desi recipes, written in English, with high-quality printing. Particularly pleasing to note is that it is not sponsored by any cooking oil manufacturer as is usually the case with locally published cookbooks. This large, hard-bound book looks very impressive with its many pictures and heavy, glossy pages. The cover features a shiny picture of somewhat grainy, melted chocolate being poured out.
Upon opening the book, I realise that it must be read in a brightly-lit room, or with the aid of a magnifying glass. (Let me know if anyone succeeds in reading the Cinnamon Roll recipe.) And since the book doesn’t have an index, you have to flip through the pages to find a recipe.
Majid introduces her book telling us how her love of cooking has helped overcome insecurities in her life due to dyslexia. She is now owner of a successful chocolate shop and café, has a television cooking show and has authored a recipe book. The dedication of this book to her parents is all the more poignant after reading the introduction. The first section of the book is all about chocolate — its history, determining good from poor quality, storing it and techniques for using it. The process of tempering and using moulds to make the chocolate recipes are also included. There are additional techniques on making cupcakes, muffins and pies in their corresponding sections.
The book ends with a chapter for ingredients, cooking terms and equipment. It would have been useful if the photograph in the equipment section was labelled. While almost half the recipes have large, colour photographs accompanying them, unfortunately none of them are captioned. Even after reading through both recipes, I could not figure out if the picture on page 83 is of Banana Bread or Banana Orange Loaf. Some recipes also have incorrect pictures (Chocolate Tart recipe has a picture of many small tartlets) and others have irrelevant pictures (a bar of white chocolate is shown next to the recipe for White Ginger Truffles). In some photographs it is impossible to figure out what the finished dessert should look like. For instance, it is impossible to figure out what the Apple Cake or Caramel Cake ought to look like.
The recipes are organised into four categories, “Chocolates, Barks, Bars and Truffles,” “Cakes, Cupcakes and Cookies,” “Breads, Muffins and Doughnuts” and lastly, “Desserts and Pies”. The cover, introduction and opening chapter suggest that Deliciously Yours is a book of chocolate recipes. It came as a surprise then to see that almost half the recipes (28 out of 62 to be precise) do not contain any chocolate at all.
The recipes are probably all good, but the book would have been better titled something along the lines of favourite recipes. That would justify the inclusion of the Foccacia Bread recipe. Eighteen recipes require tempered chocolate even though Lal says “I, along with every other chocolatier in the world, have struggled with tempering.” Then she goes on to say, “keep in mind, tempering is not easy and practice will make you perfect, so don’t give up”. The method of tempering has been explained, but not nearly in enough detail or clarity. That is probably why the book says, “The Internet also has numerous instruction videos so please do go and watch them.”
Aside from being a time-consuming and precise process, it is also a costly technique to practice mastering at home. Lal recommends not tempering less than 500 grams of chocolate at a time. That is roughly Rs1,000 worth of chocolate alone. A cooking thermometer is also essential. The ones in the local market are for approximately Rs500.
So, out of the 34 chocolate recipes, if I take away 18 tempered chocolate recipes it leaves me with only 16 chocolate recipes to try. Many of these recipes have incomplete methods or missing ingredients and only a few recipes state how many servings it makes.
I tried the American Chocolate Brownies. The ingredients were not listed in the order they are used in the cooking instructions, making the recipe needlessly confusing to follow. Melted butter was incorrectly listed in the ingredients. The recipe in fact tells you to melt the chocolate and butter together. It was also irritating when the recipe said to add four grams of salt and two grams of baking powder. No standard measurement has been used in the book for small quantities. Some recipes use teaspoons and other miniscule gram measurements. (Oatmeal Raisin cookies calls for 3.3grams of salt!) It seemed like the recipes were compiled but not standardised to appear together in one book.
The final instructions for brownies forgot to mention the pan size to bake the mixture in, how the pan should be prepared and how to tell when the batter is cooked. Also missing was how many pieces to cut the brownies into. I baked my mixture in a greased 13x9” pan. It baked for almost an hour. Nevertheless, the brownies turned out exactly as in the picture with a lovely crust. The texture was light, soft and moist. It was a tasty cake, but not nearly chocolaty enough for a brownie.
The other recipe I tried was Hot Chocolate Fondant with Vanilla Ice Cream. Again, the ingredient list was muddled but the instructions were easy to understand. Preheating the oven was not mentioned but I did. It was also not specified how much mixture to pour into each mould, how many moulds are required or what size they should be. I used my silicone muffin tray which I realised was a mistake when it was time to demould. These little cakes are too delicate to turn out onto a tray and then serve out individually. You must use single moulds for each plate.
However, the fondants baked beautifully. I got 11 portions from the muffin cups. The perfect ratio of cake and oozy chocolate center was produced with 6 ½ minutes in the oven. They were quickly devoured with and without ice cream. It was agreed though that they needed to be more chocolaty.
I wanted to like this book much more than I do. The collection of recipes lacked direction. I continually wondered who this book was written for — the experienced cook or a novice? Is it for someone who loves to make chocolates or for someone who wants to cook with chocolate? Is this book of chocolate, or is Majid simply sharing a collection of assorted favourite recipes?
At the same time, the explanations of the cooking techniques are all sound. But more careful editing and thought-out photographs would have produced a considerably more thorough cookbook. I do hope other local chefs are inspired to produce their own high-quality cookery books. We need them to address our problems with sourcing ingredients, food costs and weather limitations. There are many food television shows, but we need more books which can be read many times over.
Deliciously Yours: Chocolates and Desserts
By Lal Majid