50 Great Curries of India by Camellia Panjabi – review

Indian cookbook review 50 Great Curries of India Yes, India is a big country with many regions, each with its own culinary classics, so I guess the author, Camellia Panjabi, has had her work cut out to choose just 50 of them.  for 50 Great Curries of India. The ones she has selected, however, represent the best, the most celebrated, and those which can be most easily replicated in a non-Indian home.

The accompanying DVD introduces us to the author. She might not be a household name but she is well known in the UK and Indian food industries. She is a director of Masala World, a UK Indian restaurant company. Doesn’t ring bells? Well, perhaps you have heard of Veeraswamy in Piccadilly? It’s the oldest and most iconic of Indian restaurants in London. Chutney Mary and Amaya are also from the Masala World stable, offering high-end Indian food to the increasingly discerning British public.

Nothing to stop you having a go

Ms. Panjabi has a quiet and reassuring stage presence. Her conversational style puts the novice cook at their ease. Any cookbook author who suggests that it’s perfectly acceptable to change the recipe to suit your personal taste is OK in my book. This is a lady who might be a restaurant magnate but she still lives in the real world. Even in India one’s mum’s Chicken Dopiaza will taste subtly different from her neighbour’s. Camellia is aware that some ingredients might be a bit thin on the ground so if you live in a lighthouse miles from civilisation then you can, for instance, use powdered coconut milk instead of the real thing. There really is nothing to stop you having a go.

This is an amazingly attractive book. The pages are edged with traditional fabric motifs which, along with the striking photography, help to give this volume a sumptuous air. A paperback it might be, but it’s gift quality nevertheless. The author’s notes for each recipe help to put the dishes into geographic or cultural context. 50 Great Curries of India will not only teach you how to make, well, 50 delicious curries, but it will also take you on a culinary voyage.

50 Great Curries of India offers recipes for curries (that is to say, dishes with sauces) as well as breads, vegetables, lentils etc. And a nice selection of desserts, and a meal planner to give a bit of confidence if you want to show off to the in-laws. You will recognise the names of many of the dishes from visits to your local Indian restaurant. It’s very probable, however, that you will prefer your own, freshly-made version.  Do I have favourites from this volume? Yes, many.

Grandmother was a Hyderabadi Princess

Lamb with Plums had my immediate attention. It’s a speciality from the aforementioned Veeraswamy restaurant. The dish hails originally from Hyderabad, as did the founder of the restaurant, Edward Palmer – his grandmother was a Hyderabadi Princess. A delightful history for a delicious curry.  It’s an economic dish for the home cook: stewing lamb is the main ingredient and the spices are those found in your local supermarket.

Another must-try from the non-vegetarian dishes is Meat Cooked with Cardamom. It’s home-style food rather than restaurant fare. I love anything flavoured with cardamom. It has a distinctive taste and aroma and is used extensively for both sweet and savoury dishes. This a simple dish to make and has few ingredients.  In fact none of the recipes in this book should hold any terrors for even the inexperienced home cook. The recipes are clearly written and the cooking techniques don’t demand exotic kitchen equipment or any cheffy skills.

Cauliflower has long had a bad press for being a dull and boring and aesthetically unappealing vegetable. Perhaps Cauliflower and Potato Curry will help to elevate its profile. It’s a marvellous main dish for vegetarians but it’s hearty enough to be enjoyed by those who are card-carrying carnivores. The vegetables are chunky and the sauce warming. An ideal winter supper.

50 Great Curries of India gives a colourful overview of regional Indian food. Camellia Panjabi’s writing is charming and accessible, and the book is full not only of recipes but also of information on spices and their uses, as well as hints and shortcuts. A book for curry connoisseurs and those who would like to be.

Asian Cookbook review: 50 Great Curries of India
Author: Camellia Panjabi
Published by: Kyle Cathie
Price: £15.99
ISBN 978-1-85626-819-6


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Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018