Indian is perhaps my favourite cuisine. To be honest though, saying that one is going out for an ‘Indian’ tonight is as ridiculous as saying one is going out for a ‘European’ tonight. Think about the size of that country and you will realise that there must be many cuisines with their own characteristics and flavour palates. Add to that the slant that transplanted Indians give to the culinary tapestry and you have a never-ending supply of dishes, old and new. Spices and Seasons offers flavours of India.
Rinku Bhattacharya is an Indian who now resides in the US. She is one of a small group of Indian writers living in the States who are well placed to introduce these new dishes to that market. The States don’t have a history of sub-continental restaurants, so there has been a gap in the food map. Rinku writes with the US domestic cook in mind so every spice, vegetable and condiment will be readily available in America and Europe.
Spices and Seasons – simple, sustainable Indian flavours is a beautifully presented volume with a picture accompanying every recipe. Ok, so that’s not an essential for a good cookbook but it does give a bit of support to the novice and some inspiration to the confident. But the most important element of the book is that the recipes are uncomplicated and practical.
There are lots of classic Indian dishes here but Rinku interprets even these with flair and personal nuance. Baigan Bharta is a restaurant staple (well, in the better restaurants, anyway) of smoky roasted aubergine (eggplant). This version has the addition of roasted tomatoes.
Many of the recipes take advantage of veggies that one might grow in the garden. Failing that, those same vegetables will be at a good price in the supermarket during their appropriate season. Rinku’s husband is the gardener and evidently keeps her kitchen supplied with fresh produce to inspire.
I have favourites from this delightful book, although I think that there are so many temptations that the volume will spend more time in the kitchen than on the book shelf. Roasted Spice-Rubbed Cauliflower Wedges is a must-try and makes a delicious side dish, but the florets could also be served as a nibble with drinks.
Egg curry might sound a strange concept to those who have a solidly meat-based diet. It’s actually a popular dish with many Indians who are not strictly vegetarian. Rinku offers a couple of alternatives – Creamy Coconut Egg Curry and Egg Curry with Shallots, Potatoes and Peas. Eggs are still a relatively economic buy, so the grocery budget won’t take a beating.
Spices and Seasons – simple, sustainable Indian flavours is bound to be popular with US readers, and it’s already popular with this UK-based one. It is a great introduction to Indian food but it also offers new departures for those who already have an extensive collection of Indian cookbooks.
Spices and Seasons – simple, sustainable Indian flavours
Author: Rinku Bhattacharya
Published by: Hippocrene Books Inc.
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018