Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Gujerat met Sicily

Salvo’s Salumeria is intimate and full of atmosphere – more so yesterday evening, when Hansa came. It was, of course, the first event of the LitFest.....let’s hope they all go as well as this one.

Gip Dammone  introduced Hansa Dabhi, who is quite a storyteller as well as a great authority on cooking and the Hindu Philosophy of Food and Lifestyle: she spoke about her exit from Uganda, just before the dictator Idi Amin got into his stride, and about how she took the first steps towards setting up the now-renowned all-female vegetarian Gujerati restaurant down in the middle of the city, which many of her audience, I suspect, have visited.

We were looking at the starters which had been delivered to our tables as she described them in detail and gave their names and ingredients in both English and Gujerati – Bateta Vada, Pau Bhaji and Patudi. You’ll find the recipes in her second cookbook. She went on to talk about how expensive the medical services were back in Uganda – the Western sort that is. Her family always had the spice box at hand for cuts and colds: a sore throat, for example, could be cured by adding a teaspoon of Cumin seeds (Jeera) and small pieces of dry ginger to a glass of boiling water. After it has cooled down and been strained, it should be taken twice daily.

Sicilian-style pasta with aubergine and tomato was the main course from Gip Dammone. This was followed by a dessert which Hansa said was easy to make. She demonstrated the truth of this in front of us. It was Fruit Shrikhand – her version of a popular Gujarati yoghurt curd dessert with tropical fruit, garnished with cardamom.

There was more on the use of the spice box for the treatment of everyday ailments (from husband Kish) and plenty of copies of the second cookbook (Hansa’s, more than just a restaurant....It’s my life!) to be signed and sold.

Gip Dammone looks rather like Dizzy Gillespie, and he indulged us by playing recordings of sessions by the great jazz trumpeter, along with performances by Louis Jordan dating from the late forties. A man of taste!


  1. From what you have written in your article in seems that the festival has got off to a very good start. Reading it made me feel rather peckish and I could almost smell the spices. It was interesting to read about the medical use of these spices- some of these old remedies are very good and ginger seems to be used for all sorts of things. As a child I suffered quite badly from car sickness and before going on to a motorway( because we could not stop -as was usually the case for me to admire the hedgerows!!) my father would always give me a piece of crystallised ginger to chew. It was generally very successful and the Scotland end of the M6 was reached without incident.
    I am sure the rest of the festival will be a great success and I look forward to reading more about it.

  2. Glad it went well - lots of smiling faces in the pics. Sorry I missed out on a ticket. Still, lots more to come this week and next.