COOKBOOK REVIEW: TRAVELLING DIVA BY RITU DALMIA

“A man at a dinner table with friends and family never really gets old.” – Italian Proverb quoted from Ritu Dalmia’s Travelling Diva
I walked into Bahri Sons in Khan Market looking for Ritu Dalmia’s Italian Khana but they only had Travelling Diva so I bought it instead. Published by Hachette in 2012 Travelling Diva is Ms. Dalmia’s fifth cookbook and covers her favorite recipes from her travels across the world. The result is an unexpected collection of recipes from Bhindi Bhojpuri to Potato Roesti to Tzatziki. While Ms. Dalmia’s wide range of recipes are a lot of fun, what you don’t end up with is a coherent anthology of choices within one type of cuisine, making it hard to plan a whole meal with just this book. The recipes span between beginner to mid level proficiency and don’t require much in the way of pantry paraphernalia.Ms. Dalmia shines when adding a twist to classics, such as her glorious Prawn Biryani and Beet Raita or when combining exciting ingredients together like in her Summer Chicken with Coffee Glaze. On the other hand some of the recipes lack luster and are almost too simplistic like Watermelon and Feta Skewers or Frozen Mango and Yoghurt Cubes (puree mango, mix with yoghurt, freeze in ice tray doesn’t qualify as a recipe).

I loved the personal travel experience Ms. Dalmia puts in before each recipe and only wish she’d shared more. Also very helpful is the section titled “My Perfect Kitchen” in which she talks about must have ingredients and other pantry essentials. Unfortunately while Ms. Dalmia includes many garnishes I loved, including some handwritten recipes, there are some basics which could have been improved on. For example not every dish has a photo, something that can really discourage a novice cook. The photos are a bit dark and the food not as well styled as I would have expected. Another major inconvenience is the way ingredient measurements are set out sometimes in grams and other times in cup measures within the same recipe needing me to pull out my scale and my cup measures for each recipe.While trying some of the recipes I found more success with the savoury dishes than the sweet, the Italian Apple Ring Cake was hard and chewy, the Red Velvet dry and the Orange Chocolate Pots didn’t really have enough orange flavor despite my using more orange than the recipe called for. On the other hand, the following went off incredibly well and I’ve covered each (with my own inputs and in my own words) on this blog:

Summer Chicken with Coffee Glaze and Hung Yoghurt Sauce
Prawns with Spinach and Raisins
Prawn Biryani
Beetroot Raita
Almond Biscotti (coming up soon!)
Carrot Cake

All in all, Travelling Diva is worth purchasing at INR 499, the recipes are relatively easy and cover an exciting range for someone looking to experiment. Ms. Dalmia’s voice is light, her personal anecdotes charming and the format very pleasant. I’ve got Chicken Balls with Tamarind Glaze, Prawn with Orange and Basil Marinade, Chicken with Lime and Thyme and Fried Salmon Patties on my personal “to cook” list and will be trying them out as soon as I get a chance.

Yeah. These Orange Chocolate Pots just didn’t work out.