Even the title holds out great hope for the oft-confused home cook – My Indian Kitchen. We are looking for books written with us in mind. A book that takes note of the fact that we are unlikely, in the West, to have “staff”, a tandoor and a man that pops by on a Wednesday just to grind some spices.
Hari Nayak might not be a familiar name to us in the UK but he is deservedly celebrated in the US. He has his own food consultancy business and is a restaurateur and promoter of Indian food in America, and he is obviously a talented cookbook author. Although he was born and brought up in India he is a graduate of the CIA. No, dear European reader, Hari isn’t a spy for the US government. CIA in this case is the prestigious Culinary Institute of America. He is a man who definitely has a cheffy finger on the pulses of both East and West. A unique perspective.
This is a stunning large-format cookbook that you would want to own even if you didn’t have a notion where your own kitchen might be. (It’s that room with a couple of taps and the microwave.) It entices the reader with images of spices and finished dishes, and it will truly tempt you away from your culinary lethargy (or fear) and into your own kitchen to replicate some memorable dishes that offer authentic tastes of the Subcontinent.
Hari does not assume that the reader in an expert Indian cook or indeed a cook of any ethnic persuasion. The recipes are well-written and give an overview of classic Indian dishes. Classic, yes, but that does not translate to difficult or long-winded. You will be able to make everything here with ease and with the use of spices that you will likely find in your local supermarket.
One of the simplest recipes is for Street-style Grilled Corn on the Cob. It’s summer so the grill is a prominent item of garden furniture. Do something amazing with humble ears of corn, and perhaps consider a whole al fresco Indian meal by adding Masala Lamb Chops and a green salad. I would suggest preparing more lamb than you would normally, as the aroma of grilling meat is mouth-watering. A memorable side dish would be Hari’s Smoky Fire-roasted Aubergine (eggplant). This is flavourful and comforting and can also be used as a dip with Indian breads as a starter.
Hari has introduced some elements of innovation. Food should, after all, evolve so Hari gives a nod to his cultural heritage with chai, but goes on to use that favourite beverage in a decadent Crème Brulée. India does have a good array of traditional desserts but Chai Crème Brulée is a twist on the French original, some might say an improvement. Don’t just save this for the end of an Indian meal. It will get compliments at any dinner party.
My pick of My Indian Kitchen is probably the recipe for Marinated Roast Leg of Lamb. It’s not something you’ll rustle up in a hurry for unexpected guests but it is worth the time invested. Having said that the time invested is mostly marinating time and you don’t have to keep the lamb company while it’s absorbing those spices. It’s a straightforward dish to make and one that you will make often. The perfume of this cooking meat will fill your home and tease your guests with the promise of a delicious Indian meal before they even reach the table. The leftovers make flavourful sandwiches, or they would if there were any, but that is unlikely.
The lavish photography in My Indian Kitchen makes every dish look enticing and even those who are familiar with Indian recipes will find lots of new delights; but this book will be particularly inspiring for those who might have only eaten Indian food in restaurants. My Indian Kitchen offers authentic and accessible dishes that can be prepared without tears (get someone else to peel the onions). A gift-quality book with which you will not want to part.
My Indian Kitchen
Author: Hari Nayak
Published by: Tuttle Publishing
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018