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Coming up with a cookbook for Charm City Cookbook Club can be a challenge. Thankfully Joanne suggested we do Madhur Jaffrey. Jaffrey, in case you didn’t know, is an acclaimed Indian actress. And her Indian cookbooks have introduced the cuisine to millions.

What I like best about Jaffrey’s recipes is how straightforward they are and how much taste they pack. She isn’t about the fancy techniques for the sake of just doing them. P.S. She didn’t learn to cook until she was an adult. One of my favorite of her books is “Climbing the Mango Trees: A Memoir of a Childhood in India.” It’s a sweet story, and there are recipes, too.

So back to the samosas. Alayne found a good place for the dough to rest:
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And while we were waiting, we snacked on some spiced chickpeas.

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First up was Alayne, who faced my biggest cooking fear: frying. She made these delicate potato and pea stuffed samosas that were brightened with a little lemon. With Joanne’s expert help — and a little fry-o-lator (also Joanne’s) — Alayne made some really delicious, delicate fried, stuffed, dumplings. And here’s the bonus: Look: No grease fires!

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Next up was Elizabeth, who made soup and naan. Her butternut squash soup was spicy, sweet and delicious.
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And Elizabeth’s naan, though difficult to execute at first, came out well once she and Joanne got the hang of it.

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The main course was next. While Joanne and I got ourselves into the kitchen, Alayne, Elizabeth, and Mia decided it was time for manicures, with glitter nailpolish.

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Joanne made ground lamb with peas. It was tender and delicious, with a little heat. It tasted great.

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I made a shellfish curry with coconut milk. It had shrimp, scallop, and squid and was delicate and tasty. And really easy to make.

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So this was the first Cookbook Club since Renee moved to Houston. We miss her. It felt lonely with just five of us. We needed something sweet. So Julie made a yogurt and mango dessert that was sweet, fresh, and light.

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And there was an extra something special, too. Joanne’s birthday was in two days and Elizabeth made her pumpkin tarts in a gingersnap crust. After she blew out the candles, she was nice enough to share.

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Happy Birthday Joanne!

And thanks for a spicy, sweet October evening.

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