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Now and then you encounter a perfect cookbook. Simply perfect. The Indian Cooking Course by Monisha Bharadwaj is that exceptional work. Monisha is a famed cookbook author and teacher with her own Indian cooking school in that bastion of Indian cuisine, London

That “cooking school” perspective is the architectural core for this book. You do, here, go to school. The very chapters portray the different Indian perspective on the “major” categories of food. The very first chapter is Rice and there are later chapters for Eggs, Diary, and Chutneys. There are long sidebars on baking bread, making onion fritters and even whipping up your own butter and ghee.

In over 450 pages, Cooking Course is overflowing with recipes, many of them shown in brilliant and stunning color photographs. The high-density color reminds you that Indian foods are often high density in flavor.

But these foods are not always fiery in your mouth. Not all. The introduction to the book takes you on a sixty-page geographical tour of India, suggesting that the range of heat and spice is as variegated as the population of over a billion people.

Grand recipes here will broaden your perspective about what “Indian” mean. There is the Crab Stuffed with Mustard and Coconut, a warm and sweet introduction to seafood ala India. Most of don’t know the deep Muslim influences on India, but we can taste them in the Lamb with Lentils.

Curry is essential to some of the regional cuisines, but curry does not automatically mean “smack” in your mouth. There is, for example, a soft Creamy Chicken Curry. And curry appears in unexpected places, like the Egg and Gourd vegetarian curry dish.

This post ends with a picture of steak. Not beef — this is, my goodness, an Indian cookbook. No, this is the Grilled Spiced Cauliflower Steak, a dish offering equal satisfaction.

The recipes here are directed towards non-Indian cooks. A dozen ingredients or less. A short number of steps that can be completed in a relatively short time. This is high quality food that can be prepared with ease by the typical home cook. The results will both please and surprise.

After all, if you want Indian food, what do you typically do: pick up your car keys? You can put the keys down. Retire to your kitchen, and with a modestly supplemented pantry prepare authentic, enchanting, perhaps even romantic food. It’s time to go back to school. The Indian Cooking Course is sublime.

 

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