MUMBAI: Celebrated chef and cookbook author Tarla Dalal (77) passed away on Wednesday at her south Mumbai residence, reportedly following a cardiac arrest. She is survived by three children, and a legacy of over 100 cookbooks and thousands of recipes.
The Padma Shri awardee was a household name for her vast selection of cookbooks devoted to vegetarian cuisine — both Indian and global. Long before the advent of the \"celebrity chef\" culture, she had viewers jotting down instructions for everything from kadai paneer to pitch-perfect chocolate sponge cake through her popular television show \'Cook It Up With Tarla Dalal\'.
\"She was, and will always be, India\'s first food celebrity,\" says chef Sanjeev Kapoor. \"Her books made it possible for many millions of people to know about international food in a very affordable and accessible way.\"
Dalal would collect cookbooks on her trips to different countries, modify recipes to suit vegetarian palates back home, and then learn them herself, Kapoor says. These would then be served to her family, and subsequently, reach generations of aspiring cooks.
Food blogger Rushina Munshaw-Ghildiyal said there might have been cookbooks before Dalal penned her own, but they had never captivated generations of home cooks the way hers did. \"My first recipe book was by Tarla Dalal, on recipes from all over India,\" recalls Munshaw-Ghildiyal. \"And when I got married, my mother gifted me her book on Gujarati cooking.\" The first dish that she whipped up had been \'ek toplo dal bhat\', a one-dish meal comprising rice, dal and vegetables.
\"What\'s interesting is that unlike more cookbooks then (which were) targeted at the affluent and well-travelled, Tarla Dalal made international cuisine accessible to the average housewife,\" said food and wine writer Antoine Lewis. The cheerfully Indianized dishes didn\'t pretend to be authentic but acquainted readers here with food they might have only heard of.
Among them is the 58-year-old Amita Mehta, who attended Dalal\'s classes over three decades ago as a newly wed. \"I learnt all I know about cooking from her, from Mexican to Italian,\" said Mehta. \"She was the one who introduced so many Mumbai people to pastas and baked dishes. How to use an oven, how to bake biscuits — we learnt everything from her.\"
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