The Food and Cooking of India by Mridula Baljekar – review

It’s quite honestly a stunner. The Food and Cooking of India by Mridula Baljekar is an engaging almanac of Indian cooking with elements of travelogue. Even those who have yet to discover the inside of a kitchen will be tempted to invest in a spice box, or at least a plane ticket to the subcontinent.

asian cookbook review The Food and Cooking of India I am surprised that Mridula Baljekar is not still gracing our TV screens. She had a successful series which won her fame, for her food as well as her calm and charming delivery. Her manner suggested to the anxious viewer that, yes, they too could cook authentic Indian food without exotic kitchen equipment and a degree in Asian culinary arts. All would be well. It’s only dinner, after all.

In real life Mridula is exactly that same person. She insists that she is a cook rather than a chef, although she is a sought-after restaurant consultant both in the UK and overseas. She has a sense of what the European domestic god/goddess needs to give them confidence and a real insight into Indian food.

The Food and Cooking of India is published by Lorenz Books, an imprint of Anness Publishing. They present some of the very best cookbooks for those who actually want to, well, cook. All recipe books are not created equal. There are those which have a few pictures of restaurant kitchens with ghostly, blurred shots of fast-moving chefs in the background and some lovely snaps of their favourite beetroot grower, and if you are lucky an ‘ooh, aah’ image of a baby piggy called Hamlet who is soon to have his name changed to ‘Lunch’; but Lorenz give us books stuffed with pictures not only of finished dishes but a slew of step-by-step photographs to keep the novice cook on track.

This volume offers a collection of 150 recipes from across India with more than 850 pertinent photographs. It’s a beautiful yet practical book that will serve you just as well in the kitchen as it does on the coffee table. It’s a book that entices with its vibrant food and descriptive text. The recipes are simple to follow and we all have access to the ingredients these days. There is a glossary of fresh groceries, along with a directory of authentic Indian kitchen paraphernalia, none of which is essential, and an overview of Indian spices, all of which are essential – only half a dozen or so, but armed with these you will be able to attempt and indeed master every recipe.

Mridula Baljekar has penned 20 or so books and has won numerous awards so it’s obvious that the lady can write a bit. Thousands of recipes have earned her a reputation as an author but the food she makes has earned her a reputation as a lady who truly can cook. She demonstrates across the globe, and her books are paper versions of her masterclasses. Here she offers classics and family favourites that you will likely not find in your local Indian restaurant. There are dishes for economic family meals as well as celebrations and each one will take the reader one step nearer to becoming a confident and well-informed home chef.

The first pick of the book is the recipe for Chicken Biryani. This is a dish that’s oft abused but I can tell you from firsthand experience that Mridula presents a very fine Biryani that is surprisingly easy to prepare and is fragrant and memorable. It works as a regular week-day dinner or as an impressive centrepiece for friends on a Saturday night.

As yet there is no tax on eggs so they can still constitute a delicious and good-value family meal. Egg Do-piaza is well-flavoured, with onions in the sauce and as a crunchy garnish, but it’s the battered and deep-fried egg halves that are the stars. Mridula even offers a tip on keeping the egg yolks in the centre of the boiled eggs!

Spicy Stuffed Bananas – kela na sambhariya – is easy to prepare and it’s probable that you will have some bananas lingering in the fruit bowl. The filling is a mix of gram flour (chickpea flour) and some spices. The flour is toasted so it takes on a rich nutty flavour. A unique vegetarian dish that’s striking to look at and different from a traditional vegetable curry.

The Food and Cooking of India offers something for every taste and every pocket. There are creamy and rich royal dishes as well as simple breads. There is a good selection of desserts as well as recipes to delight vegetarians and fish lovers. It’s a gift-quality book and for less than £15 – a bargain.

The Food and Cooking of India
Author: Mridula Baljekar
Published by: Lorenz Books
Price: £14.99
ISBN-13: 978-0-7548-2377-3
ISBN-10: 0-7548-2377-6


Read reviews of other books by Mridula Baljekar here


Read reviews of more Indian cookbooks here


Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018