Too many years ago, Madhur Jaffrey graced our screens. For anyone with a litre or more of Indian genetic material it was a revelation. Yes, there had always been Indians on TV: Arapaho, Mohawk, Apache. Some of us thought we might have a bit of Sioux coursing through our veins as that is what the media presented as ‘Indian’. Always the bad guys and always getting creamed by the cavalry. Although in truth film did introduce a bit of balance, in the guise of the very Welsh Richard Burton playing an Indian doctor in The Rains of Ranchipur – but it only added to the cultural confusion. Yes, Madhur Jaffrey was one of the first high-profile Asian Indians on British television.
Madhur Jaffrey was a real Indian, and with a prime-time show. She appeared with a waft of silken sari elegance. This actress used her front-of-camera professionalism to charm her new-found audience with their first taste of Indian cooking. The Great British Public were hooked. Madhur’s book, which was the show companion, was the first Indian cookbook that the majority of us had seen.
Curry Easy exudes the same accessible style that one had come to expect from the Grande Dame of all things Sub-continentally culinary. It’s been a while since she has published in the UK, and this is a volume that will introduce a new generation of food lovers to simple home-style Indian cooking. Madhur admits that this cookbook has in mind those who are strapped for time. She offers short-cuts and handy hints that are welcome and practical. Her tip on microwaving papadoms will encourage a peak in supermarket sales of those crispy delights.
This is a book for those who want to eat authentic food in a timely fashion. Yes, still authentic because this is indeed the way that Indian women cook. Visit any Asian home in the UK and you will likely find a can or two of chickpeas rather than the dry packs. Yes, real Indians do buy ready-mixed garam masala in bags, and peas can be found in every freezer. The ingredients for these recipes are not lengthy and although this isn’t your typical fast food it is good food in a hurry. The slower-cooked dishes will allow you time to relax while tantalising aromas fill your flat, or permeate your penthouse.
Baked Chicken Curry is a dish that is economic enough to become a weekday family favourite, but it’s also ideal for entertaining. Most of the work can be done the day before, or in the morning for an evening meal – marinate and bake. As with all of these recipes it takes advantage of common Indian spices that you will undoubtedly already have at the back of your larder.
Aubergine with Tomatoes is one of my picks of Curry Easy. It’s reminiscent of a recipe from one of Madhur’s original books for a vegetable preparation, from Hyderabad I think. This is a less oily version but is equally full-on in the flavour department, and it does double duty as both a hot dish and a salad. This could be a striking summer side dish for grilled meats or fish.
South Indian Potato Curry is comfort food at its finest, another cost-effective dish that is elevated with a flourish of coconut milk to finish. That adds a richness and a hint of exotica. The spicing is restrained and all that’s needed is some traditional bread to scoop up the sauce. Cooked in less than half an hour, so you’ll be eating before the regular take-out moped would have arrived. Most folks have a bag of spuds lurking in the store cupboard, so it’s the dish to cook when you don’t know what to cook and you “haven’t got anything in”.
Curry Easy is full of simple recipes but one does not have the impression that these have been dumbed down for the benefit of inept Europeans. I know of a couple of Indians who have enthused over this book so I feel no shame in admitting that I found it an absorbing read – a book that you will quickly put to good use. Congratulations again, Ms. Jaffrey.
Author: Madhur Jaffrey
Published by: Ebury Press
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018