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Oct 1, 2009 05:29 AM

October 09 COTM: "Indian" M. Jaffrey's Indian Cooking and J. Sahni's Classic Indian Cooking

Welcome to the October 2009 Chow Cookbook of the Month featuring:

Classic Indian Cooking, by Julie Sahni
Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking

We will use this thread for general commentary, recipe planning, links, and any other issues related to this COTM. You may wish to bookmark this thread for future reference, as it contains links to all the other threads for this month.

If you're new to Cookbook of the Month, the COTM archive thread explains how it all works:

I am titling the threads based on Jaffrey's chapter list, as they seem more straightforward than Sahni's. Let me know if I've omitted something and I can always add on.








Relishes, Chutneys and Pickles

Soups, Salads, Savouries and Sweets

Here are a few links to online recipes for those without each book:

Happy Cooking!

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  1. Can I just say, I'm stoked for my first CotM? : )

    2 Replies
    1. re: padkimao

      Well Welcome! This is going to be a terrific month!

      1. re: Gio

        Thanks! Looking forward to it. : )

    2. Tonight I made the cocktail koftas from the Jaffrey book. The ingredient list includes the amount of ground cumin and coriander, but not how much of the seed to start with to end up with the correct amount.

      For others that want to grind fresh, I kept track of the equivilents:

      1 tablespoon cumin seeds = 2 1/2 tsp ground cumin
      1 tablespoon coriander seed = 2 tsp ground coriander

      Hope this helps!

      2 Replies
      1. re: smtucker

        thats helpful. most sources advise buying these spices ground to get a less gritty texture. Ive done it both ways (you have to strain the ground stuff) but agree that even with my Indian mixie I dont get as fine and silky a ground texture as if a buy a small pack of ground spice. Its really cheap in indian stores and if you cant use it up in 6 months you can throw it away and buy another.

        1. re: jen kalb

          That is interesting Jen. The reason I ground fresh is that both of this month's author's recommend it.

          On page 15, Jaffrey writes "Ideally speaking, it is best to buy all dry spices in their whole form. They will stay fresh for long periods if stored in cool, dry, dark places in tightly covered jars. This way you can grind the spices as you need them. [cut] The more freshly ground the spices, the better their flavor."

          Sahni also states, on page 9, "Spices should be purchased whole, to be powdered as needed, because freshly ground spices are always more aromatic. Also, whole spices retain their potency and aroma much longer."

          I have four Indian markets within an 1/4 mile radius, so this isn't about convenience. I just find that freshly ground cumin is more aromatic than any powder I have found in one of these stores.

          My goal in creating an equivalency chart [whole :: ground ] is to allow me to measure all the spices added at one time and then grind them together.

      2. Some time back I wrote a tiny review of the Sahni book on my food blog. The focus of my blog is foreigner married to Pakistani (or Indian) who learns to cook Pakistani/N. Indian foods, so that is the slant of the review. Since many hounds are also foreigners learning Indo-Pak from the book, I thought it may be relevant to post here:

        "This book will teach you all of the basics. Sahni tells you the secrets of achieving separated kernals of fluffy, aromatic basmati rice. She explains how to properly caramelize onions, an essential technique in North Indian-Pakistani cooking. She tells you the ins and outs of South Asian vegetables, and offers good substitutions and tips for preparing these in the North American context. She also lets you know which recipes freeze well. This book will arm you with great basic recipes. However, for those looking to cook authentic North Indian Muslim / Pakistani dishes, Sahni does not offer useful recipes. Sahni's "Mughlai" recipes (recipes brought to India by the Muslim invasions and refined in India) are what would be served at Punjabi / Mughlai restaurants ... you've had this cuisine at your local Star of India or India Palace. The recipes are tasty. But these dishes with cream and almonds and so forth are not what your desi Muslim in-laws eat at home. Once you have mastered the basics, know how to "bhuna the pyaaz," how to get tamarind water from the dried clumps in the package, know how to make a "baghaar" or "tarka" from Sahni's book, you can get your authentic Indian Muslim / Pakistani recipes online or from a Pakistani cookbook. See some of the sites in my side bar. However, the veg, daal and snack dishes eaten by North Indians like Sahni and eaten by Pakistanis from a Hindustani or Punjabi background will be similar, so you can use all of those recipes to impress."

        I am searching for a copy of the Classic Jaffrey book because I would like to participate...but I will also try out (again after several years) a couple of Sahni's "restaurantish" type Mughlai dishes like the badaami chicken and the whole masala qorma in the chicken section.

        3 Replies
        1. re: luckyfatima

          luckyfatima, very interesting perspective. Thank you for sharing it. Have you used the Jaffrey book before?


          1. re: luckyfatima

            I agree, v. interesting.

            For British-Indian home cooking, I really like Cooking Like Mummyji by Vicky Bhoran.

            1. re: luckyfatima

              oops I linked the wrong page, it should be


              for the book reviews. I mention Cooking Like Mummyji there, too.

              I have perused the Classic Jaffrey book but never owned it. I wish I could find a copy now since it is one of the COTM.

            2. (This is my first COTM so I hope I do this right!)

              Julie Sahni's Velvet Butter Chicken is one of my favourite all-time recipes to cook and consume. It is a terrific show-off dish for guests. Neither the heat nor spicing will scare off those that THINK they don't like Indian food. Best of all, it actually makes use of leftovers in that the base is cold Tandoori chicken.

              We used to cheat and use restaurant takeaway tandoor chicken: now we make our own (double batch) from scatch, consume what we want hot and then save the rest for this dish.

              If you have never tried to cook Indian food at home from scratch, this recipe is a wonderful way to start.

              I should just add that I never would have purchased this cookbook and eaten my way through it, if I hadn't started with Sahni's other great text The Moghul Microwave (where I learned to do Saag Ghosh at home and roast and grind my own garam masala).

              Madhur Jaffery does not speak to me with the immediacy and passion that Sahni does, thought I confess that the recipes themselves are very well organized in Jaffery's book and Sahni's is more of a wander through techniques and ingredients. But what a great journey!

              9 Replies
              1. re: LJS

                LJS, thank you so much for this info. I am very interested in hearing any of your favorites (or the losers, so I can avoid them) form Moghul Microwave. I have been dying to get into it for about a year. I keep dipping my toe in, but just never seem to know how to jump in the pool.


                1. re: The Dairy Queen

                  Wish I had my copy of Sahni's MM in front of me but that won't happen until next week. So from memory, definitely do try the lamb dish with tomato and coriander that I believe is known as Saag Ghosh. In fact, the lamb dishes in general and the fish dishes do wonderfully in the microwave...JS contention is that this kitchen appliance replicates in many ways the treatment that ingredients are subjected to in the traditional in-ground ovens of her native cookery. I am not about to disagree.

                  1. re: LJS

                    Sweet! Thanks. If more occur to you after you have your book, please do let me know. In the meantime, I'll check out the lamb and fish dishes. I'd previously heard fish was very 'wave friendly, so, it's nice to have a confirmation of that from a fellow 'hound.


                    1. re: The Dairy Queen

                      Somebody else mentioned onions and that prompted my memory: JS advice on microwaved-fried onions was fantastic...I still use this technique frequently and not just for Indian dishes.

                      1. re: LJS

                        Oohhh! I think I'm going to try that tonight on pizza!


                  2. re: The Dairy Queen

                    I'm going to jump in here - I heard about MM from these boards - took it from the library and loved so many recipes had to buy it. Here is a long, but tried and true list of our favorites:
                    Steamed fish in ginger-thyme essence
                    Bengal-style spicy mustard-rubbed tuna
                    Malabar Salmon in delicate coconut sauce
                    ***Zesty Lemon Coriander Chicken
                    Parsi Braised Chicken - Dhansak
                    Savory Keema Cake
                    Mushrooms in Curry Sauce - so easy!
                    Eggplant slices smothered w/coconut-spice paste
                    Crisp Fried Okra - unbelievably good - she serves it on rice
                    New Delhi Spicy Potatoes
                    Thyme-laced...Black-eyed pea salad
                    Malabar Shrimp and Rice Cakes

                    I guess I'll stop here - we have loved everything from this book.
                    I wouldn't even have a microwave in my home for years til my husband brought one home from a friend who had upgraded his...I still can't believe I make rice in it to perfection!

                    1. re: Judon

                      Thank you so much! These all sound great. Did you find you had to buy a lot of new microwave safe equipment for this, or, were you able to get by with what you had on hand?


                      1. re: The Dairy Queen

                        all that equipment is a waste of money. As long as you have glass, corelle or other microwave safe (i.e. doesnt get hot) dishes or casseroles and some plastic cling wrap, you are good to go.

                        We think moghol microwave has some promise but after many years of owning it still havent used it. I really appreciate the positive report.

                        1. re: jen kalb

                          Thanks for that. I have the book in my hot little hands at this very moment (okay, not this very moment, as I'm typing), and I am determined to cook from it tonight. Tired. Friday. Fish day. I'm going for it!

                          And, P.S. I do have my share of microwave safe Pyrex dishes and cling wrap, so I'm relieved that you think that's all I'll need!


                2. I have both books from the library (yeah!). After doing really quick skims, Sahni's book reminds me of Marcella Hazan's book, Classics of Italian Cooking. Meaning that Sahni's seems to have a wide range of dishes and explicit instructions as to what to look for as the dish progresses. I'm looking forward to cooking out of both but have already ordered Sahni's book to own so that I can make notes as well.

                  4 Replies
                  1. re: beetlebug

                    Jaffrey's Invitiation to Indian Cooking would have been more of an analog to Sahni's book, since it intended to be a basic primer. The book we chose is more a a collection or recipes, presented on TV but I find that if you follow the recipes accurately you will have fine results.

                    1. re: jen kalb

                      Will be cooking from Sahni tonight. Still waiting for my LINK copy of the Jaffrey book to arrive at the Berk. Lib.

                      Because I couldn't wait I made potato fritters again (mashed spuds made into balls, indentation made and filled with fried onions and cilantro, then balls flattened and fried) and cream of tomato soup from my ancient and gigantic (almost 900 pages!) double Jaffrey book from the 70's. I've made this three times in the past month. Mmmmmmmm.

                      Will have to check Sahni to see if she has similar recipes. Anybody who has the Jaffrey book - will you check to see if it contains anything like those recipes?

                      1. re: oakjoan

                        Checking on this for you made me realize how very bad the index in Jaffery's Indian Cooking is.

                        No, no potato fritters, and only three soups, none of them tomato.

                        1. re: clepro

                          Since I don't have it yet, I can't comment. ;+)

                          I do love my gigantic Jaffrey combo veg and non-veg Indian cookbooks, though.