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Pushpesh Pant Indian Cooking Guru -- Knows His Stuff?

alkapal Nov 4, 2010 06:32 AM

There is a new book by Pushpesh Pant simply called "Indian Cooking." http://www.phaidon.com/store/food-cook/india-9780714859026/
It is all regions, with ingredients, history, techniques unique to each. I have many Indian cookbooks, but this looks so comprehensive.

Have you tried cooking from his books before? What do you think about his clarity? Does he deal a lot with the historical and geographical "drivers" for the many regional cuisines?

This looks like it might be a "must-have." Please let me know if you've had a look at this book at Phaidon in NYC or London.

Here's a wee video on the photo shoot: http://www.sergetheconcierge.com/2010...

  1. luckyfatima Nov 4, 2010 07:14 AM

    Pushpesh Pant is a well known political analyst and is also an author and authority on North Indian cuisine. I own this amazing book by him:

    http://www.amazon.com/Food-Path-Cuisi...

    It is recipes along the Grand Trunk Road from Kabul to Kolkota. I love that book because it is one of the few English language cookbook sources for Pakistani recipes, plus it covers some of my favorite regions in Indian cooking, and is just a beautiful book. All of the recipes are simple, authentic to their locale, and good. It includes a few iconic dishes of every city along the GTR. It is not extremely in-depth or comprehensive, though.

    I have not seen this book you are asking about, but I have high hopes for it based on the GTR book. I would not call Pushpesh Pant a "cooking guru" because that brings to mind some other faddish and well loved but more gimmicky Indian TV cooks. He is more of a food historian and authority and an enthusiast about cuisines from his own native region as well as surrounding areas or of large groups of immigrants to his region.

    4 Replies
    1. re: luckyfatima
      alkapal Nov 4, 2010 07:21 AM

      thanks, luckyfatima. coming from you, that is high praise, indeed!

      the book is soon to be released, i understand, but i just don't know exactly when.

      1. re: alkapal
        buttertart Nov 4, 2010 03:51 PM

        The Grand Trunk one is super cheap on Amazon. Maybe I get...

        1. re: buttertart
          alkapal Nov 4, 2010 05:10 PM

          i saw that! ;-).

      2. re: luckyfatima
        luckyfatima Nov 4, 2010 06:45 PM

        Just to self correct, I wrote "includes a few iconic dishes from every city alone the GTR" and of course that is not possible for such a slim book...my mistake...I should have written every major city, not every city.

      3. chefj Nov 4, 2010 04:07 PM

        He also did a TV series with Jiggs Kalra called Daawat and a companion cookbook. Lots of new (at the time 2001) takes and interpretations of regional Indian cuisine. each episode (chapter) has a well known guest chef.
        Good glossary, clear directions and generally well writen

        http://www.indiaclub.com/shop/searchr...

        3 Replies
        1. re: chefj
          d
          dkennedy Aug 14, 2011 09:01 AM

          Here is a link to the Daawat online, it is currently out of print.

          http://books.google.com/books?id=DWk8...

          1. re: dkennedy
            h
            HillJ Aug 14, 2011 09:40 AM

            http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/Searc...

            And, if you want a copy in hand you can find it here.

            1. re: HillJ
              d
              dkennedy Aug 14, 2011 09:46 AM

              Thanks HillJ

        2. luckyfatima Dec 14, 2010 06:18 PM

          Hey alkapal!!! I got this book. I found it at Costco for $30. I am sooo pleased with it. Gorgeous recipes which specify region, and has a plethora of regions. Pics are beautiful, too.

          Some thoughts on it: recipes are very authentic, homemade type stuff, look very good. I love it and can't wait to try out a few recipes.

          Some negatives:
          Paper is very thin, it feels like the books which are published in India which don't have the highest quality printing or paper. Has a glossary of ingredients with good descriptions, but for foreigners and new cooks one must have pictures of the ingredients! NO PICTURES! That is a major flaw. Some of the ingredients are new to me (like Cambodge petals???) and I will have to use google to assist me. Also, I prefer when books give the Hindi name next to the English name so I can be sure I know what the item is…instead some items are named in English, others in Hindi, and others in Tamil if they are for South Indian ingredients. That is the biggest flaw of the book, the glossary of ingredients.

          I know you know your stuff already and this is great to expand your repertoire and learn more. Definitely NOT for beginners, though.

          3 Replies
          1. re: luckyfatima
            alkapal Dec 15, 2010 04:15 AM

            thank you for the good review, lucky fatima. if you say the recipes are authentic, then i know that it is true! you have costco where you are? (EDIT: oh, ok, i see you are back in texas now).

            you should email phaidon with your critique. they should know these flaws.

            and i agree about food glossaries: you need pictures and name translations. (without those, you still gotta google!).

            best wishes!

            1. re: alkapal
              buttertart Dec 15, 2010 04:40 AM

              I'm thinking about this as a Christmas gift for our SIL now, based on luckyfatima's appraisal.

            2. re: luckyfatima
              j
              jackvandusen Jul 21, 2011 10:31 PM

              I got this book at Borders about a month ago (came in a little cloth sack) and mine had photos in their own sections, though not displayed alongside their recipes. I've tried twenty or so recipes, and agree with some of the comments when they say there are little errors here and there. Occasionally you create a paste and set it aside, never to be told when to integrate it into the dish. Little things like that. But to me these are minor flaws. I bought the book to learn as a complete beginner, and I'm absolutely thrilled with it. (I got a Madhur Jaffrey book the same day, which is also great, but I use this one more.) I don't want to memorize recipes so much as learn what goes with what, and how much. This book is just great at that. So many recipes, with like grouped with like, in parallel columns. If you're just beginning to learn about Indian cooking, the layout of this book is very useful for side-by-side comparisons. It even has built in cloth bookmarks, which i find very helpful for this. I wouldn't mind if the commentary in the book were longer. The general overviews are very well written and informative, but brief. Anyway, I just love this book. The "minor flaws" to me make it like an eccentric friend, rather than a normal old boring one. Though I respect luckyfatima, I would disagree that this book isn't for beginners. I find myself drawn to it like a magnet. By the way, as a beginner, I'd say my success rate is roughly three-quarters so far, which is one of the reasons I like the book so much. Batting 750 is pretty good for me any time.

            3. SilverlakeGirl Dec 14, 2010 06:28 PM

              I happened to find the book immediately after it was released. The book was in a muslin sack that looks just like a Basmati rice sack. I think you have to get it at the store to get the sack. It has all the Phaidon printing. But there is no mention of it on the Phaidon site. It looks very cool!

              I love the book, so very thorough! Afterwards I even bought his first book, used, from Alibris.com. Loved it as well!

              1. h
                HillJ Dec 14, 2010 06:39 PM

                http://www.amazon.com/India-Cookbook-Pushpesh-Pant/dp/0714859028/ref=pd_sim_b_2
                Amazon is selling it for a wee bit less (it's on my Christmas list

                )

                http://www.alibris.com/booksearch.det...
                This is another book I love on Indian sweets.

                1. c
                  celeryroot Dec 15, 2010 05:44 AM

                  I got this book back in Nov when released in US, it is great. Ive tried a few recipes and all turned out to be tasty, It does require , in some cases a knowledge of techniques utilized in Indian cooking. It has many never heard of before recipes, by me. Mine came with the sack. I am going to order one of his other books from Amazon. I collect cookbooks, 3000 plus, and this is a welcome addition.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: celeryroot
                    luckyfatima Dec 15, 2010 06:43 AM

                    "It has many never heard of before recipes, by me"

                    This is something else I really like about this book. For example, Delhi and Awadhi (Lucknow) recipes in pan-Indian cookbooks are often fake, creamy recipes and even if they do give authentic recipes, only focus on meaty, fancy dishes. India:The Cookbook gives authentic fancy recipes as well as some gorgeous daily vegetable and daal dishes from these places, which are just as precious to a food lover as the fancy dishes.

                  2. r
                    raedear Dec 29, 2010 11:19 AM

                    Hi! First Chowhound post for me!

                    I just received Pant's India Cookbook for Chanukah. My initial overall thoughts about the book were very positive. Others have mentioned the clever basmati bag packaging, and the fact that it is incredibly lightweight. The pages are indeed thin, but they seem to be of very good quality, and although I dripped a tiny bit of turmeric-infused water on one of the pages last night, it held up perfectly well, without even the threat of a rip. The physical quality of Phaidon's books are usually outstanding, and this one does not appear to be any different.

                    However, once I started going through the book more carefully, I started to notice some obvious typos in the introductory pages, which, for such a highly trumpeted new cookbook, I found disappointing, if not unforgivable.

                    The bit that concerned me more is that while scanning the recipes, I noticed some very confusing ingredients and instructions, which I am fairly certain are also typos.

                    For example, I made the Achari Paneer (p. 313) last night. As I was preparing this dish, I realized that while the ingredients list called for 4 Tbs. oil, the recipe itself only instructs the cook to use 1Tb oil, the other 3 Tb being there for moral support, I suppose.

                    The recipe also calls for 3 bell peppers, which i dutifully chopped and added to the pan, but which ended up completely overwhelming the dish in taste and texture, and which there is no evidence of at all in the photograph (p. 198). Of course I ought to know better than to mistake cookbook photographs for the recipe you create at home, but it was disappointing nonetheless.

                    Now, it might be possible that Indian bell peppers are much smaller than the California variety, and the recipe is accurate; I'm not ruling that out. But I am inclined to think that it might be another mistaken entry.

                    I noticed some other apparent absurdities, such as in the Erisseri (p.334), which calls for 20 (!) plantains in a dish meant to serve 4 or 5. Two sounds more like it to me. This might be another instance of the Indian variety being naturally way more petite, or it might be another red flag to a proofreader asleep at the desk. I don't know the answer to these trying questions. If anyone does, please let me know!

                    Even with my difficulties and disappointments last night, I'm not quite ready to pass judgment on this book. I still have high hopes for it as the first Indian cookbook I've seen that seems not to alter the recipes for silly American cooks (most of the recipes will send you, head scratching, to the nearest India Sweets and Spices shop for the more obscure ingredients). And I'm sure that my technique is lacking. However, I know now, and so do you dear reader, to proceed with caution, read the recipe all the way through and make judgment calls about the quantities and handling of ingredients that don't seem to make sense as printed.

                    I will post again, with a more informed opinion, after I make a few more of the recipes. But I thought these precautions should be out there as soon as possible.

                    (P.S. Hot India Sweets and Spices Shop Tip: If you have trouble finding fresh curry leaves in the store, I've found that if I ask behind the counter, a healthy supply can be produced from the back room.)

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: raedear
                      chefj Dec 29, 2010 12:59 PM

                      "silly American cooks"? You'll really make a lot of friends with comments like that.

                      1. re: chefj
                        r
                        raedear Dec 29, 2010 03:34 PM

                        I was being sarcastic, referring to what I perceive is the attitude of many writers of Indian cookbooks for an American audience who sacrifice authenticity and rich flavor for the familiar and convenient. I am an American cook myself, and I don't think we're silly.

                        1. re: raedear
                          chefj Dec 29, 2010 03:46 PM

                          O.K. seemed a little odd, being such a long and thoughtful review, to have such a petty comment in it. I also received the book for Christmas but have not started cooking out of it yet.

                      2. re: raedear
                        s
                        sweetTooth Dec 29, 2010 02:58 PM

                        I haven't actually looked at this book and only have Google to rely on for info on Mr. Pant. (though I do remember watching Daawat on TV in India a time long ago) I would hazard a guess that the author lives in India and it may be fair to assume that the intended audience is native Indian. Yes, bell peppers in India are indeed much smaller than those here in the States. I've also found that they can be noticeably hot sometimes. Definitely have a more assertive flavor.
                        No first hand idea about plantains though. I see often in south indian recipes online that the word plantain is accompanied by "raw bananas" in parenthesis. I have certainly eaten some very tiny bananas in South India. So that may explain that mystery.. or not.. twenty of those little guys would still be a few too many for 4-5 servings.
                        Yeah, but if the book is being released in the U.S., the publisher/editor should have paid attention to these differences.

                        1. re: sweetTooth
                          buttertart Dec 29, 2010 03:40 PM

                          This is a persistent problem with the Phaidon issues of cookbooks from other countries, they are just served up as they are without any thought to addressing an audience not from the country of origin. Good for authenticity, not good for user-friendliness.

                          1. re: buttertart
                            s
                            serah Aug 14, 2011 11:33 AM

                            I agree - I've barely cooked anything from my copy of the Silver Spoon. It may be a veritable encyclopedia of Italian foods, but it certainly doesn't inspire me. Nor do I want to trawl through thousands of pages in the off-chance I might find something.

                            I flicked through this in my local book shop but decided it would be too like the Silver Spoon - there may be some gems in there, but they're buried too deep to be any use to me.

                      3. h
                        herring Nov 23, 2011 09:10 PM

                        I just got this book as a gift and am thrilled, but not sure where to start. I'm familiar with Indian cooking (I've plowed through Julie Sahni's Classic book as well as others), but certainly no expert. Anyone have any suggestions as to dishes that worked out particularly well? Or other recipes with typos (or simply unaltered for American cooks) that I should be wary of?

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