The best cookery books are those which are abidingly personal, books that are testaments to life's adventures. Lina Gautam's Nepalese Cookbook is one of the most delightful – and modest – examples of this valuable genre, as Ms Gautam intersperses her childhood memories of food with the great adventure for which people in Ireland know her best – the setting up of Monty's Restaurant, in Dublin's Temple Bar, with her husband, Shiva.
The power and force of Ms Gautam's food memories are striking: journeys are recalled thanks to the dishes eaten at different, simple restaurants that catered to travellers, as the young Lina travels with her family. In particular, I love the story she tells of travelling to the Devghat Mela religious ceremony, and of being utterly ravenous. Her fast is broken at a small hut where a lady is serving stir-fried mustard greens and flat rice to the travellers. The experience reminds her of the saying that “Hunger is tastier than food itself (khana vanda bhoke mitho)... but to this day I remember the taste and I am still thankful for that meal.”
When she winds up making the daring move to Dublin to create a restaurant with her husband, her foremost worry is “how can I ever survive in a place like that where people eat just toast for breakfast.”
Survive, she does, and Monty's thrives, through ups and downs, as one of the country's foremost ethnic restaurants. Some of the restaurant's signature dishes are collected in this lovely book, along with Nepalese staples and the dishes of Ms Gautam's young life. Vegetarians, in particular, have a great deal to learn from a cuisine that places legumes, pulses and grains at the centre of the diet, but all of Ms Gautam's food is warm and inviting to cook and eat.
Lina's Nepalese Cookbook is available from Monty's of Kathmandu, in Temple Bar, Dublin 2