Climbing the Mango Tree

Although my knowledge of the works(on TV or otherwise) of Madhur Jaffery are extremely limited(read zilch), I was extremely excited to read Climbing the Mango Tree, her childhood memoir.

If you look at the book you will know what I mean. It’s a good looking book, if I may say so. I also enjoyed reading this delicious book; full of history, culture,food and beautiful childhood memories.

Although this is not a ‘novel’ as in it has no real story to tell, Madhur keeps us (, anyway) captivated with her recollection of life in a joint family household( sometimes there were up to 40 members of her family for dinner; Oh the logistics of it all!).
Make that super wealthy joint-family.She invokes beautifully detailed images of the lavish parties they held, the gilded childhood in Delhi mansions and Himalayan hill stations, the family picnics with a retinue of servants ,the summer breaks when the entire household shifted to Shimla, her school life or even of the dry heat of the summer garden

“I loved history in school,” Jaffrey writes in one of the early chapters of Climbing the Mango Trees. And she definitely shows us her love. Early on she discovers the “Red Book,” chronicling the history of her family and so we are given detailed description of the history of her ancestors.

She also infuses history, in the form India’s transition from empire to independence when she recounts the partition, Gandhiji’s assassination, and the resulting violence, riots and massacres. Her family, while Hindu,was progressive enough to have ties with the Muslim culture of northern India, and even embraced many aspects of Muslim culture. Thus her viewpoint makes for interesting reading.

Her graceful prose is however best when she describes…YES , FOOD. Check this out…“venison kebabs laden with cardamom, tiny quails with hints of cinnamon, chickpea shoots stir-fried with green chilies and ginger, and tiny new potatoes browned with flecks of cumin and mango powder”…I mean, Boy!! She can make me hungry.

And as bonus Jaffrey also includes several family recipes for her favorite dishes in Indian cuisine….a treat for the mind and the stomach.

Especially for the stomach.

I have 2 recipes to share with you from this delicious book…one of these I will share today. ( I am still looking for the pics of the other:))

Cauliflower with Cheese
This turned out to be too bland for my tastebuds…but Im sure many of you may like it//.

2 Tbsp. olive oil or other vegetable oil
1 tsp. whole cumin seeds
1½ lb. (8 cups) medium-sized cauliflower florets, cut so each floret has a stem
1¾ cups grated fresh tomatoes
1 piece of fresh ginger, one inch square, peeled and grated to a pulp on the finest part of a grater or Microplane
2 fresh hot green chiles, cut into slim rounds (see Note)
¼ tsp. cayenne pepper
¼ tsp. ground turmeric
1 Tbsp. ground coriander
¾ tsp. salt, or to taste
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
3 Tbsp. heavy cream
¼ cup coarsely grated sharp Cheddar cheese

1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
2. Pour the oil into a large, preferably nonstick sauté pan over medium-high heat. When it is hot, put in the cumin seeds. Let them sizzle for 10 seconds. Add the cauliflower florets and stir them around for 2 minutes. Add the grated tomatoes, ginger, chiles, cayenne, turmeric, ground coriander, and salt. Stir to mix. Stir and cook for 5 to 6 minutes, or until the tomatoes are almost absorbed and the cauliflower is almost done. Add the cilantro and mix it in.
3. Put the contents of the pan into an ovenproof dish about 8 inches square, add the cream, mix, and sprinkle the cheese over the top. Put in the top third of the oven and bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cheese has melted and developed a few light brown spots. Serve hot.


Do not use jalapeño or serrano chiles for Indian dishes; they have the wrong texture and flavor. Green bird’s-eye chiles or any long, slim, thin-skinned variety, such as cayenne, are ideal. If you can’t find them, use 1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper instead of 1/4 teaspoon.

Leave a comment


  1. You made some first rate points there. I seemed on the web for the difficulty and located most individuals will go along with together with your website.

  2. hopeeternal

     /  February 17, 2010

    Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a message – I thought I would visit you in return.

    I have recently borrowed ‘Climbing the Mango Tree’ from the library and it is my current read: what a surprise it was to find your post when I visited! I have followed Madhur Jaffrey’s TV and acting careers for some years, have several of her recipe books and often cook from them. I wondered what this recipe would be like when I saw it in the book, so it is good to know that someone else has made and enjoyed it. My family love Cauliflower Cheese and spicy foods so I must have a go at it myself – soon!


  3. Cheese with Cauliflower looks so delectable…wonderful click…thanks for visiting my blog…you have a wonderful blog here with amazing recipes…Kudos!

  4. must find that book and read it. nice idea for a recipe…

  5. Very nice. Elevates cauliflower so well!

  6. Lovely review. Got to love the culinary passions of the rich. 🙂 But you are right, she is most expressive when talking about Food.
    I am surprised Cauliflower with cheese turned out bland, though I didn’t really read the recipe. I made her bazar jaisey aloo and they turned out pretty good.
    I put a link on my review to your post as well.

  7. oh nice..gobi and cheese..droolz..I have a cauliflower bake recipe..may b i will try it soon.

  8. I haven’t read the book yet…but the recipe sounds interesting! Nice click too:)

  9. Lovely.I am planning this today but ofcourse the spices I will be adding as per my taste.If we go as per mentioned estimate then it will surely be bland.I take your word for it. I had just posted ‘roz ki gobhi’ now only.

  10. Thanks for dropping by. You can use any other citrus in place of Grapefruit. Mosambi (in kannada) can be used. It’ll be a little different, but I am sure it’ll give another perspective altogether for this salad.

  11. the book sounds interesting indeed but those cheesy cauliflowers appeal me even more 🙂

    I love cauliflowers!! I’d love this dish, sounds very simple yet absolutely delicious!!!! thank you for sharing the recipe!!!

  12. Thanks for sharing about the book, cauliflower and cheese combination looks marvellous..

  13. cheese used in cauliflower gravy sounds interesting,seems like a nice recipe and will surely give it a try …

  14. love a good food yarn. sounds interesting

  15. yamini

     /  February 1, 2010

    Sounds like a really good read – and the cauliflower and chese is rather tempting 🙂

  16. sounds like a good book you must love aloo gobi

  17. I have been thinking for a long time about borrowing this book from library to read. Now your review has once again rekindled that idea! Chessy cauliflower looks very tempting.

  18. Thnx for sharing abt the book, now i vl read it surely n this cauliflower with cheese looks yummmy, nice click

  19. I have heard of this book and wanting to read it for a long time but my library does not have it. thanks for the excerpts from this book it aggravated my urge to find this one at the earliest. the cheesy cauliflower looks wonderfully vibrant. lovely click.

  20. WOW .. This is such a coincidence that we both reading the same book and writing abt it at the same time 🙂 !

    I am going to try this one 🙂

    Cheers Praj

  21. I loved the haphazard way the book is written. Looking forward to cook from it tomorrow.

  22. Well, its a lil bland for me too…but I am sure kids love it!

  23. I remember reading this book a while back. I wanted to save and try some recipes off it but never got around doing it. Thanks for reminding me, I am going to borrow it from the library and try out something


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  • January 2010
    M T W T F S S
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