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Sep 12, 2006 07:17 PM

Recommended Indian cookbook?

Reading RWOrange's post on another board made me realize that I don't have an Indian cookbook (I realize that Indian cuisine, like so many others, is regional) and that aside from my "Anglo Curry", I don't cook Indian food, much as I like it. So, any suggestions of a cookbook with which to start cooking? Not an expert on Indian cuisine, but I'm not a big Tandoori fan, if that helps orient the discussion. TIA.

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  1. Julie Sahni's Classic Indian Cooking. It's not showy, it doesn't have any color pictures but it is incredibly thorough and informational. Also the recipes don't assume you know anything about Indian cooking so it takes you step by step. I've made some really good meals from this book. It's a classic.

    7 Replies
    1. re: emmielou

      Another vote for Sahni. Someone on this board described her as the Indian Julia Child and that's a good way to see her. Her cookbook is mostly Northern, moghul-style food but that's as good as place to start as any.

      Madhur Jaffrey has written lots and lots of cookbooks too. I have some of them and find them useful for recipes more than techniques or teaching me about what Indian cuisine is about.

      I haven't come across a good book on Southern Indian cooking so I rely on the internet for this. There are several good blogs kept by Southern Indians which have lots of information for the novice like me.

      1. re: cheryl_h

        Could you share some of the Southern Indian blogspots that you like and use for recipes, please?

        1. re: morebubbles

 (currently taking a break to relocate but her back entries are terrific


 (I find this a bit hard to follow, it's a bit obscure for non-Indians I think


 (some excellent entries on Indian pickles including recipes


          If you go to any one of these, you'll find links to other blogs. I've tried some fairly simple recipes like dals, vegetables and the easier breads from these blogs. I'm working up the courage to try dosas and idlis (just got an idli steamer).

          1. re: cheryl_h

            Let us know how the idlis come out!! What fun!

        2. re: cheryl_h

          Thanks for all those links. Regarding Southern Indian cookbooks, anyone have experience w/ Maya Kaimal's books, Curried Favors and Savoring the Spice Coast of India?

          1. re: Carb Lover

            I have both of those books, but I have only cooked from Spice Coast book. It was a shrimp dish with coconut milk. It was very good and easy to follow. I plan to coook from Curried Flavors soon. I like both books in terms of content.

            1. re: Carb Lover

              I have "Curried Favors". Good cookbook. I'd say the recipes are about on the same level as "Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking", flavorful and non-intimidating. Nicer photos in "Curried Favors". Those would be the two cookbooks I'd recommend for someone beginning Indian cooking; good sampling of the south with Kaimal and north with Jaffrey.

              Might as well toss in my other recommendations while I'm at it.

              "1,000 Indian Recipes" by Neelam Batra might be a bit overwhelming to the beginner. Tons of recipes from all over India. No pictures. No overviews of cooking techniques as there is in Sahni's "Classic Indian Cooking", but clear and to the point detail in the recipes themselves. I like that type of cookbook and have 3 others(Mexican, Italian, & Jewish) in the series.

              "Indian Essence" by Atul Kochhar is a relatively small cookbook with recipes from all over India and lots of photos. Produces some of the tastiest food of any of the Indian cookbooks I own.

              "Dakshin" by Chandra Pahmanabhan. Similar in design to "Indian Essence" but strictly south Indian vegetarian with an emphasis on the food of Tamil Nadu. Excellent photos.

              "Classic Indian Cooking" by Julie Sahni. Probably the best cooking instruction of the Indian cookbooks I have, but I'm not as likely to reach for this book as the others when I've decided to cook something in particular.

              "Feast of India" by Rani. Nondescript looking book that's actually pretty good. No photos. Have had some very good successes with this book, but also some bad misses.

              If I ever have to pare down my cookbook collection, Batra's "1,000 Indian Recipes" and Kochhar's "Indian Essence" will be the Indian cookbooks I keep.

        3. I got Duguid and Alford's Mangoes and Curry Leaves after taking it out of the library. Everything I made from it was terrific. The only drawback is the size of the book. It is really unweildy.

          Indian Home Cooking by Suvir is okay, I think if my library had had it and I tried somethings from it I would not have bought it.

          Jaffrey's A Taste of India is good and anything by her or Julie Sanhi for that matter.

          Pikwicca and I were discussing making Indian at home on Friday after lunch at an Indian restaurant. It is just so labor intensive that it is hard for 1 person to make much more than one dish and rice for a meal. If there are several people on hand to help with the preparation of a meal with several dishes it is better. It can take hours to put together a rounded menu. I'd rather go out for it and let someone else do the cooking.

          I have done lots of Chinese and am getting good at Vietnamese but Indian makes me think twice before letting ambition get the better of me.

          10 Replies
          1. re: Candy

            I second Jaffrey and Alford/Duguid -- all are brilliant.

            And even though it is non-tradtional in many ways, I'll add Vij's.


            One of the best Indian restaurants in the world.

            1. re: Candy

              I second the Duguid and Alford "Mangoes and Curry Leaves". It has lots of fresh light flavours (salads, quick soups, etc.). I like the size and it lies flat and stays open and the recipe almost never goes over the page break.

              1. re: Candy

                Mangoes and Curry leaves is an absolutely gorgeous book as are all of theirs. I love what I have made, but it's not heavy on basic curries that some people might want to try making, myself included. Most Duguid & Alford books are based on recipes they get from families they meet on their travels, though, so you can be sure the recipes are authentic and interesting. Lovely to read as well. I second Jaffrey, and was getting ready to buy a Sahni book myself...

                1. re: prunefeet

                  I am intested in that book, but I have have an aversion to non-native written cookbooks. How would you judge the recipes in terms of being tested and authentic?
                  For example--I like the content of Culinaria series books (I have the Caribbean book), but the recipes aren't tested and the proportions can be quite off as they are collected from locals and not cooked by authors at all based on the gross errors I have uncovered in my cookbook.

                  1. re: Ora

                    I have never had any problems with any of the Alford/Duguid books, all of their recipes work. I checked out M&CL from my library, began cooking from it almost immediately and had ordered it from Amazon before it was due back. M&CL covers the whole sub-continent including recipes from Sri Lanka, Afghanistan and Pakistan. There are recipes in it that I have not seen in other "Indian" cookbooks.

                    1. re: Candy

                      Thanks for the explanation--I may go for it--love the look and "feel" of M&CL.

                    2. re: Ora

                      I'll just second what Candy said. They do meticulous research and test all their recipes. I have never had any problems with the recipes and the interesting techniques and flavour combinations make for fantastic meals. Very highly recommended. Also their flatbreads book and baking book.

                      1. re: Ora

                        I will "out" myself here and say that Alford and Duguid are friends of mine. The recipes in all their books are based on years and years of travel throughout Asia. They even own an apartment in Thailand. They've been to India on thirty different trips. They spend as much time in Asia as they do here in Toronto. They have the deepest respect for authenticity. You might also check out their book Home is truly ahead of its time. Almost totally misunderstood.

                        1. re: ognir

                          You can tell when you read their books, and you WILL read them. They travel around with their kids to all these out of the way villages. I have a lot of respect for that. Cool that they are friends of yours! All recipes I have cooked have been really good.

                        2. re: Ora

                          I HATE IT when they don't test the recipes.

                    3. After enjoying Indian food in restaurants and watching "The Jewel in the Crown" on TV, the first Indian cookbook I ever bought was An Invitation to Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey. I've been using it for years and I like it very much. The recipes are clearly written and the results have been superb.

                      Over the years I've also acquired Lord Krishna's Cuisine and a Julie Sahni volume, but I still like this book best of all.

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Pumpkinseed

                        I like this one best too. Seems like so many Indian cookbooks don't call things by their Indian names, or at least not by their restaurant menu names. :) I.e., if you want korma, you have to figure out what the English translation would be. An Invitation to Indian Cooking really covers the basics.

                        1. re: Pumpkinseed

                          When we watched Jewel in the Crown on TV with some friends, we all put together an Indian dinner every week. It was the most special time because one of the friends was dying and this whole experience was kind of a good bye for him. About that time, Madhur Jaffrey had a program on PBS early Saturday mornings which we used to rush to get up to see because it was before VHS.

                          1. re: ZoeZ

                            Wow, that's really poignant and nice. Good memories.

                        2. Madhur Jaffrey's Quick & Easy Indian Cooking is not a new book, but it is available and worth owning. It offers recipes that can be made in 30 minutes or less. Start with the shrimp with garlic and chilies. If you think that you don't like Indian food, this will open the door for exploration for you. The spicy grilled chicken is another one of my favorites. Gently stewed beets, and turnips with cumin are unusual and delicious renditions of these vegetables. The sweet, pale orange-mango lassi is good enough to have for dessert.

                          1. Lord Krishna's Cuisine is a lovely, lovely cookbook. Highly recommended.