We in the UK have a very particular view on Indian food. For most of us it’s visits to restaurants that introduce us to those vibrant spices that give such a distinct flavour to Sub-continental dishes – those which have fiery heat and those which are aromatic and mellow.
The Indian Bible offers the reader a well-chosen selection of recipes, many of which will be familiar to those of us who haunt our local Indian restaurant. There are also many that will be new even to the most dedicated “curry” addict.
Most Indians are full- or part-time vegetarians and lots of people eat lentils every day. They are comforting in both flavour and texture, simple to make and can be served with either bread or rice. The Indian Bible suggests a mixed yellow dal. There are few spices needed but the combination of mustard seeds, cumin and garlic along with green chillies give heat and richness that is tempered by a bunch of fresh coriander used as an essential ingredient rather than a garnish.
Kerala is a coastal region in southern India. Their cuisine takes advantage of seafood and the ubiquitous coconut and curry leaves, which add a unique flavour. Kerala Prawn Curry is “Kerala on a plate” or at least that’s how the late Keith Floyd would probably have described it. This isn’t a searingly spicy dish so it’s an ideal introduction to Indian food for the timid.
A smooth and moreish dip
Baigan Bharta is a much celebrated smoky eggplant (aubergine) dish. The vegetables are slowly roasted. No chillies here – it’s a smooth and moreish dip that is a delight served with naan bread. This would make a delicious addition to a starter platter with onion bhajis, samosas and lamb seekh kebabs, also in this book.
Desserts in India are not as common as they are in the West but they are memorable. Kheer – Indian rice pudding – is traditional and full of nuts, dried fruits, saffron, and cardamom. The recipe includes just one pod but I would be tempted to add a few more.
Kulfi – Indian ice cream – is often found on restaurant menus although it’s mostly bought-in rather than made in-house. It’s easy to make at home even without an ice-cream maker. There are two versions here: coconut and pistachio. My favourite is coconut which contains condensed milk as a key ingredient. Don’t be tempted to substitute regular milk for the condensed milk: it’s what gives the distinctive taste and texture.
The Indian Bible is a small-format and practical book with more than 130 recipes. The spices will likely be ones you already have in your larder, and the few exotic extras can be bought either online or in your local Asian supermarket. It’s amazing value for money at only £5.99.
Cookbook review: The Indian Bible
Published by: Dorling Kindersley
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018