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Indian cookbook recommendations

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I'm looking for a good Indian cookbook - anyone got any special recommendations? I've had Madhur Jaffrey's "Indian Cooking" for a couple of years, and I think it's OK, but not great. I've found the spices and seasoning in a few of the recipes often didn't blend as well as I'd like, and that the recipes didn't really "come together" as I'd expect from someone who's regarded widely as an authority.

I'm not fussy about a specific regional cuisine either - a book which features nothing but Bengali food but has consistently good recipes would be far more useful to me than one that tries to cover the full diversity of Indian food and is patchy.

So, opinions?

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  1. There is this book 660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer..i have found it to be very popular in the food blog network and last week, spent almost an hour in Barnes and Noble sgoing through the book...loved it!! ive ordered a copy online on amazon and waiting for it to arrive!! From what i read in the book, I am sure you will have no issues regarding teh ingredients not blending well...:)


    1 Reply
    1. re: scATmirchmasala

      I just got this book from hamiltonbook.com for $9.95.


    2. May I recommend an excellent Indian cookbook..."Vij's Indian Cuisine" written by Vikram Vij and his wife
      Meeru Dhalwala. They are owners of the best Indian restaurant in Vancouver, BC called "Vij's. The cookbook is available through Amazon. Wonderful, original recipes especially Marinated Lamb Popsicles!


      1. The top seven books below are my current favorites out of about 30 that I have. The two Bengali books I have were not all that useful. The Collingwood book is a great read. It speaks to the evolution of Indian cooking after the Europeans (and others) arrived and the development of Anglo Indian and British Indian cooking. It only has a few recipes.

        Bharadwaj, Monisha The Indian Spice Kitchen
        Iyer, Raghavan The Turmeric Trail, Recipes and Memories from an
        Indian Childhood
        Jaffrey, Madhur A Taste of India
        Kanani, Manisha 50 Classic Curries
        Mohan, Rocky Art of Indian Cuisine
        Panjabi, Camellia 50 Great Curries of India
        Sahni, Julie Savoring India

        Banerjij, Chitrita Bengali Cooking, Seasons and Festivals
        Bose, Sujit Bengali Kitchen

        Collingham, Lizzie Curry, A Tale of Cooks & Conquerors

        3 Replies
        1. re: OnkleWillie

          Speaking of Madhur Jaffrey, the cookbook I love best in the world that she wrote is Eastern Vegetarian Cooking which includes many Indian dishes. I have most of her books and some I like better than others. The Boatman's Curry recipe in is worth the price of the whole book.

          I have Eastern Veg in a combo book (about " wide) with Indian Cooking, but until it fell apart, I had it in a separate volume. It's probably still available.

          Julie Sahni is also good as is Ishmail Merchant (now deceased) of Merchant and Ivory movies fame's book Passionate Meals. His recipes for take-offs on Indian food such as Fresh Corn Pakoras, Cheese Toasts with Mustard or Cumin seeds, Pistachio Raita, Caraway and Onion Potato Salad, a basmati rice pilaf with sultanas and cashews, an eggplant and ginger rice pilaf, and Curried Meatballs.

          From Merchant, I got the idea of putting whole cardamom pods into the onions frying up for a rice dish. I leave them in all through the cooking and then warn guests that they need to be on the lookout for them in case I didn't manage to get all of them out. He also has a hamburger mix with ginger, chilies and yoghurt in it. In his dessert section there's a recipe for carrot and raisin halva as well as a few rice puddings and milk puddings.

          Sheesh, how I do go on. It's just that I've never heard anybody talk about Merchant's book and it deserves to be more famous! He should be famous posthumously for his cooking as well as for Howard's End!

          I just checked Merchant's book on Amazon, and there are copies available for just over $4. I'll also be glad to post recipes.

          Oh yeah, and as somebody said above...You'll have to pry my cold, dead fingers off my Ottolenghi Cookbook to get it from me.

          1. re: oakjoan

            oakjoan, i see the "ottolenghi fever" on the boards! {;^D. "adulation" seems so inadequate to express the euphoric response. worship?

            thanks for the tip about merchant's book. i'd never heard of it, but i like his ideas that you presented.

            1. re: oakjoan

              Yes, second Eastern Vegetarian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey - it covers not only India but Japan, Korea and the Middle East (and more) and is fantastic. No pictures, nothing fancy just a shedload of solid recipes. I also have a book by the film producer Ismail Merchant which I have loved for many years - it was a slim volume produced by the UK supermarket Sainsburys in 1992 entitled Indian Vegetarian Cooking. I've personalised many of the recipes over the years until they're not really what was in the cookbook but have always had great compliments on the dishes I've developed from this book.

          2. Flavors of India: Vegetarian Indian Cuisine
            by Shanta Nimbark Sacharoff

            1. Classic Indian Cooking by Julie Sahni. And it really is a classic!


              1. The Art of Indian Vegetarian Cooking by Yamuna Devi, is excellent even if you are not vegetarian.

                1 Reply
                1. re: ElsieB

                  ElsieB: I certainly agree about Yamuna Devi's book! I forgot to mention it in my post. Thanks.

                2. If i were to recommend only one to have it would be Mangoes and Curry Leaves by Duigood and Alford. It is a great book and read. On the other hand I recommend finding a good Indian restaurant and going out. To prepare a whole meal with no help would take me most of the day, with an early morning start.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Candy

                    I love that book too, and cook from it often.

                  2. It would help if you were more specific about the problem recipes. Also what other experience do you have with Indian food? While there might well be problems with her recipes, there could also be a mismatch between your tastes and preferences, and tastes prevalent in India. What if Madhur's problem recipes are accurate representations of those Indian dishes? Other books may have similar ones with the same problems.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: paulj

                      Good comment, paulj. I do love Jaffrey's books.

                    2. Which Jaffrey book is this that you havent liked? there are quite a number, of which the first, Invitation to Indian Cooking is still my favorite basic. Havent seen a problem of flavors coming together in any of her books that I have used, frankly. Are you following the cooking techniques recommended?
                      If you could give a little more of the background and what you are looking for, meat, vegetarian, north or south, or what your standard for good indian cooking would be, for example, we might be more targeted.

                      1. As well as Maddhur Jaffrey, I really like Cooking Like Mummyji by Vicky Bhogal, which focuses on British Indian home recipes.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: greedygirl

                          Me, too greedygirl. I second those two and also Julie Sahnie's classic book.

                        2. Thanks everyone for your replies - some really useful suggestions (particularly OnkleWillie and oakjoan), I'll be heading to the bookshop to have a look at these.

                          And my lack of enthusiasm for Madhur Jaffrey's book "Indian Cooking" is basically down to the fact that of the many recipes I've cooked from it, none of them came out as tasty and balanced as I'd hoped for, and were not as good as the equivalent dishes that I've had when eating at the homes of Anglo-Bangladeshi friends in the UK (where I'm from).

                          Lastly, I guess my taste preferences would be for Bengali and Punjabi food, but I'm interested in most Indian cuisine.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: illus

                            In her earliest book, 'An Invitation to Indian Cooking', Madhur admits that she did not grow up cooking, rather started to do so once she was by herself in college in England, working from memories of what she ate earlier, and from recipes that her mother sent her. She grew up in pre-Independence Delhi, in an extended family. While the women in the family were firmly planted in their Hindu tradition, the men had long been comfortable in the governing Muslim, and later English world (more on this in her biographical Mangos book). Since establishing her reputation as a cookbook writer she went on to collect and publish recipes from the rest of Indian and Asia. Plus the 'Invitation' recipes were adapted to American kitchens.

                            Ismail Merchant describes himself as being in the same boat, forced to recreate in New York the foods from home in Bombay (in the 1950s).

                            My first Indian cookbook was a Penguin paperback, written the UK audience, but also with Delhi-area roots.

                            There must be a number of British published cookbooks that reflect the Anglo-Indian cooking. Heremes House, for example, has a wide ranging set of illustrated cookbooks. From Foulsham I have a 'The classic 1000 indian recipes'. I've never used a recipe directly from 1000, but do scan it for ideas and typical combinations.

                          2. I've had Jeeti Gandhi's "Indian Flavor: Curry Leaves, Cumin Seeds, and the Spice of Healthy Cooking" (Laurel Glen, 2002) for a while. It's a slim, purple paperback emphasizing northern Indian cuisine; I don't remember why I bought it or who may have recommended it.

                            Anyway, I finally got around to trying a couple of recipes: Sabat Moong Masaledar (Spicy Green Mung Beans) and Kheema Matter. Both were a breeze to prepare and turned out very well, with warm, vivid flavors. The mung recipe (using whole beans) calls for overnight soaking and then simmering but I used the pressure cooker: 13 minutes with no soaking produced tender, creamy results. I poured off a little of the excess cooking liquid and added a squirt of ketchup along with the seasoning paste (browned chopped onions, green chili pepper, cumin, coriander and chopped tomato) to balance things out.

                            The gently stewed, ruddily spiced ground lamb in the kheema dish ends up a suave counterpoint to the bright green peas and contrasting garnish of onion rings dressed with lemon juice. In both dishes the spices are wet-fried which gives them a nice bloom and mellows any harsh notes.

                            Looking forward to trying more from this book, maybe Narial Wali Machhi (Coconut Fish), one of the biryanis, or the tikona (triangular) parathas. Scattered throughout are some overtly "healthy" dishes using textured soya as the protein, but the recipes generally go easy on the oil and cream.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: JP_nyc

                              jp, you write very well and are very knowledgeable. i sure wish you'd post more often!