The Indian Kitchen by Monisha Bharadwaj is, for me at least, a must-have Indian cookbook. To call it just a “cookbook” somehow diminishes its value. It’s a lush, rich encyclopaedia of ingredients common to kitchens on the subcontinent.
I am a fairly well practised preparer of Indian food but there were even a few surprises for me. I began by just flicking through the pages and have finished by reading it from cover to cover in almost one sitting. It’s a book that is difficult to put down once opened.
The introduction is poetic: “…the kitchen can be the most fascinating room in an Indian home. Here, iridescent spices sparkle alongside huge boxes of Himalayan snow-washed rice, earthy lentils accentuate plump, dry fruits and rich, musky nuts sit next to jars of pearly sago and subja seeds.” You will love this book even if you had never tasted curry and didn’t intend to!
Each ingredient is listed by type. We start with From the Spice Box and continue to From the Grinding Stone and there are several other chapters all with equally evocative names.
The individual spices, seeds, nuts, grains etc. each have a general description and have paragraphs called Appearance and Taste, Buying and Storing, Culinary Uses, and then the recipes. Some items even have Medical Uses which will be of particular interest to anyone who prefers the natural approach to health care.
The photography is wonderful and the recipes are clear. It’s written in such a way as to hold your hand and give a bit of confidence, not only to the inexperienced cook but also to those of us with a few Biryanis under our belts who are trying something different.
Take an ordinary ingredient like an onion. Well, it’s several different types of fresh onions and powdered and flaked onions. There is a paragraph on how it grows, lots of lovely photographs and a couple of recipes. Onion Bhaji is a popular starter in Indian restaurants but they are easy to make at home and this recipe is particularly interesting as it has a different seasoning from my usual recipe. I am sure Monisha’s is an authentic version and my mouth is already watering at the prospect.
Indian bean dishes are comforting and delicious but seldom seen at the local “Calcutta Curry House”. Lobhia Ki Subzi (Spicy Black-eyed Beans) is gorgeous and I would have mine with some Indian bread. It’s simple to make and only has 3 tablespoons of oil for a dish for four people.
I can’t praise this book highly enough. I could say more but the best idea would be to go and buy a copy. Don’t even think of asking if you can borrow mine!
The Indian Kitchen
Author: Monisha Bharadwaj
Published by: Kyle Cathie
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018