The name sounds familiar. Well, it will do to any of us who buy the celebrated Patak’s range of Indian sauces and condiments. They grace every supermarket and are easily recognisable by their diamond-shaped logo. Considered some of the best commercial sauces around, I even have Indian friends who periodically use them. That must surely be a seal of approval.
There truly is a Mr and Mrs Pathak (‘Patak’ is the anglicised spelling given to the label). They are not an aberration of marketing men in the same way as Mr. Kipling. The current Pathaks are the son and daughter-in-law of the founders who sold Indian food from their Drummond Street shop back in the 1950s. It must have been a struggle as we Britons thought, at that time, that even pasta was exotic.
Meena Pathak is the creator of many of the pastes and has several books to her credit, but this one is not a Patak’s product handbook. Yes, there are a few recipes that use those pastes and sauces, and you will likely have them in your larder anyway, but there are plenty of traditional and contemporary dishes to make from scratch.
Meena Pathak Celebrates Indian Cooking could perhaps be renamed Meena Pathak Celebrates real Indian Home Cooking in Britain. A laborious title but this volume does seem to represent the reality of Indian home cooking. Irresistible Spiced Beans on Toast is a simple recipe that reflects what we honestly eat when in a hurry or alone. Common spices, a chilli, coriander, some onion and grated cheese combine to produce an economic but delicious comfort food.
The Classics chapter offers a treasury of celebrated dishes from all over the subcontinent. Goan Fish Curry is becoming a familiar item with the mushrooming of South Indian restaurants. A dish with complex flavours but it’s easy to prepare and you’ll be eating in just half an hour. Much faster than phoning for a take-away.
Pork Sorpotel is new to me. Pork isn’t as common on Indian menus as say chicken or lamb but here is a quick and warming dish using pork tenderloin. Vegetarians are not forgotten and one of the most interesting recipes is for Pan-fried Potato Masala – Masala Pyaz Aloo. It’s a traditional breakfast from central India where it is served with hot Indian bread. Add a mug of chai (recipe here) and you’ll be set for a trip down the Grand Trunk Road.
A favourite dish when eating out is Lentils with Cream and Butter – Dal Makhni. This is a marvellously textured black lentil confection. It takes a couple of hours to cook although this time will drastically reduce if you have a pressure cooker. Yes, it’s rich but you’ll not eat it every day; don’t use oil but rather push the culinary boat out and use butter. I love this with chapatti as a meal in itself.
Meena Pathak Celebrates Indian Cooking is a book that will tempt the Indian food novice into the kitchen, but there is plenty here for those who are already confident Indian food cooks. The recipes are simple and the results are rewarding. Meena invites the reader into her own kitchen with stories of family past and present. A charming and practical book and great value for money.
Asian cookbook review: Meena Pathak Celebrates Indian Cooking
Author: Meena Pathak
Published by: New Holland
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018