Top positive review
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The only cookbook that gives my Indian husband a true taste of home!
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
Black Pepper (Whole)
Black Cardamon Pods
Black Mustard Seeds
Green Cardamon Pods
Green Chili's (Serrano Peppers)
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!