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Indian Cooking -- ISO My First Cookbook

I've JUST been introduced to the fragrant, exotic world of Indian cooking. Oh, I've eaten Indian food on occasion -- mostly out -- and I do have one recipe for curried chicken that has become a staple in my household. But I've just had an opportunity to participate in the preparation of an authentic Indian meal that has been an eye-opener for me, and I must say, I'm hooked. It's like a "where have you been all my life" kind of feeling. Our menu included Pani Puri (all from scratch), Chicken Dum Biryani, Raita, Mango Lassi and Sheera for dessert.

So now I'm eager to jump into this cuisine, and I'm looking for a cookbook to start me off. As I make room in my pantry for all the new spices I'm about to acquire, can anyone recommend a cookbook that will become a launchpad for this new culinary journey? Thanks!

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  1. Cookbook of the Month (COTM) for October 2009 was Madhur Jaffrey's "Indian Cooking" and Julie Sahni's "Classic Indian Cooking". Both of these books were very well received and many of us cooked some tasty Indian dishes. I, personally, prefered the Jaffrey book for it's ease of preparation, and great flavors. Here's a link to the master thread:
    http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6562...
    Just click on any of the links to read what we cooked and how we liked the dishes.

    2 Replies
    1. re: Gio

      I totally agree with Gio.

      I actually liked the Sahni book a little more, but, for a first Indian cookbook, I think the Jaffrey book is perfect. Not only are the preparations streamlined, great flavor for a minimum amount of effort, but the photography is very helpful. I think that having photos of the final dish is so helpful while learning a new cuisine.

      Oh, and you will love the way your house smells as your toast and roast the whole spices.

      1. re: Gio

        Thanks for the recommendation and for the link. That's JUST what I was looking for.

      2. Just wondering what your staple curried chicken recipe is?

        1 Reply
        1. re: hungrymom

          I'm sure this is far from authentically Indian, but it's a delicious 1-pot meal. It also lends itself to a number of variations. Skinless bone-in chicken thighs work really well instead of or in combination with the chicken breasts. The original recipe called for Basmati rice, but I've substituted Israeli couscous. If you choose to use rice instead, just make sure you've got enough liquid.

          Curried Chicken

          Serves 4-6

          2 Tbsp. olive oil
          1 large sweet onion, peeled, sliced vertically (pole-to-pole)
          3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
          2 Serrano peppers, stems removed, chopped
          2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1-1 ½” square pieces
          1 ½ tablespoons good quality curry powder
          1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes
          1 14-oz can petite diced tomatoes
          4 cups chicken broth
          ¼ cup fresh chopped cilantro leaves
          2 zucchini, sliced 1” thick
          4 small or 2 large artichokes, halved, trimmed, choke removed (or use 1 pkg frozen artichoke hearts or 2 cans of artichoke hearts)
          8 chicken breast halves, boned and skinned, each half cut into 4-6 pieces.
          8 oz. Israeli couscous (or 8 oz. pearl pasta or orzo)
          1 large can chick peas, drained

          Heat the oil in a large pot.

          Sauté the onion, garlic and Serrano peppers in the oil until onions are soft, about 4 minutes. Add sliced bell peppers and sauté 1-2 minutes. Add curry powder and sauté 1 minute.

          Add crushed and diced tomatoes and broth. Stir until blended. Add cilantro, zucchini, artichokes and chicken pieces. Bring to a simmer. Cover pot and simmer 30 minutes.

          Add Israeli couscous and chick peas. Simmer 10 minutes or until couscous is al dente. Serve.

        2. I too know that heady feeling of being introduced to Indian food. And trust me, your life will never be the same.

          Now I'm going to plump--so to speak--for the Betty Crocker Indian Cookbook by Raghavan Iyer. We own several Indian cookbooks, and this is the one we like best. Don't be put off because it is a Betty Crocker publication--there are no recipes for lime Jell-o aspic and chop suey in it, just a wealth of superb Indian dishes from all around the subcontinent.

          1 Reply
          1. re: Perilagu Khan

            Thanks! I've just put a hold on that title, as well as "660 curries..." by the same author, at my local library.

          2. I had typed a reply earlier, but it never showed up?

            Don't miss out checking on some of the myriad desi food blogs on the internet. There are too many to list, literally hundreds, and many of them are very very good. They are authentic, customized to region and community, and a great resource for the full range from every day to very rare dishes.

            There are also some good how-to videos. I've not seen them but I've heard good things about the Manjula's Kitchen series.

            1. I've never really found a better one than the Jaffrey Indian Cooking reccomended by Gio. The only other one I have that I cook out more than very occasionally of is "The new Indian cooking course: Enjoy the taste and flavor without the fat - over 150 authentic, delicious Indian recipes for healthy eating" by Manisha Kanani. It's out of print but available on Abebooks for a song.