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Friday, May 17, 2013

Book Review: Easy Indian Cooking

There are certain ethnic cuisines that I just have to go back to now and again, and Indian is one of them. When I think of Indian food, I think of intoxicating blends of spices and other ingredients that yield complex, yet complementary blends of flavors and aromas that are a delight to the senses.
Probably like most Americans, though, my experience of Indian cooking has mostly been limited to Indian restaurants; I rarely attempt to cook Indian food at home. So I gladly accepted a review copy of Easy Indian Cooking from publisher Robert Rose.
Author Suneeta Vaswani, a native and (after some years spent in Houston, Texas) resident of Mumbai, knows her stuff, as is evident from the many tips found in the sidebars to the recipes. The book covers a gamut of Indian cuisine, from street foods to breads, meat- and vegetable-based main dishes, chutneys and sweets.
For the most part, the recipes are kept fairly simple, and though the ingredient lists can be long, there's generally nothing in them that you couldn't pick up at Wegmans, or at one of Rochester's Indian groceries, like this one or this one or this one.
You'll find Indian-restaurant staples like tandoori and pork vindaloo, as well as less familiar and vegetarian dishes, such as mussels in cilantro broth, potatoes with fenugreek leaves, and creamy broccoli curry. Not surprisingly, there aren't a lot of beef dishes here. When beef does appear, it's usually as an alternative to lamb, which is what you're more likely to find in Indian cooking, but if you want to use beef, the lamb recipes are easily adaptable.
As a home baker, and a lover of the flatbreads that you can get at Indian restaurants, I was especially interested in those recipes. The chapter on "Rice, Cereal and Breads" contains recipes for various Indian breads, but they're mostly either griddle- or deep-fried breads. Oven-baked breads are not to be found here. But any good, general baking cookbook should have recipes for those, and their absence is more than compensated for by the wealth of other Indian dishes found within these pages. Contrary to some people's impressions, Indian food is not all spicy hot, but I'm a pepperhead, and I was pleased to see recipes like "Fiery Fish," which Vaswani cautions is "not for the faint-hearted." Don't worry, you'll be able to cool your palate with a mango lassi or cucumber raita.
With 150 recipes, Easy Indian Cooking offers plenty to keep lovers of Indian food busy in their kitchens for a long time. And if you're a novice in this area, it makes for a good, user-friendly introduction to one of the world's great cuisines. 
Easy Indian Cooking, by Suneeta Vaswani. Robert Rose (2d ed. 2013). Paperback, 240 pp.

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