Indian Home Cooking: A Fresh Introduction to Indian Food, with More Than 150 Recipes Hardcover – Aug 31 2004
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From Publishers Weekly
There's much to like in this informative cookbook, which offers an accessible take (if, inevitably, not a comprehensive one) on one of the world's most vast and complex regional cuisines. It's a natural development for Saran, who teaches Indian cooking classes and opened the New York restaurant Amma last year. Such expertise is welcome in a book that cherry-picks freely from Moghul meat dishes, Gujerati dals, Hyderabadi greens and Punjabi tandoor dishes. That said, many of the curries are familiar, like Chicken Tikka Masala and Simple Lamb Curry with Coriander and Garam Masala. Surprisingly straightforward vegetable dishes include Smoked Spiced Eggplant, and Crisp Whole Okra with Fennel and Coriander. Rice dishes range from simple (Cumin-Scented Rice Pilaf) to elaborate (Sweet Saffron Pilaf with Nuts and Currants). Lassis, raitas, breads and some unexpectedly Western-sounding desserts (e.g., Blueberry-Lemon Pie and Gingersnap Pudding) complete the volume. Unfortunately, the book's minuscule print poses a nuisance for home cooks, who may be called upon to dash back and forth, adding spices to the pan every 30 seconds. Just taking the time to find one's place on the page can result in smoke and burnt seasonings. Still, Saran and Lyness fill a crucial niche in the cookbook market; their work should be avidly welcomed. 75 color photos.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
About the Author
SUVIR SARAN has received accolades from the New York Times and The New Yorker for his regional Indian cooking. His new restaurant, Devi, opens in September. He is a contributing editor to Food Arts magazine and teaches Indian cooking classes that have been featured in the New York Times. He lives in New York. Please visit www.suvir.com.
STEPHANIE LYNESS is a regional food critic for the New York Times who has collaborated on several cookbooks, including Second Helpings from Union Square Cafe. She lives in Connecticut.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
I'll comment on some of the specific dishes below but, first, I'll say that the recipes and techniques in this book are simple (for Indian food, anyway) but they produce dishes with very deep flavors. That said, even the meatier curries are lighter and fresher than what I have eaten in most Indian restaurants. In fact, for the most part, I now prefer to cook and eat my own Indian food. At the risk of sounding corny, these recipes have given me a lot of pleasure.
Two other quick points: Since I've been using this cookbook I've tried others, as well as some recipes that I've found online but hands down this book beats all. I find that other recipes produce dishes are either too heavy, aren't flavorful enough, take too much time or the recipes themselves just don't feel inviting to me. I use other cookbooks for other types of food, of course, but for Indian food I'd have to say this is the cookbook. Also, I've been to India a couple times, as well as other places with substantial Indian populations--Dubai, Singapore, Malaysia--so even though I've only been cooking Indian for a year I've known quite a range of Indian food over the years.
And now, the food:
The dals: There are several dal recipes in this book and I've cooked them all. They range from very simple with just a few ingredients to more complex, with multiple layers of flavoring. My favorites are the `simple lentil dal with fresh ginger, green chiles and cilantro', which smells especially fresh and bright when on the stove, and the `simple lentil dal with whole cinnamon, cardamom and cloves'. Both of these have pretty complex flavors but, as a dal should be, they're light.
The vegetables: I haven't made all the recipes in this section but have yet to hit a dud. I'm a real fan of these dishes because the ingredients are inexpensive and the dishes themselves are very healthy and, as an unabashed carnivore, they I'm pleased with their surprisingly huge flavors. A few favorites are `stir fried carrots with cumin and lime', `smoked spiced eggplant' and `Indian cheese in an herbed green sauce'. These dishes are all pretty easy to make, although some take a bit more time than others.
Chicken dishes: I've cooked all the chicken curries and while I have my favorites I'd say they are all outstanding. In my old job I used to bring these in for my lunch and people would literally freak out when they smelled them from across the office. You could say that some of the curries produce a bit too much sauce but I don't mind eating this with rice or bread, especially since it makes the dish go a bit further. There are also recipes for ground poultry dishes and Cornish game hens, but I haven't made these yet. I'd agree with another reviewer who noted that you'll probably need to double the cooking time for the chicken curries. This also applies to the meat curries, below.
Meat dishes: I've made almost all these and have yet to hit one that was anything less than delicious. One thing I've learned is that if I'm cooking meat it's better to pay a little extra for high quality cuts. It makes a big difference. My favorite recipe in this section is the `lamb stew with tomato and southern Indian spices'. I make this with beef or lamb and either way it is one of the deepest, most mysterious dishes I've ever smelled or eaten. I also cook the Vindaloo dish quite a bit, with either pork, lamb or beef.
Fish & shellfish: As is the case with the meats, using the best fish you can afford is worth the extra money. If I can't spend it, then I hold off on cooking fish until I can. Fortunately, these recipes are versatile--I've cooked the `halibut in a hot-and-sour sauce' with either halibut, other sorts of cheaper white fish, scallops or shrimp. All were delicious (except my experiment with haddock, which was just so-so) and pretty much left the diners speechless. The `salmon curry' was something so spectacular that I couldn't believe I'd made by myself, while the `Mangalore fried shrimp' took virtually no time at all. I find that these dishes are at their best if you leave the fish a bit on the rare side. If that sounds a bit strange, just try it once and decide for yourself.
Raita, pickles & chutneys, drinks: I've made a couple of each and have been happy with them all. I've been particularly happy with the raitas (especially the pineapple raita) since they're easy, taste great and for some reason guests are amazed to find them on the table.
Rice dishes: The cookbook notes that it's impossible to overestimate the importance of rice to Indian culture and spiritual traditions. Well, then it's no surprise that the rice dishes in this book are suitably rich and creative. For me, plain basmati rice is profound enough, but dishes such as ` lemon rice' or `coconut-mint rice' put me on the verge of hallucinating.
Appetizers, snacks, flatbreads, sweets: I haven't made any of these. A couple friends have and, like pretty much everything in this book, the reports are all very positive.
A couple final suggestions: Not everyone wants to blow a lot of cash on a pot but especially for the curries, which simmer for a long time, a high-quality pot makes a world of difference. I use enamel-coated cast iron and it radiates the heat in such as way that the sauce becomes very hearty and I think this also helps open up the magic of the spices. On the other hand, when visiting a friend I cooked in a lighter pot and the curries wouldn't thicken properly. Also, don't be put off if you realize you have to buy some new spices to cook these dishes. Really, you don't need many, they aren't expensive, they're very good for your health and they'll open an entire new universe of flavor. If you can't find everything in your grocery store, go online. Finally, once you get comfortable with the recipes, you'll find that you get faster at putting together the spice mixes. Relax, set aside some time and you will be very happy with the food you'll be able to create.
The premise for this book is Indian home cooking, and it definitely succeeds. Some of the recipes have a long list of ingredients, but even in those cases, half the list is spices (4 cardamom pods, 4 cloves, etc.). It's definitely not fussy, and the author is cognizant that not everyone can get unusual ingredients. Most recipes identify which items are optional (such as curry leaves and nigella seeds), and, as long as your grocery and health food store covers such essentials as unsweetened grated coconut, you'll be able to make everything listed. Suvir Saran is also kind enough to give "serve this with... "menu suggestions, as most of us aren't sure enough of Indian accompaniments.
So far, I've made three of his recipes: a simple chicken curry that was undemanding enough to make for a Tuesday afternoon lunch (well received), and a meal of Cauliflower Hyderabad Style (with coconut, mint, and cardamom) with Simple Gujarati Dal with Three Chiles. It was great, although my cauliflower came out much wetter than I'd had in the restaurant.
There is a high proportion of vegetarian recipes in this book, though you'll also find plenty of meat, poultry, and fish. The meat recipes seem to be more in the "usual suspects" range, such as chicken tikka masala; it's the veggie stuff that makes me say Yum when I look at the photos. (Crisp whole okra with fennel and coriander, smoked spiced eggplant, stir-fried green beans with cumin).
The instructions aren't quite perfect, however. The cauliflower recipe called for one head, about 3 pounds; but the ordinary size cauliflower in my market were only about 1.5 pounds. I could and did make adjustments, which wasn't a problem -- though it might have been, if I were new to this cuisine. Also, some recipes require you to add an item, stir constantly for 30 seconds before you add the next... then 30 seconds later add another. That might be overwhelming to a new cook, at least one who doesn't have a recipe-reader standing nearby. (For new Indian cooks, I'd recommend Julie Sahni's book, which spends a lot more time explaining cooking techniques.)
Overall, however, this is a great cookbook. Recommended.
Fortunately, I think Saran's Indian Home Cooking might have slowed down my buying binge of Indian cookbooks (my mate will leap for joy!)
I really like this cookbook. Why? The recipes are great. Even more, I like the extra comments the author offers on the recipe and why he included it. Best of all, the recipes have the feeling of being both tasty and authentic while also being accessible to an everyday American home kitchen.
I've looked through the whole book and every recipe looks so interesting I want to try it. The instructions are so clear that the intimidation factor of cooking an unknown cuisine is removed. Also, when the author uses a hard to find ingredient, he always suggests an available subsitute.
Finally, I like the presentation and layout of the book. It's quite attractive. The pages are glossy, the photos top rate. For me, there really is nothing I do not like about this book. And that's the first Indian cookbook I've been able to say that about.
That all changed when I came across Suvir's book! Not only can I make consistently tasty and easy to prepare foods, he has also been the teacher that I never had. I actually enjoy just reading this book for fun.
This book makes a great present as well for those who like Indian food but are too afraid to try making it at home. My girlfriend had that problem. She is a gourmet cook but she never tried to make Indian food. I got her a book and gave her a list of spices to get at our local Indian store (the book also has a list). Now she is fully stocked and ready to make most of the dishes in the book without having to search for a particular spice at the grocery store at the most inconvenient time, which is just before you decide to make one of the dishes.
Please go on and introduce yourselves and others to the joy of simple and mostly healthy Indian cooking. Suvir is a great teacher. Learn the basics from him in this book and then experiment! Good luck.