Traditionalists and purists of Indian food may scoff and sniff at this, but three-star Michelin chef Gordon Ramsay has put his immense talents to learning and translating the basics of Indian cookery whilst, at the same time, putting his own style and making the dishes easy for the home cook to prepare and enjoy.
This book is a "spin off" to a British television series that saw Ramsay travel around India, learning from some of the country's top chefs and regular street-food cooks alike what real Indian food is. What people think of Indian food can often be a pale imitation of the real authentic dish or, as in many cases, the dishes one enjoys at home are not even known of in the country of their alleged birth.
There is no standard Indian fare as each region has a wide-range of specialities, delicacies and signature dishes. Where commonality can be found there will still be regional influences based on practical and historical reasons. Here Ramsay gets to learn about what makes many of these dishes tick, whether it be taste, visual appearance, nature of ingredients or even a cultural difference.
Many cookery books featuring Indian food often manage to confuse the less-experienced reader by over-complicating matters or becoming intimidating through their desire to be authentic. Ramsay, whilst trying to keep the food true to its roots, acknowledges and accepts some practical differences - not everybody will have access to all of the cooking implements and fresh ingredients that would be desirable yet with a slight compromise and the use of ingredients that are increasingly-available in larger supermarkets around the world you will still get a dish that could be fit for a King, a Maharajah or a good family get together. With a little bit of effort one can enjoy a taste of India from your own kitchen.
At times one might forget this is principally a recipe book due to the wonderful colourful photographs and light, free-flowing text. It is like having a quality informal travel guide with a lot of recipes and expert advice thrown in. Each recipe is well-presented with much background information, tips and tricks and, as one would expect, one does not need to be a professional chef to follow and understand the instructions.
It would have been nice if more of the knowledge gained from his research could have been added to the book to add further "background impact" but then the book might have been a series of volumes and not so kitchen-friendly. Similar a version of the book with copies of the television series on a DVD or Blu-Ray disk would have been great, but licensing and technical issues involved with the television world still get in the way. If you get the chance to see the series or to buy a DVD/Blu-Ray copy you should do so for additional benefit.
This reviewer, himself an avid eater of Indian foods, found quite a lot of interesting recipes to try in the future as well as a lot of information nuggets to file away. This is not a classic reference book nor a classic recipe book but a jolly good hybrid. A sort of informal learning experience. This book really should be considered if you have enjoyed Indian food and wish to learn a little more about it and, hopefully, have an interest to try making some for yourself.
The book's very reasonable price makes it a bargain - particularly when you know it will be heavily-discounted by many larger outlets due to the television series tie in, meaning that it is going to be affordable to even more people. For less than the price of couple of typical takeaway meals, you could get the knowledge to make your own in the future!