Book Review: Made in India Cooked In Britain

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An Indian kitchen can be anywhere in the world. Mine just happens to be in London.

I had decided that I wasn’t going to buy any more recipe books that included meat recipes. I was sick of having to skip over so many pages that I couldn’t use. I was going to stick to buying only vegetarian recipe books. And then I was listening to the Woman’s Hour Cook the Perfect podcast on the way to work one morning. I listened to Meera Sodha cook her Daily Dal recipe and talk about cooking Indian family food in Britain.

Meera’s family (originally from Gujarat in India) had been expelled from Uganda in 1972 and had ended up Lincolnshire. Meera’s mother had continued to cook Gujarati food but with British ingredients. This cookbook is based around those recipes.

It’s a lovely warm hug of a book. It’s full of fresh flavours and recipes that encourage rather than intimidate. There are some specialist ingredients, but most of these recipes only need a trip to the average supermarket, not an hour spent online tracking down obscure spices.

The book is divided into:
Starters and snacks
Vegetables
Meat
Fish
Eggs
Pulses and grains
Sides
Breads
Chutneys and pickles
Puddings
Drinks
Housekeeping: Make your own and Leftovers

There’s a Menu Ideas section with menus for 2, 4, 6 and 8 vegetarians. There’s an Alternative Contents section with ideas for 1st Timer Recipes, Midweek Meals, Get the Kids Involved, Gluten Free and other options.

The recipes are clear, one to a page with plenty of full page colour photographs. While there are meat recipes there, they are restricted to two chapters and make up less than a quarter of the book. The tone of the book is chatty and cheerful, mixed in with a few family stories, like a good conversation between foodie friends.

I have tried the Daily Dal and it is excellent. There is also a recipe for 100 Garlic-Clove Curry. I might have to give that one a try sometime soon!

Title: Made in India Cooked in Britain: Recipes from an Indian Family Kitchen
Author: Meera Sodha
Publisher: Penguin Fig Tree
Year: 2014
Pages: 319
Recipes: 133 (including 47 vegetarian and 49 vegan)
Price: £20 hardback
ISBN: 9780241146330

Runner Beans with Mustard Seeds and Ginger

Beans with ginger and mustard seed photo DSCN1690_zpsf24d0372.jpg

The recipe in the book calls for French beans, but with runner beans being in season I decided to use them.

This is a lovely, gently spiced dish. It’s not hot, but warming from the ginger. It can be served as a side dish safe in the knowledge that it won’t overpower whatever it’s served with.

Ingredients
1/4 tsp mustard seeds
2 tsp sesame seeds
250g runner beans, topped, tailed and sliced into cm lengths
2 cm ginger, peeled and grated
2 tsp tomato puree
1/4 tsp turmeric

Add a little oil to a large frying pan on a medium heat.
Add the mustard seeds and sesame seeds.
When they start to pop add the beans and stir fry for a couple of minutes.
Add the ginger and stir for another two minutes.
Add the tomato puree, turmeric and a splash of water.
Cover with a lid, turn the heat down and simmer for a couple of minutes.
When the beans are tender, season with salt and pepper and serve.

Serves 2 as a side dish

Recipe: Spicy Sprouts

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I had a first last week. I sent a dish back at a restaurant. The first time in my life that I’ve ever had to do that. I’m not going to name the restaurant because they didn’t quibble and took the dish off the bill so I have no complaints about the service. The dish was a mexican take on brussels sprouts. The problem was that sprouts aren’t a traditional mexican dish and in any case the chef cooking them didn’t know how to cook sprouts. For anyone reading this, rolling whole sprouts around in a hot pan for a few minutes will not cook them. They were warm, but like bullets.

This irritated me, because it could have been a nice dish. I determined to try my own version with heat and citrus notes but where the sprouts were actually cooked. I’m pretty pleased with it. And, considering that sprouts aren’t as strong-flavoured as they used to be, you could also make this with shredded spring greens to get that slightly bitter tang.

This is a side-dish, but if you wanted to make it more substantial, a bit of feta wouldn’t go amiss. You could also swap out the pine nuts for chopped hazelnuts as well.

spicy sprouts photo DSCN1736_zps4c0788d4.jpg

Ingredients
250g brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
1/2 green chilli, chopped
1 small clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
Juice 1/2 lemon

Blanch the sprouts in boiling water for 3-5 minutes.
Drain and set to one side.
Heat some oil in a medium hot frying pan.
Add the chilli and garlic and fry for a minute.
Add the sprouts to the pan and cook until the sprouts take on some colour and are tender.
Season with salt and pepper.
Serve with the pine nuts and lemon juice sprinkled over.

Serves 2 as a side dish

Recipe: Carrot and Star Anise Soup

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I have a recipe for Vichy carrots, where the carrots are cooked in water, butter and sugar, that calls for the addition of star anise. It’s a pleasing flavour combination, but I though to use it in a soup rather than as a side dish. As I’m not creating a glaze, the butter and the sugar can go, but I’ve added potatoes to give the soup more body.

I’ve used chilli oil to add a kick to this fragrant, warming soup, but a drizzle of cream would do nicely. A sprinkled of chopped parsley would be a good colour contrast too.

Carrot & star anise soup photo IMG_0093_zps23be49c7.jpg

Ingredients
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 small onion, chopped
300g carrots, chopped
300g potatoes, chopped
2 star anise
750ml vegetable stock
chilli oil for garnish

Soften the garlic and onion in a little oil in a saucepan until they go translucent.
Add the carrots, potatoes, star anise and vegetable stock.
Bring to the simmer, cover and simmer for 30 minutes.
Remove the star anise and blend until smooth.
Season with salt and pepper.
Serve with a drizzle of chilli oil.

Serves 2

Book Review: Prashad Indian Vegetarian Cooking by Kaushy Patel

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Prashad is a vegetarian Indian restaurant in Bradford that got to the finals of the 2010 TV show (Gordon) Ramsay’s Best Restaurant. This is their recipe book, including some dishes from the restaurant and some from their home.

The recipes are divided into: Starters; Street Snacks and Nasto; Main Dishes; Rice and Breads; Soups, Pickles, Side Dishes, Chutneys and Dips; Drinks, Desserts and Sweets.
There are also sections to explain the spices and ingredients that may be unfamiliar to the average reader.

The book is well laid out, with clear instructions and many full page, colour pictures of the finished dishes. The recipes are about evenly split between the sections, which means the rice and breads section is a bit overbalanced for me. I can’t see me making many of breads, so I would have preferred more recipes in the soups side. There are only three soups listed, which is a bit disappointing, but I suppose soups don’t sell that well in restaurants.

And this is my main comment about the book. It is clearly written by someone who runs a restaurant. I always find there is a different feel to recipe books written by chefs to those written by cooks. The chef books always seem to have more complicated recipes with more ingredients, more steps and more utensils needed (someone else does the washing up!) This book definitely falls into that category. There’s also an unwillingness to compromise over ingredients. There are many specialist ingredients in this book some of which you will be able to find in the world food shelves of a big supermarket and some you’re going to have to track down an Indian grocer for. Having said that, the book does explain what you need, what it looks like and how to prepare it.

Grumbles aside, there are some great recipes in this book. There are dhals and vegetable curries a plenty, with rice dishes and pickles to serve with them. The recipe I made below, corn on the cob curry, is delicious hot and spicy with the sweetness of the corn coming through. I will certainly be making it again.

Title: Prashad Indian Vegetarian Cooking
Author: Kaushy Patel
Publisher: Saltyard Bookes
Year: 2012
Pages: 263
Recipes: 110 all vegetarian (including 66 vegan)
Price: £25 hardback
ISBN: 9781444734713

Corn on the Cob Curry

Corn on the cob curry photo DSCN1698_zps200fd885.jpg

Ingredients
4 corn on the cobs, cut into four pieces each
2 medium onions, 1 blended to a fine paste, the other chopped
1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
2 tsp salt
1 tsp medium red chilli powder
1 1/2 tsp turmeric
2-4 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
2 handfuls of fresh coriander, chopped
1 tsp garam masala

For the masala
2-4 green chillies, seeds left in
8cm root ginger, peeled and finely chopped
Pinch of salt

Make the masala paste by blending the chillies, ginger and salt in a blender.
Heat some oil in a large pan and add the onion paste.
Cover and leave to fry gently for 3 minutes until the paste is starting to brown.
Stir in the chopped onion.
Cover the pan and fry for two minutes and then stir.
Repeat until the onions have turned a rich dark brown.
Add the masala paste, tomatoes, salt, chilli powder, turmeric, ground coriander, ground cumin and half the fresh coriander.
Stir thoroughly and then cover and leave to simmer for 2 minutes.
Add 175ml of boiling water and the corn on the cob pieces.
Make sure the corn pieces are covered in the sauce, cover and let simmer for 20 minutes.
When the corn is tender, remove from the heat.
Stir in the garam masala and the rest of the fresh coriander.
Cover and let sit for 20 minutes to let the flavours develop (and for the corn to cool down to be held by fingers!)
Serve with flat bread to hold the corn and mop up the juices.

Serves 4

Recipe: Spaghetti Squash with Spinach and Tomato

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Another spaghetti squash recipe. I liked it so much that I needed to try another one. This time I’ve gone for a bit of heat and a big hit of garlic. This is great as a filling and substantial sauce for pasta.

Spaghetti squash with tomato and spinach photo DSCN1724_zpsaf77f780.jpg

Ingredients
1 spaghetti squash
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1 chilli, sliced
1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 pack of fresh spinach

Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
Cut the squash in half lengthways and scoop out the seeds.
Drizzle a little oil on the squash halves.
Put the squash on another baking sheet and place in the oven.
Bake for 30 minutes.
Take the squash out and fork the flesh until it forms long strands.
Heat a little oil in a saucepan and stir in the garlic and chilli.
Fry gently until the garlic just starts to take on colour.
Add the tomatoes and bring to the simmer.
Stir in the cooked squash and the spinach.
Simmer until the spinach has thoroughly wilted.
Season with salt and pepper.
Serve with pasta.

Serves 4

Recipe: Spiced Spaghetti Squash with Roast Seeds

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I have a bit of an ambivalent attitude to pumpkins and squashes. They don’t have a huge amount of flavour and they tend to take quite a bit of work to actually get something edible out of them. It never seems to be a great reward to effort ratio for me. And pumpkin seems to be the go-to ingredient for restaurants wanting to provide a vegetarian option in all seasons. That prejudices me against pumpkin, but I had never tried spaghetti squash. Now, the flavour of spaghetti squash is the usual sweet, blandness, but the texture is much lighter. When roasted the flesh can be separated into strands and that makes it much more versatile and interesting to eat.

I have two recipes for this. The first one uses the squash and seeds only to bring out the best in both textures.

Spiced spaghetti squash with pumpkin seeds photo DSCN1719_zps0c608e9c.jpg

Ingredients
1 spaghetti squash
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp allspice
1 lemon, juiced

Pre-heat the oven to 200C.
Cut the squash in half lengthways and scoop the seeds into a bowl.
Separate the seeds from the pulp. I find this easiest by filling the bowl with water and rubbing the seeds and pulp. The seeds float free (mostly).
Fish out the seeds and dry them on kitchen paper.
Spread the seeds on a baking sheet, sprinkle with a little oil and the smoked paprika. Season with salt.
Rub the seeds in the oil and spice mixture until they are evenly coated. Try and spread them in one even layer across the baking sheet.
Drizzle a little oil on the squash halves.
Sprinkle with the all spice and rub over to evenly coat the flesh.
Put the squash on another baking sheet.
Place the squash and the seeds in the oven.
Take the seeds out after 20 minutes.
Leave the squash in the oven for another 10 minutes.
Take the squash out and fork the flesh until it forms long strands.
Squeeze the lemon juice over each piece of squash, season with salt and pepper and mix thoroughly.
Serve in the squash skins with the toasted seeds sprinkled over.

Serves 2 as a light lunch

Book Review: Curry Easy Vegetarian by Madhur Jaffrey

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For a long time in the UK, if you wanted a book to show you how to cook Indian food, Madhur Jaffrey was the only choice. So it’s just as well that she knows what she’s talking about and can communicate successfully to a wide range of people.

This year I have bought three Indian cookery books, all of a high quality. Curry Easy Vegetarian is the third one of the three and I’m reviewing it first, because it is the best.

As a home cook, I tend to like books written by cooks rather than chefs. It may be the tone is friendlier, it may be the knowledge of what is achievable in a home kitchen, it may be because it’s written by someone who has to do their own washing up. I don’t what it is, but give me a book written by someone who doesn’t have a test kitchen. There are some unfamiliar recipes and techniques here, but Madhur Jaffrey has the tone of someone who is encouraging you to have a go, rather than someone setting a test.

The recipes are divided into eight chapters:
Soups, Appetizers and Snacks
Vegetables
Dals: Dried Beans and Legumes
Grains: Rice, Semolina and Quinoa
Grains: Breads, Pancakes, Savouries and Noodles
Eggs and Dairy
Chutneys, Relishes and Salads
Drinks, Sweets and Desserts

The recipes are well laid out, attractively photographed and carefully explained. When I was first going through it, I found so many recipes I wanted to try that I ran out of bookmarks. The vegetable section has one recipe more enticing than another. There are poriyals – stir-fries with indian flavours that I can’t wait to try and dals that make me glad cold weather is coming so I can curl up on a wet day with them. And there are unexpected flavours too – rice with dill and peas, fresh peach salad, cucumber salad.

In terms of ingredients most of them should be familiar and available in most supermarkets (for which Madhur Jaffrey should take a good deal of the credit). She explains the more unfamiliar ones. My only warning is that several of the recipes require fresh curry leaves which may not be that easy to get hold of.

I really like this book and I’ve been recommending it to friends. It has a recipe for turnip – what’s not to like?

Title: Curry Easy Vegetarian
Author: Madhur Jaffrey
Publisher: Ebury Press
Year: 2014
Pages: 352
Recipes: 194 all vegetarian (including 132 vegan)
Price: £26 (hardback)
ISBN 9780091949471

In the introduction Madhur talks about how a lot of the recipes are from homes throughout India and won’t have appeared on restaurant menus. One of those she mentions is Kodava Mushroom Curry. I decided to give it a try. I stuck to the recipe, apart from using low-fat coconut milk, so I omitted the stage of letting it settle as it would have had no effect. I don’t know if that made a huge difference, this was hot, creamy and delicious anyway.

Kodava Mushroom Curry with Coconut

kodava mushroom curry photo DSCN1728_zps0b5995b4.jpg

Ingredients
1 400ml tin coconut milk left undisturbed for 24 hours to allow the cream to rise to the top
450g button mushrooms, halved
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp turmeric
4tbsp vegetable oil
6 tbsp shallots, finely chopped
2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp chilli powder
2-3 fresh chillies, chopped
1 tbsp lime juice

Open the tin of coconut milk and spoon the thick cream at the top into a bowl. Leave the thinner milk in the tin.
Put the mushrooms in another bowl, sprinkle over the salt and turmeric and stir until all the mushrooms are coated.
Set aside for 10 minutes.
Put the oil in a medium hot frying pan or wok.
Add the shallots and fry until they are just starting to turn brown.
Remove from the heat and stir in the coriander and chilli powder.
Return to the heat and add the chillies, and then the mushrooms and their accumulated liquid.
Stir and cook for about 2 minutes.
Add the thin coconut milk and simmer, uncovered for about 10 minutes.
Add the coconut cream and simmer on a very low heat for a minute.
Add the lime juice and serve

Serves 4