My aunt, who is in her seventies now, did a long career in Helsinki University. Besides teaching Family and Consumer Sciences, she wrote and co-authored twenty cookbooks.
As a kid, I admired her unconditionally! Not because of her academic achievements, but because she came with open arms and connected with a shy girl like me. My brother was her Godson; I envied him for that! Although I’ve since learnt that my brother’s merits are due to his own good nature, I still dote on my aunt.
When Pure Vegetarian came out, I handed her a copy, “Look aunty what I did,” feeling like a kindergartener who gives an object made of empty paper rolls to a renowned sculptor! I was nervous knowing she would examine it as a professional.
She called me five days later to offer feedback. By browsing through the recipes she had noted that she isn’t the target reader because her dietary habits are settled – she wouldn’t use Indian ingredients or learn new cooking methods, like tempering spices. Nonetheless, she appreciated the clarity of the recipes and found the instructions articulate. She enjoyed exploring details about hing, tej patta, bitter melon and other items that are foreign to her, listed in the end of the book.
When I dedicated to bhakti-yoga in my late teens, many of my relatives were embarrassed and cut contact with me, but my aunt remained broadminded. Therefore, she wasn’t surprised that I approach cooking as meditation in the book. She nailed my purpose of writing Pure Vegetarian by saying that even before she read the non-recipe content she saw that the photographs respect the elements and ingredients I work with. She found the images delicate, telling a story about commitment to spirituality, and concluded, “I will be proud to show your book to all of my colleagues.”
I admit, I read the book again after hanging up the telephone. Are authors allowed to do that? Is it a shameful confession? My aunt claimed she never opened any of her books after publishing them. I’ve rendered aloud mine at least 20 times!
Pure Vegetarian is imperfect – or, impure – in many ways, like I am. Trust me, I’ve beaten myself for every sentence I could’ve written more genuinely, every recipe I could’ve tested again, and every picture I could’ve put more effort into. However, the book inspires me. It reminds me, and hopefully everyone who reads it, of different ways to associate with and around food. Isn’t it true that you and I are ultimately looking for the sustenance of the soul that comes from connecting to the divine nature – our source, and the source of bread and butter – through consciousness? Nutrition, as metabolic and physiological support, doesn’t satisfy the hunger for fulfilment; matter alone will always be inadequate for us, spiritual beings.
Think of Pure Vegetarian as a rest stop on the path of elevation all humans travel from inside out – instead of outside in – searching for lasting happiness and love. Press your breaks and sit down with me! Let’s dive into the essence of food and the potential of cooking, while I’ll serve you rice, dal, vegetables, salads, savories, sauces, sweets and beverages.
Tell me who has encouraged you recently in your life under this post to enter Pure Vegetarian giveaway (or write anything else). I’ll randomly draw a name from a hat on November 15, announce it on the blog, and ship a copy of Pure Vegetarian to the winner – hopefully you – anywhere in the world! Meanwhile, enjoy the peach pie; the recipe is from the book.
63 ml (1/4 Cup) wholegrain spelt flour
250 ml (1 Cup) all purpose spelt flour
1 Tbsp sugar
½ tsp sea salt
120 g (1/4 lb) cold unsalted butter
63 ml (1/4 Cup) ice cold water or as needed
1 ½ kg (3 1/2 lb) peaches
3 liters (12 Cups) boiling water for scalding
2 Tbsp lemon juice
188 ml (¾ Cup) sugar
¼ tsp cinnamon powder
A pinch of nutmeg powder
A pinch of salt
3 Tbsp corn starch
Milk, yogurt, cream or water for brushing
Sugar for sprinkling on the top
Make the dough by mixing the flours, sugar and salt in a bowl. Cut the butter into small cubes and fork it into the flour until it resembles a coarse crumble with visible (pea-size) pearls of butter. Add the water gradually while pulling the dough into a rough ball with a spatula. Adjust the amount of water, depending on the quality of flour.
Divide the dough into two parts and wrap a plastic film around each one. Flatten them slightly and place in the refrigerator to rest for at least 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, wash the peaches. Cut a shallow cross on the top of them. Plunge them in a pot of boiling water for a minute. Drain and rinse them with cold water. Slip the skins off with the help of a paring knife. Pit and slice them. Set aside.
Preheat the oven at 200 C (392 F).
Take one portion of the dough. Roll it into a thin round between two baking sheets sprinkled with flour. It should cover the bottom and sides of a 25 to 28 cm (10” – 12”) pie form. Remove the top sheet and transfer the crust into the form by flipping it over with the help of the bottom sheet. Remove the second paper, too. Trim the edges. Put it back to the refrigerator.
Unwrap the other portion of dough and roll it, similarly, into a thin disk. Use a cookie cutter to cut small hearts out of it. Alternatively, you may use it as such (pierced with a knife), or make a lattice top for the pie.
Combine the peaches, lemon juice, sugar, spices, salt and corn starch. Take out the pie form and pour the filling in it. Cover with the hearts and brush with milk or water. Sprinkle it with sugar and bake on the bottom third of the oven for about 50 minutes. If the edges are becoming too dark, cover them with a piece of foil, wet baking sheet.
Serve hot or cold. The filling settles as it cools down.