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The Food and Cooking of India

Regional Cooking of India

Vegetarian Cooking of India

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Cookbook Collection:
Mridula Baljekar

On this page:

The Food and Cooking of India

Regional Cooking of India

Vegetarian Cooking of India

The Food and Cooking of India

It’s quite honestly a stunner. The Food and Cooking of India by Mridula Baljekar is an engaging almanac of Indian cooking with elements of travelogue. Even those who have yet to discover the inside of a kitchen will be tempted to invest in a spice box, or at least a plane ticket to the subcontinent.

asian cookbook review I am surprised that Mridula Baljekar is not still gracing our TV screens. She had a successful series which won her fame, for her food as well as her calm and charming delivery. Her manner suggested to the anxious viewer that, yes, they too could cook authentic Indian food without exotic kitchen equipment and a degree in Asian culinary arts. All would be well. It’s only dinner, after all.

In real life Mridula is exactly that same person. She insists that she is a cook rather than a chef, although she is a sought-after restaurant consultant both in the UK and overseas. She has a sense of what the European domestic god/goddess needs to give them confidence and a real insight into Indian food.

The Food and Cooking of India is published by Lorenz Books, an imprint of Anness Publishing. They present some of the very best cookbooks for those who actually want to, well, cook. All recipe books are not created equal. There are those which have a few pictures of restaurant kitchens with ghostly, blurred shots of fast-moving chefs in the background and some lovely snaps of their favourite beetroot grower, and if you are lucky an ‘ooh, aah’ image of a baby piggy called Hamlet who is soon to have his name changed to ‘Lunch’; but Lorenz give us books stuffed with pictures not only of finished dishes but a slew of step-by-step photographs to keep the novice cook on track.

This volume offers a collection of 150 recipes from across India with more than 850 pertinent photographs. It’s a beautiful yet practical book that will serve you just as well in the kitchen as it does on the coffee table. It’s a book that entices with its vibrant food and descriptive text. The recipes are simple to follow and we all have access to the ingredients these days. There is a glossary of fresh groceries, along with a directory of authentic Indian kitchen paraphernalia, none of which is essential, and an overview of Indian spices, all of which are essential - only half a dozen or so, but armed with these you will be able to attempt and indeed master every recipe.

Mridula Baljekar has penned 20 or so books and has won numerous awards so it’s obvious that the lady can write a bit. Thousands of recipes have earned her a reputation as an author but the food she makes has earned her a reputation as a lady who truly can cook. She demonstrates across the globe, and her books are paper versions of her masterclasses. Here she offers classics and family favourites that you will likely not find in your local Indian restaurant. There are dishes for economic family meals as well as celebrations and each one will take the reader one step nearer to becoming a confident and well-informed home chef.

The first pick of the book is the recipe for Chicken Biryani. This is a dish that’s oft abused but I can tell you from firsthand experience that Mridula presents a very fine Biryani that is surprisingly easy to prepare and is fragrant and memorable. It works as a regular week-day dinner or as an impressive centrepiece for friends on a Saturday night.

As yet there is no tax on eggs so they can still constitute a delicious and good-value family meal. Egg Do-piaza is well-flavoured, with onions in the sauce and as a crunchy garnish, but it’s the battered and deep-fried egg halves that are the stars. Mridula even offers a tip on keeping the egg yolks in the centre of the boiled eggs!

Spicy Stuffed Bananas – kela na sambhariya – is easy to prepare and it’s probable that you will have some bananas lingering in the fruit bowl. The filling is a mix of gram flour (chickpea flour) and some spices. The flour is toasted so it takes on a rich nutty flavour. A unique vegetarian dish that’s striking to look at and different from a traditional vegetable curry.

The Food and Cooking of India offers something for every taste and every pocket. There are creamy and rich royal dishes as well as simple breads. There is a good selection of desserts as well as recipes to delight vegetarians and fish lovers. It’s a gift-quality book and for less than £15 – a bargain.

The Food and Cooking of India
Author: Mridula Baljekar
Published by: Lorenz Books
Price: £14.99
ISBN-13: 978-0-7548-2377-3
ISBN-10: 0-7548-2377-6

food and travel reviews Mridula Baljekar

Regional Cooking of India

There are myriad Indian cookbooks available to the European reader. Most of them are good, some of them are magnificent but all of them have something to offer. The problem is that so many of them present much the same thing. Curry-house favourites, standard restaurant items and homemade versions of your regular takeaway. This book, however, entices the reader with much more varied fare.

asian cookbook review Mridula Baljekar is a food consultant, restaurant consultant, author, and she has been away from the UK food TV screens for too long. She had her own cooking series on Carlton a few years ago and many of us wonder why she is not now presenting Indian cooking programmes on the UK food network.

Regional Cooking of India is the latest in a line of books from Ms Baljekar. It’s a large-format tome with a wealth of pictures of finished dishes, but also step-by-step shots which will be a comfort to the less-confident home chef. 350 photographs make this either a coffee table book to cook from or a cookbook to grace the aforementioned furniture.

Many of us are avid collectors of cookbooks but there is always that duplication of recipes. This book presents so much that is new. Dishes that I have not come across in other recipe books and in fact have not eaten in restaurants. Having said that, there is nothing here to incite horror at the hob in a European kitchen. Mridula writes with the home cook in mind. She does not expect you to own a tandoor (although I have heard you can find plans on the internet for such things using big terracotta flower pots) and she even suggests an alternative for the traditional idli maker: use your grandmother’s egg-poacher!

There are 80 recipes here to tempt you to the kitchen and indeed to India. Each region is considered and Mridula guides you through the culinary culture of these diverse areas. Six chapters cover north, south, east and west, with north-east and central India added for good measure. It’s a huge country with varied climate and geography. Coastal regions with their array of seafood dishes, and mountains with lamb. Marvellous vegetables everywhere, and sweets that are a bit more impressive than those found in UK restaurants.

Prawn Rissoles are from the west, and these would make a delicious main course, or smaller versions could be made to go with drinks. Several regions offer dishes that would work in this fashion - stuffed savouries with contrasting tastes and textures: Meat-Filled Potato Cakes from Eastern India, and Stuffed Meat Patties from South India are both flexible recipes. Baby Corn Fritters could also enhance a canapé tray. My Indian friends have given the smartest of drinks parties with finger foods like these,  which put cheese straws and twiglets to shame - vibrant flavours from small dishes which are both tempting and moreish.

If you want a dish to impress then you can’t do better than using Mridula's recipe for Nawabi Raan, royal-style marinated leg of lamb. It’s not a difficult dish for even a novice to undertake. The aroma of spices and roasting meat will fill your home. I know that estate agents always advise sellers to brew coffee or make bread when expecting potential house-buyers, but I think this lamb could get the deal done quicker.

There are many other dishes here deserving of a mention, including Spicy Stuffed Bananas from West India, which are new to me. A simple dish and economic, a great departure for vegetarians who will appreciate the stylish presentation of dark banana skins and savoury filling. A good standby, using lots of store-cupboard ingredients. Spicy Scrambled Eggs make a much more exciting breakfast than cornflakes – attractive and simple to prepare even with only one eye open.

Mridula Baljekar is a many-faceted consummate professional. One would expect a fascinating book full of inspiring and different recipes and that’s exactly what this is. Even those of us who have shelves liberally garnished with Indian cookbooks will want to find a space for Regional Cooking of India. It’s a joy.

Asian cookbook review: Regional cooking of India
Author: Mridula Baljekar
Published by: Aquamarine
Price: £19.99
ISBN-13: 978-1-903141-61-6

food and travel reviews Mridula Baljekar

Vegetarian Cooking of India

Mridula Baljekar presents us with another superb example of her skill as a food writer. Vegetarian Cooking of India is the latest in a string of books which exemplify the reasons why she is held in such high regard by home cooks, those with a passion for Indian food, and collectors of beautiful recipe books.

asian cookbook review Vegetarian Cooking of India is a large format volume from Aquamarine. This publisher offers some of the most thoughtful and practical cookbooks around. They have found a path that strikes a balance between a food manual and a food annual. Mridula puts recipes in cultural and geographic context and there is a very appealing element of food travelogue. This is not only a vegetarian cookbook but also a culinary reflection of regional diversity.

One can always expect something striking from Mridula, and this latest work will not disappoint those who have enjoyed her previous recipe collections. She does not assume that her reader has any particular kitchen prowess. She starts with an overview of ingredients, equipment and techniques. Each recipe includes a few words to give confidence to the novice and to inspire the more practised.

There are 80 classic recipes here, but classic does not mean that they are facsimiles of those already contained within the covers of your other favourite Indian cookbooks. The dishes here are authentic and there is something for every taste: Sweet Pineapple Salad flecked with black mustard seeds from South India to Potatoes in Chilli-Tamarind Sauce from West India.

Vegetarian Cooking of India represents the style of food that is eaten in homes all over the Subcontinent and indeed in expatriate homes worldwide. The dishes are lighter and fresher-tasting than those you find in all but the best Indian restaurants. The recipes here contain more aromatic spices than searingly hot ones. It’s about flavour rather than fire.

Channa Madra – chickpeas in a spice-laced yogurt sauce – is North Indian. This is a substantial dish which will be appreciated even by those who would normally crave meat at every meal. The use of lentils and beans in these recipes might persuade many carnivores down the semi-vegetarian route.

Sanar Kofta – cheese balls from North East India – are made with Paneer which can be found in most large supermarkets. It’s a mild cheese which absorbs flavours and is used extensively in Indian kitchens. These balls are covered in a piquant sauce and served with rice for a main meal. I would think that they could equally work as a vegetarian and more tempting version of the ubiquitous cocktail sausage, which was passé by the end of the 60s yet endures in some quarters.

Dimer Dalna – egg, potato and green pea curry from East India – is economic and a must-try dish. It is delicately infused with cinnamon, cardamom and cloves. Mridula serves this with Indian bread for which she includes several recipes. Comfort food at its warming finest.

Good Indian desserts are more often found in Indian homes than Indian restaurants. Mridula has some tempting traditional suggestions, and Shrikand – saffron-scented strained yogurt – is one of my favourites. It has to be made at least 2 hours in advance so it’s ideal for the end of an exotic meal or to finish a light summer lunch.

It’s no surprise to find a chutney recipe in a Mridula Baljekar cookbook: she produces her own brand of seasonal chutneys that are delightfully flavourful and different. If you can’t find her jars in your supermarket then you can at least enjoy her Tomato Achar – roasted tomato chutney – made by your own fair hands.

Vegetarian Cooking of India is a book that will encourage you into the kitchen. The recipes are simple to execute but are exciting enough to be appreciated by those who already have lots of Indian dishes in their repertoire. Nothing to drive a debutant into panic but plenty to inspire.

Visit Mridula Baljekar here

Asian Cookbook review: Vegetarian Cooking of India
Author: Mridula Baljekar
Published by: Aquamarine
Price: £17.99

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