You might not know the name Meena Pathak but I am sure you know her products. Pataks is the name of the company she has helped to prominence, and those little jars and packets are in every supermarket both in the UK and around the world. The distinctive labels indicate quality foods that have a good reputation with home cooks.
Meena trained in food technology and hotel management with the prestigious Taj hotel group. Combine that with a passion for food and you have a recipe (sorry for the pun) for culinary success. She has, in fact, packaged her talents and sold them on to the general public, but Complete Indian Cooking is about cooking from scratch with hardly a jar to be seen.
There are over 180 recipes in this volume which is really two books in one: Flavours of India and Indian Cooking for Family and Friends. Meena does not assume that you are a seasoned Indian cook so she introduces us to India’s Culinary Traditions, Favourite Ingredients, Cooking Tips and Kitchen Equipment.
The food is mouthwatering. I have a love of Indian food and I’ll enjoy eating my way through much of this book. The photography by John Freeman is first class, showing both the food and Meena to best advantage. It’s a large format book with great visual appeal and is a marvellous showcase for Meena’s food.
The recipes are broad-based and offer plenty of choice for both vegetarians and meat eaters. The meat of choice is, unsurprisingly, lamb but there are fish dishes aplenty as well as sweets. The recipes are easy to follow and are, for the most part, simple to prepare. The key to success is the combination of spices. There are no complicated cooking techniques and you’ll already have the kitchen equipment.
There are some stunning dishes here. Prawn Balichow is a favourite relish but I have only ever tasted the commercial varieties. This isn’t difficult to make and it’s lovely as part of a starter or buffet. Devilled Prawns would be a delicious alternative.
The chapter called Rice, Bread and Accompaniments has some lovely dips. Coriander and Mint Raita will be familiar to restaurant goers, as is Sabzi Raita served with Biryani. Lentils with Cream and Butter is real comfort food, rich and unctuous, so eat this with just rice or bread… not white sliced though.
Complete Indian Cooking is a book to use. It’s attractive and sumptuous but it would be a shame to keep it anywhere but the kitchen.
Complete Indian Cooking
Author: Meena Pathak
Published by: New Holland
Price: £ 14.99
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018