Cinnamon Kitchen is another of the restaurants in chef Vivek Singh’s empire. Cinnamon Club in Westminster has long been the classy and dark-polished-wood Indian restaurant of choice for the great and the good, and even politicians from the big house up the road. Cinnamon Soho has recently opened and offers a dining experience that’s fast, casual and buzzy and introduces a new audience to the same standard of delicious food, but in a form rushed diners prefer.
Cinnamon Kitchen was the second in Vivek’s portfolio and manages to straddle the two concepts. It’s more casual than its formal parent, Cinnamon Club, but it still has the air of fine dining, just clothed in less tailored attire. Smart-casual would describe the guests and the ambiance.
Cinnamon Kitchen – The Cookbook presents a beautifully photographed collection of recipes from the Cinnamon Kitchen team. They cover every course as well as some drinks from Anise, the bar, and some recipes have step-by-step images of preparation for the novice.
At first glance some of the recipes might look complicated but they can all be broken down into their constituent parts, giving 3 or 4 recipes for every one listed. All of those are simple to follow and can be used together as suggested or in a mix-and-match with other dishes. The spices are all available from your local Asian grocer or online and a selection of half a dozen or so will enable the home cook to tackle most of the dishes here.
Dry-spice-crusted Guinea Fowl is one of the simplest dishes to prepare. Vivek suggests you cook this in a tandoor (yes, trot out and get one; it can also be used as central heating) but he concedes that it works just as well on a regular barbecue or in the oven. Chicken can be used, if you prefer, but increase the cooking time as it’s larger than the guinea fowl.
Galouti Kebabs are not that common in Indian restaurants but you will find them on some of the finest menus, and they are exceptional preparations. The skill is in the mincing just as much as in the spicing. The secret to success is grinding the meat to a smooth paste. Once you have minced it a few times you will think that’s enough, but process it some more and you will find you have kebabs that are truly melting and memorable.
Lentils are a staple of Indian cuisine and form much of the traditional Subcontinental diet. They are economic, delicious and nutritious. Vivek has recipes for both black and yellow lentil dishes. My favourite is the yellow version, and it’s versatile as several different lentils can be used individually or together. I enjoy the mixed version as there are different textures remaining when the dish is cooked. It’s a simple traditional dish that can even be made in a pressure cooker to save time and fuel. Most Indian households have at least one of these practical gadgets. Eat these aromatic lentils with almost any meat, fish or vegetables or even along with just rice or Indian bread. This freezes well for future use.
Desserts in Indian restaurants tend to be a bit thin on the ground and predictable, but Vivek has several inspiring sweet dishes that have accessible ingredients, and very few of those. One of his desserts is Spiced Banana Tarte Tatin. It’s a blessing to be given permission to use shop-bought puff pastry, but buy the best quality available. The topping is, unsurprisingly, bananas but with a hint of pink peppercorn to spike the fruit. The caramel gives a sweet lacquer and shine to the finished tart.
I mentioned Bar Anise, and they have contributed a battery of cocktail recipes that are potent, impressive and delicious. The Cinnamon Bellini must surely be a signature with that warming spice that is its eponymous flavour – what better way to start an evening. A Vivek Vodka or Singh Sangria could be the next Anise mixology inventions.
This is a stunning, gift-quality book that would be appreciated by any lover of vibrant Indian flavours presented in stylish fashion. It’s a book to pore over but it’s far from a coffee table novelty and it’s likely to tempt even those who didn’t realise that they had a kitchen, as every good cookbook should. Vivek never disappoints.
Cinnamon Kitchen – The Cookbook
Author: Vivek Singh
Publisher: Absolute Press
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018