Indian cookbooks

Time Out reviews the best new recipe books to spice up your suppers

Curry Easy

Madhur Jaffrey, Ebury Press, £20

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Indian cooking tends to be complex and slow, requiring many ingredients and sometimes unfamiliar methods to get the correct results. Attempts in the UK to simplify or even ‘Westernise’ Indian food have spawned a generation of wannabe TV stars and attendant books, often of of highly variable reliability.

Contast this with the recipes of Madhur Jaffrey. Her ‘Taste of India’ book (1986) is one that graces kitchen shelves from Sydney to Sydenham, and – more significantly – is used as a standard text in many metropolitan Indian kitchens in India.

I can think of no other Indian cookery writer who commands such respect for her recipes among both Indians and non-Indians; she is the Delia of the dal and the dhansak.

‘Curry Easy’ might therefore sound like a dumbing down of classic Jaffrey for the 20-minute-cook market. Not so. This is classic Jaffrey, only better.

As she clarifies in the introduction, it has taken her decades to realise that some classic recipes can in fact be simplified, or ingredients substituted, with little discernable difference to the result.

I followed several recipes, and only one was a dud (more on that later). ‘My everyday moong dal’ was a stunner, and so easy to make – once you buy the right dal, from an Asian store – you wonder why you bothered with any other version.

The squid curry tasted correctly South Indian. Her method for cooking basmati rice, while hardly a revelation, produces perfect grains every time.

My one disaster was the dish ‘Kashmiri-style spring greens’. I used fresh saag – mustard greens – as they might in north India, because I chanced on it in a shop in Tooting.

Having the toughness of kale, these greens were still inedible after an hour of cooking. So when Jaffrey says ‘spring greens’ she means the softer British or North American version.

The variety of dishes goes beyond the title of the book, ‘curry’, to many regional dishes from north and south, with only the slightest of geographical or historical context for the dishes – but you’ll find this in her other books.

This is, indeed, ‘Curry Easy’ and is a handsome book, clearly laid out and easy to follow with enticing and not overstyled photography. Classic Jaffrey, and a steal at the price.

Guy Dimond, Time Out London Issue 2096: October 21 - 27 2010

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