Customer Reviews: From Mom with love: Complete Guide to Indian Cooking and Entertaining
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on December 6, 2009
I purchased this cookbook about 8 months ago. I wanted to really give it a workout before writing a review. I'm a born and raised American who married a born and raised East Indian. My husband is a doll, but having been one of the fortunate few to have grown up in a wealthy Indian home, he was provided only the best meals and is extremely picky with food. So much so that his mother even warned me about it.

I have quite a few Indian cookbooks, my favorites being this one, "Quick and Easy Indian Cooking" by Mahur Jaffrey and "5 Spices, 50 Dishes" by Ruhta Kahate. Madhur Jaffrey and Rutha Kahate are both fabulous cooks and have some great recipes, but my husbands biggest complaints about both of their cookbooks is that many of the recipes are too mild or are "Americanized" Indian dishes. (The spice issue is easy to work with, I just double the chili powder or add additional green chilies.) So while the meals in both of those cookbooks are really great tasting food, my Gujarati husband was looking for the EXACT SAME taste he would get at home in every recipe of the book. (EEEK!)

I read the great reviews on this book and decided to purchase it even though it didn't have anything about "simple" or "easy" in the title. I really think Mahur Jaffrey and Rutha Kahate both introduced me to Indian style cooking and helped me get past that initial fear of all the spices, taking me from beginner to intermediate. Both are really great books and I highly recommend them for beginners.

Well, this is THE BOOK!! From meal one, this cookbook was a huge hit with my husband! I don't consider myself a naturally good cook, but this book is absolutely fabulous at guiding you every step of the way. Each recipe has a full color photo and they are non-intimidating. Most meals take under an hour and some are 30 minutes or so, including cooking time. Even the more complicated looking dishes aren't that bad. I did as suggested and pre-cooked and froze masala for use in later recipes and it's worked out great. My husband's favorite is the Tandoori chicken, which looks scary, but it's really not! Once you have all of the spices required it's a little time consuming but a snap.

The taste of the food is not really going to be much like you'd find in Indian Restaurants here in the US, it's actually better, more flavorful. Much more of a home cooked Indian meal you can only find either at the home of an NRI or in India itself. I have been fortunate enough to go to India and these meals are exactly like what I was served at the gracious homes of my husband's friends and family.

My husband often tells me the meals I make from this book are sometimes even better than what he eats at home. He credits this to the fact that (he thinks) I follow every single step to the letter, while his mother sometimes skips spices. (Critical, critical! She's a fabulous cook!!) But either way it is possible to (shhhh!) take a few shortcuts with this book. I don't always grind my coriander fresh (something I learned from Madhur Jaffrey) and will use coriander powder instead. I also get lazy and use garlic or ginger paste instead of messing with the real thing. The taste is still fabulous, and several of the recipes call for garlic or ginger paste anyway.

In order to cook most of the great Indian meals from this book, you really only need a few essential tools, some of which you probably already have. A food processor, a blender and a spice grinder. A pressure cooker helps but I don't remember if any of these recipes require one. There are usually alternate directions if you don't have one anyway.

If you are new to the idea of Indian cooking but really want to produce that authentic, home cooked Indian taste, GET THIS BOOK! It's NOT scary. Trust me, I'm not a natural in the kitchen. I'm easily intimidated and was delighted to find I could cook any recipe in this book to perfection. If you're absolutely new at this, just be prepared to blow at least $30.00 on some base spices right off the bat and be SURE to get a spice grinder.

The Indian ingredients I always keep in stock in my kitchen are as follows:

Amchur (Mango) Powder
Bay Leaves
Black Pepper (Whole)
Black Cardamon Pods
Black Mustard Seeds
Cinnamon Sticks
Coriander Seeds
Coriander Powder
Cumin Seeds
Chili Powder
Fenugreek Seeds
Fennel Seeds
Garam Masala
Garlic Paste
Ginger Paste
Green Cardamon Pods
Green Chili's (Serrano Peppers)
Lemon Juice
Mustard Oil
Urad Dahl
Vegetable Oil

I realize that is an extensive list and no one should just go out and buy all of those spices without several recipes to use them in. Also, keep in mind it was built up over time and I also cook Indian food at least 5 times a week. If I had to pick the five spices I use the most, it would be Coriander Powder, Tumeric, Chili Powder, Cumin and Garam Masala. These are very basic for most Indian dishes. I'd say the best way to do it is build as you go. Pick 4 or 5 recipes you'd like to cook, make a list and go from there. Your spice cabinet will build up over time.

Anyway, this is a fabulous cookbook for non-intimidating and fairly easy to prepare authentic Indian dishes. Don't let the spices scare you, it's not bad at all! Hope this helps!
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on May 29, 2008
I have over 10 cookbooks in my pantry that claim to be the 'best' Indian cookbooks around. So, skeptical of adding yet another book to an already overcrowded shelf of unused cookbooks, I made the purchase...mainly becuase the pictures and recipes just looked so delicious...and my strong desire to have good home-made Indian food. When I tried out a recipe...I noticed that the directions were easy to follow and were accurate (in my experience, Indian cookbooks are not accurate about all the ingredients necessary or the amounts or even the preparation times)! To my surprise, my dishes turned out just as the book described (unlike the results I got from some of those other cookbooks in my pantry). This book has given me confidence that I can actually cook Indian food...successfully. I especially like the recommendation at the beginning of the book that tells you the essential spices to have in your pantry. I hope Pushpa Bhargava will consider writing a Vol. 2!
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on March 4, 2009
I purchased this cookbook as a present for my husband who loves Indian food but never learned to cook it. We've now made several recipes (mostly our favorites from Indian restaurants, but also some we were unfamiliar with) and all of them have been delicious. Some recipes are complicated, others less so, but nothing has been beyond our skill.

Standout aspects of this excellent book:
- glossary explaining ingredients
- list of ingredients to have on hand
- list of special equipment needed
- menu suggestions for entertainment
- lassi and homemade paneer recipes
- suggestions for meals that freeze or keep well
- suggestions for recipes

Problem and suggestions:
- The list of ingredients preceding a recipe is not organized in the order of use. She might tell you to heat oil in a pan and then add two or three spices, but those spices will not be the first items on the ingredients list, they might be the 3rd, 4th, and 10th items in the list. To overcome this confusion we've developed two techniques:
1) Read the recipe thoroughly at least twice before starting to cook. If you are accustomed to scanning a recipe and then diving in, don't be tempted to do that with this cookbook.
2) Measure out all the spices ahead of time. We use small dishes and organize the spices as they are used in the recipe. If 3 bay leaves, a stick of cinnamon and a tablespoon of turmeric all go into the pan together, we put those three spices into one bowl and set it aside, and so on for all the spices in the recipe. That way as you are cooking you can grab one bowl that contains all the relevant spices for that area of the recipe. This means you spend less time being confused by the disorganized list of ingredients. (And you can feel like the host of your own Indian cooking show)

I highly recommend this book especially if you have never cooked Indian food before. Don't be intimidated by the long lists of ingredients for each recipe!
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on November 5, 2009
I've really enjoyed this cookbook and have made several items from it. What I've cooked has been quite nice tasting. The basic masala (which is used in some other recipes) is delicious and its use is clever and time saving. The butternut squash dish is one of the most fantastic tasting squash recipes I've ever eaten. Her directions for bread-making are clear. Also the reader can take advantage of the author's website to view cooking demonstrations online.

The book has a nice sturdy cover and is easy to use and read in the kitchen.

I do have some suggestions for improvement for the next edition:
* please put the ingredients in order of their use in the recipe. It is really confusing, for example in one lentil recipe, to have the ingredients all jumbled together and then be told at the end "add remaining ingredients," so that one must look through the list and recall which were already put in.
* provide English translations for the dishes in the table of contents to broaden the appeal to those who don't know their Hindi names.
* include an index so that one can locate a particular recipe in the text.
* provide the yields of the recipes. For example, there is a big batch of a basic masala used throughout the book, but the yield is not stated. When I made it, the yield seemed to be approximately 2-1/4 cups.
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on July 2, 2010
I bought this cookbook after seeing all the rave reviews here. I wanted another Indian cookbook to complement the one I have owned and loved for years (Curried Favors: Family Recipes from South India, by Maya Kaimal Macmillan). I have to say, I have been disappointed by every recipe I have made in this book so far. The recipes are far more complicated than the ones in Curried Favors and require hard-to-find ingredients; the instructions are vague; and the finished products are not nearly as delicious.

Here's an example: last night I made the Chicken Biryani, and two of the listed ingredients (red chili powder and salt) are never mentioned in the recipe itself, so you have no idea when to add them in. In addition, there is a step in which you are told to sauté the chicken "until it is soft" before baking it for 30 minutes. What does that even mean? Chicken becomes less soft as you cook it, not more so. I took a wild guess and sautéed it for 10 minutes, which clearly wasn't what I was supposed to do, because I had to bake it for a full hour before it was cooked through. And then it was just OK; my husband and I found it a little bland. The other recipes I have made have also been a disappointment. The chicken curry, for one, is incredibly watery -- the sauce was the consistency of chicken broth. Yuck.

I'm going to stick with Curried Favors, and recommend that others do the same. It's an amazing book.
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on June 17, 2009
As a vegetarian and a longtime Indian food enthusiast, I bought "From Mom with love..." last year, and it has since become one of our most dependable and beloved cookbooks.

The book seems to fill a particular void in the market: An Indian home cookbook that is very accessible, personal, fairly thorough, with great recipes, and loaded with the practical tips and bits of helpful information that one tends to wish for in a cookbook but seldom finds. It's like having an experienced guide there with you as you plan and cook. Ms. Bhargava additionally goes the extra distance of maintaining a website with videos of cooking techniques to supplement the content in the book.

Even if you like to experiment as you cook, I've found that this collection serves as a great reference guide of sold, trustworthy standards to work from.

I have a particular pet peeve that many cookbook authors overreach to try to bulk up large volumes (or multiple volumes) with recipes that are rough and unperfected, and that don't flow from the author's heart and benefit from their long-experience in working with them over time. Clearly this was not at all the case with "From Mom with love..." These home-style recipes bear a much-appreciated personal touch. It's been a delightful experience for us working our way through this aptly titled labor of love.
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on April 21, 2010
So far I've made about four recipes from this book. They've been pretty good. I'm giving the food 4 stars as I don't have a lot of experience with Indian food. It may be a generous rating.

I just spent about 20 minutes scaling the recipe for Tahari on P. 114. As somebody noted before, The ingredients are not written in the order that one uses them in this book. I don't know if this is cultural or the author was never taught how to write a recipe. When I see this type of formatting issue with an internet recipe, I immediately dismiss the recipe and move on to another source. I figure, If they don't know how to format a basic recipe, how good can the food be? And what other careless mistakes did they make? In this same recipe that I had to re-read about 50 times (ok that's an exaggeration, maybe 10 times), The black cardamom was left out of the description as to where it should be used. Given the large quantity of spices and ingredients in many of the recipes, this is not a small issue. I'm thinking I should have given it a 3 come to think of it.

Not looking forward to spending an extra 10 minutes re-reading every recipe several times and I don't have time right now to edit the order of the ingredients on every page. Finished venting. I think I've been fair though.
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on December 10, 2007
My mother gave me Pushpa Bhargava's From Mom with Love... Complete Guide to Indian Cooking & Entertaining as a gift when I visited home for Thanksgiving. Along with serving as an informative and easy-to-follow cookbook, From Mom with Love is an educational tool for learning Hindi and Eastern traditions. Without a doubt, Mrs. Bhargava's book simplifies the tastiest of North and South Indian cuisine, but it would be a shame to ignore the book's other facets. Skimming the Hindi/English glossary is a walk down memory lane; as I read the words aloud to myself, enjoying the language of my youth--"achar" and "chapati", "chhole" and "haldi", "namak" and "palak"--I was reminded of how although Indian cooking is not an innate skill all Indians are born with (thus making Mrs. Bhargava's cookbook invaluable for us American-Born-Confused-Desis), the language has a pull on me as if my parents' voices and their words were typed along the long DNA strands that dictate my phenotype and personality, my general disposition and love for language.

Back to the cookbook. Embracing the challenge to review my first cookbook, I tried two recipes, the Baigan Bhartha (Spicy Roasted Eggplant) and the Fruit Chat (Spicy Fruit Salad). Neither are dishes from my youth, but who was I to try to replicate my mother's cooking? I decided it was best to cook dishes for which I knew no precedent; trying to emulate my mother's cooking is a short road to failure. Each recipe is accompanied by a photograph of what the dish should look like when ready to serve. All the photos in Mrs. Bhargava's book are accessible; none of the photos look so dauntingly gourmet that the reader is put off from even trying to replicate the dish in one's own kitchen. The eggplant was as tasty as the recipe was straight forward. Fruit chat is a basic blending of favorite Indian spices in a bowl of banana, pear, mango, and guava as well as a smattering of vegetables such as cucumber and tomato. A little skeptical about the fruit-vegetable combination sprinkled with sugar and spices, I was taken aback by the fresh cornucopia of flavors I experienced with every mouthful.

Finally, Mrs. Bhargava's tone with which she writes her book is genuinely "with love". The recipes are straight forward and indelicate, yet as an epilogue Mrs. Bhargava provides useful "Tender Loving Care" tips for solving "cooking crises" and even lists age-old "Proven Household Medications" that have been used for hundreds of years and are still used in households today. Finally, Mrs. Bhargava's cookbook offers tips for "Cleaning & Odor Removal" rather than ignoring the fact that western cultures tend to label Indian food as unusually aromatic. Mrs. Bhargava's cookbook is so successfully written as a loving Indian mother to the scores of Indian Americans interested in maintaining Indian culinary tradition, she instead inspires nostalgia among her readers for a time when Indian food just showed up on the dinner table, uncomplicated by thoughts as to which pots and pans, sweet and sour spices, raw or cooked vegetables, are necessary for enjoying a magnificent Indian meal that seemed to come from nothing but love.
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on September 19, 2009
My wife and I are both big fans of Indian food both from restaurants and trying to bring it more into our regular cooking routines. While we've found many entertaining books with strong recipes we never really found a book that helps us get properly oriented to internalize the habits and working methods of the Indian home cook, 'From Mom With Love...' does just exactly that.

As I bit of background, I have to say that overall I find the glut of cookbooks hitting the shelves these days rather disappointing in quality. Sure the pictures are large and the typesetting impressive but I find that the content trends towards the lackluster. I'm happy to report that 'From Mom With Love...' is a complete antidote to that feeling. What Pushpa Bhargava has done here is nothing less than invite you into the routines and organizational practices that are a practical part of the day to day life of the Indian home cook.

The book's organization is some of the best I have ever seen to the point that I would say it is unique. Bhargava has even gone so far as to have a single but critical introductory page of the book tabbed so that you are sure to read it and find success. Adding a tab is no trivial expense in publishing and I find its inclusion a clear indicator of how committed to her reader's culinary success the author is.

Everything about this book is geared towards being used and not just languishing prettily on the shelves or imposingly on the coffee table. The format is compact and the end boards are covered with a slick semi-gloss paper that wipes off easily. No dust jacket to be an irritating crumb catcher doomed to rips and smears.

The book does have high quality photography and layout but it's all in the service of getting the recipes and techniques across. There are no gratuitous multi-page food porn centerfolds that just waste pages.

So, I like the physical object and the editorial style, but what about the food? No worries there. The recipes are delicious and quite obviously well tested as they work perfectly 'off the rack'. The most important thing to me about this book though is not the recipes per se but the fact that Bhargava's teaching style has left me with the pantry and beginning instincts to start to feel that I'm 'getting' Indian cuisine as a cook in a way that no other book (in any cuisine for that matter) ever has. I can unequivocally say that this should be the foundation book in the kitchen of anyone that wants to begin to really understand the amazing foods of India.
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on July 4, 2014
I decided to purchase this book based on the high average rating it receives on Amazon. Unfortunately, this book does not live up to my expectations. For me, a great cookbook would start with a narrative of the history, culture, or regional differences of the food. It would describe the tools needed and ingredients common to this style of cooking. This book provides none of them.

To be fair, it does tell you what you need to follow its recipes. The list of recommended pantry items and glossary of Hindi to English translations are both useful but there are no descriptions of what the ingredient are. For example, the Hindi word "hing" translates to "asafetida" in English. But what is asafetida? It looks like a processed powder at the store. Not wanting to put an unknown ingredient in my food, I googled asafetida and found a lot of interesting facts about it, facts which unfortunately, do not make their way into this book.

The book provides photos of many of the ingredients but unfortunately up to 21 ingredients can be in the same photo so it's hard to see the details of the ingredient, especially in the Kindle edition.

So far I have tried 2 recipes: baigan bharta and lamb curry. The author calls baigan bharta the spicy "roasted" eggplant but tells you to put the eggplants in a plastic bag and "microwave" at full heat for 12 minutes. I have made this dish following other recipes and typically, the eggplants are grilled over open flame to give it a smoky flavor. I thought at a minimum this book would mention other ways of roasting/grilling the eggplants under one of its "TLC tip" following the recipe, but there is no such mention. Another minor gripe with this particular recipe is it calls for 2 medium fresh tomatoes but doesn't mention you should chop it like with the onions, ginger and green chili. I knew the tomatoes need to be chopped from experience but had it been an unknown dish, I would have had to guess and you shouldn't have to. The final dish lived up to the "spicy" part of its name and it was tasty but with the caveat that I grilled my eggplants.

For the lamb curry, I followed the recipe exactly but the dish came out too watery, much like a lamb vegetable soup. Near the end, the recipe asks you to add a certain quantity of water and cover. It says to add garam masala after the curry starts to boil and then turn heat to low and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes. I am guessing that this part should have been cooked uncovered to allow all the excess water and juices from the vegetables and lamb to evaporate. But the books doesn't tell you to remove the cover. So either it is an inadvertent omission or the recipe calls for too much water.

Overall, to me this book feels like nothing more than a collection of recipes with a useful Hindi to English translation table and a good list of pantry items to have. Either of the recipes I tried is missing some detail or the proportions are a bit off but I do like the fact the author has a photo of the finished dish after each recipe.
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