Slug: an-invitation-to-indian-cooking Date: 2010-02-11 Title: An Invitation to Indian Cooking layout: post
I’ve hubristically titled this post after one of my favorite Indian cookbooks, and I hope that you’ll forgive me since it’s such a perfect fit for this post.
I discovered Indian cuisine while in school - there was a wonderful Indian couple on staff, and she made the most aromatic, colorful, and delicious meals. They were spicy but not overwhelming, varied in preparations and techniques, and as interesting to look at as they were to taste. I was hooked.
After Jodi and I got married, we contacted our Indian friends again looking for her wonderful Palak Kheema (Spinach and Ground Beef) recipe. In addition to emailing us the recipe, shortly thereafter she sent us as a gift a most wonderful cookbook: Hamlyn’s All-Colour Indian Cookbook. In its pages we found many concise recipes that we’ve come to love: Green Chicken Curry (the curry is green, not the chicken - I know what you’re thinking), Lentil Curry, Koftas (Indian meatballs), and many more.
The Green Chicken Curry from that cookbook is a favorite of our family, and feeds 6-8 people. It’s not terribly spicy, doesn’t use any “curry” spices (typically cumin, turmeric, cayenne pepper, and a host of incidental spices), and you can easily adjust the number of chilis used. Even my “I don’t eat green stuff” father really enjoyed it!
Another cookbook we came across (I don’t remember if we bought it on a recommendation or if it was a gift) was Madhur Jaffrey’s An Invitation to Indian Cooking. This remarkable tome is part cultural reference, part auto-biography, and part cookbook. It has no photos (in the 1974 reprint we own), but reading the recipes, chapter introductions, and other descriptions will fill your head with the sights and (imaginary) smells of Indian home cooking.
The recipes are longer than the concise ones in the Hamlyn book - Madhur’s koftas recipe has an ingredient list that’s a page long (broken down into sections for the meatballs, the stuffing, and the sauce) and the directions are another page and a half - but the results are wonderful. You do have to make sure you read the recipes through a few times before starting; more than once I’ve gotten most of the way through a new recipe and - right as the family was coming to the table - realized that the second to last step is “simmer for 25 minutes”. D’oh!
If you’ve got a taste for Indian food, and are interested in learning how to both cook Indian and understand more deeply the flavors, techniques, and ingredients involved, let me invite you to pick up these two fantastic books. The All-Colour Indian Cookbook will give you tons of recipes that are short enough not to intimidate, and Madhur Jaffrey’s book will give you the depth of understanding that adds richness to every dish you attempt.