I love second hand bookshops. For me, the idea of wandering my way through a flurry of books that at some point belonged to someone but later put away as unnecessary because they’ve lost their pertinence is very exhilarating. In a weird way they have character, having gone through a cycle of life from one place to another and then to another.
The pages, a murky white stained with rusty brown spots, it’s almost as though they’ve been given a wash of sepia. As you flip one page after the other, the perfume that comes through is so distinctly consistent. And then you find a little pencil scribble on a random page, perhaps a name or a doodle of a little flower and at that point it’s hard not to think why the book was given away, just like that.
As a city, Bombay is like a treasure trove. You don’t know what you’ll find where, but you’ll definitely find what you are looking for at some point. And the beauty about the city lies in the fact that there’s something for everyone. I had the quintessential “Bombay experience” when I chanced upon a row of second hand book stalls on the pavement in South Bombay. I was like a kid in a candy shop, really.
It was possibly the hottest day of summer and I was towered by this labyrinth of books. I was sweating buckets full but I didn’t care. There were editions of James Joyce’s Ulysses that were much older than me, an illustrated classic of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, a huge collection of Grimm’s Fairytales that I haven’t seen in like 25 years, rare books on history, politics, medicine, you name it.
And then there was food. It was very hard to contain my excitement but I did so because I had to bargain in the end and I couldn’t give away my emotion quite so easily. After scrutinizing 50 something books, I found a jewel – Desserts by The Good Cook, Time Life Series. I think it’s been two decades since they’ve stopped publishing the series. It was a precious find and on my way back I couldn’t help but wonder why someone would give away such a book; not that I was unhappy.
If you are into traditional desserts and old school techniques, this book is just the thing you need. There is a compilation of classic recipes given by some legendary chefs and techniques listed that I didn’t know existed. I thought I’ll begin my way through the book with Paul Bocuse’s Souffléd Oranges that he served at his Michelin starred restaurant in Lyon, Paris.
- 4 large oranges
- 2 large eggs, separated
- 3 tbsp caster sugar
- 1 tbsp Cointreau (you can use rum)
- Icing sugar, to dust
- Preheat the oven to 230 C.
- Cut the tops of the oranges. Grate the zest from the cut tops. Reserve.
- Scoop the flesh out from each orange. Pull the piths and membranes out of the orange so that it is hollow (see pic).
- Squeeze the juice from the flesh. You should get about a cup of orange juice. Reduce the juice to 1 tbsp in a saucepan set over high heat.
- Transfer juice to a bowl and dunk it in a tray of ice cubes so it cools down.
- Beat the yolks and sugar until thick and creamy. Add the orange zest, Cointreau and reduced orange juice. Whisk to combine.
- In a separate bowl, beat egg whites until you obtain stiff peaks.
- Fold egg whites into the yolk mixture gently.
- Spoon the batter into the hollow orange shells.
- Place shells on a baking tray and bake for 10 minutes.
- During the last couple of minutes, dust some icing sugar on top and finish baking.