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I have been a veggie for over twelve years now, and a lover of Indian food for longer. However, I never previously cooked Indian dishes from scratch before, assuming it time-consuming and to involve ingredients that I don't often use. When I received this book, I decided now was the time to start cooking Indian dishes at home.
Many will be familiar with Anjum's cooking from her TV series 'Indian Food Made Easy'. She has worked in top restaurants and hotels around the world but now lives in London with her husband and children, and had published five previous cookery books.
The first chapter in the book is Breakfast and Brunch, and to be honest I have neglected this section, as I am not a morning person and don't tend to cook anything in the morning other than the odd egg or some porridge. For those with more energy at this time of day, you can try Keralan-inspired banana pancakes or Indian potato hash with masala omelette. In Starters and Snacks you will find dishes like Steamed Nepalese momos or Scotch Quail's Eggs. The Salads and Grills chapter includes dishes like Mushroom and Vegetable Kathi Rolls and Delhi-style Grilled Sweetcorn. The main meals sections are split up into subsection such as Glorious Vegetables (try Keralan Coconut curry or Creamy Pistachio Curry), Cheese, Pulses and Eggs (delights such as Bengal Tiger lentil curry and Spiced Cottage Pie are on offer here) and Gorgeous Grains (where you will find Wild Mushroom Biryani along with rice and roti dishes). On The Side unsurprisingly offers side dishes like Bombay Potatoes and Coconut Stuffed Okra. The dessert section offers up dishes like Pomegranate soufflé and Egg-free Pistachio Cakes with Orange Syrup and Dates.
I have made two dishes so far: Paneer and Pea Curry and then a Mushroom Rogan. With the former there was no picture for me to compare to (or inspire me), and with the second, my finished dish did not resemble (or look as appetising as) the photo. The photographs are gorgeous however, and I knew producing something like one of those would be a challenge. I like how the ingredients list is in usage order, so I know when I am getting the ingredients out, when I am likely to need them. Generally I find the instructions a bit vague and there are not a lot of them - often just three paragraphs. I can ace a vague Italian style recipe as I am used to cooking that type of food, but if you are not experienced making a certain type of cuisine, a little more hand-holding is always good. The text is small, and it can be hard to find where you are up to when you are busy chopping and flinging stuff in a pan. For me, shorter paragraphs dealing with each activity individually would be easier to follow than one longer paragraph with four different things to do. Some recipes also have serving suggestions which is a nice touch, including additional recipes such as your own mint chutney like you get in an Indian restaurant.
When I made the Rogan, I decided to make 4 portions, as per the recipe, and freeze the rest. However despite following the quantities as closely as possible, (except adding less water), my sauce still wasn't as thick as in the photo and description, and was quite watery. With the Paneer and Pea curry it said that it served 4-6. I only wanted to make two portions, so do I halve the quantities, or divide by three? In the end I halved it, but it would not have stretched to three portions. Portion sizes tended to be quite modest. In the instructions, for the sauce it goes through the process and tells you how it should look and taste at the end but gives none or few timings (it varies between recipes) within the recipe. I think this is my main problem with this book, is that there is no indication, even approximate, of how long a dish should take in total, and with vague timings within the recipe it can be hard to plan your meal. I originally was going to serve with rice, but had no idea when to start to cook it, so used a naan bread which I'd bought on a whim as it only needed a minute or two under the grill. If you are going to make a whole meal with sides and hot starters using this book, or entertaining, then timings are essential, especially the first few times you make something. For the record, the two I tried, I made within half an hour.
Ingredients featured in the book all seem to be generally available, but as yet I have not experimented with completely new ingredients (to me), sticking to recipes that contain things I normally buy or have in the house to minimise the grocery outlay (and ignoring the odd ingredient I don't like). I can see myself using this book again, as I enjoyed the recipes I have tried so far. Although I think there is room for improvement in my Indian culinary skills, there are enough dishes in here that I am happy to make to build up my confidence in Indian cookery, before I tackle the more complicated and unfamiliar dishes. I still think this book leans itself towards a more confident cook rather than a complete beginner however, and the lack of overall timings is a big disappointment for me.