If you have read any of my cookbook reviews recently you may have noticed that I'm quite the fan of vegan and plant-based food. I'm not vegan though, and even though I think choosing more plant-based foods can be a healthier choice, I do make exceptions - like when I'm faced with a book full of delicious, indulgent looking Indian food Including both vegetarian and meat dishes).
Nitisha Patel's aim is to share recipes that have authentic flavour but are designed to be kept simple and fairly quick to make (compared to other traditional curry recipes). After a brief introduction Nitisha shares her “…Modern Indian Kitchen”, talking you through various spices, noting key flavours that you could expect each to add to a dish, as well as a few go-to recipes for Roti Breads, Naans, an oil, a purée, a paste and crispy fried onions - all of which are used in other recipes within the book.
There are six chapters in total, beginning with "Street Food and Snacks". This type of food really appeals to me, sadly as much of it is deep fried, it really appeals to my thighs too! I can't see me using a number of these recipes (even though they look amazing) as I don't have a deep fat fryer and it would be far too tempting to overindulge. If however health wasn’t an talking point, I would happily dive into “Aloo Tikki”, “Amritsari Fish Pakoras”, “Batata Vadas and Samosa Chaat”. If I were to break my frying rule for one recipe, as a special treat, it would be for the “Pulled Tandoori Lamb Kathi Roll” - that's pulled lamb in an egg fried wrap - oh my!!!! I also quite like the idea of the steamed little “Dhokla Muffins”; a light, fluffy, savoury cake flavoured with garlic, ginger and chilli, with some seasoned oil over the top.
Chapter two, "All About Curry" features, funnily enough, some curry recipes. Nitisha explains the importance of respecting your ingredients and cooking them correctly. My favourite recipe in this chapter has to be the “Duck Pepper Stir-Fry”.
"It's A Celebration" (chapter three), covers all of those super-indulgent recipe ideas that you can turn to when you have a get-together. I'm not a fan of lobster, so I can't see myself making the “Masala Lobster”, but I think you would be hard-pressed to find another meal that looks quite so impressive! I personally would be fighting for a second helping of either "Sweet and Sour Mallard Breast" or “Gosht Dum Biriyani”.
The fourth chapter gives you all of your "Vegetarian Dishes and Side Dishes". Initially, on seeing the chapter title, I felt a little disappointed. I was wondering why vegetarian dishes and side dishes had been lumped together, when surely there are enough dishes out there to make two individual chapters. As it turns out, it is probably the side dishes that have missed out here, as there are some lovely looking things that I'd happily eat as a main, such as “Tuvaar/Toor Dhal”, “Channa Masala” and “Chickpea, Kale and Coconut Korma”. As far as side dishes go, I'd also happily eat a bowl of the “Masala Roasted Potatoes” as a main all to myself too.
Penultimate chapter "Rice, Chutney and Raita" turns out to be more interesting than it firsts sounds. There are some lovely looking items like "Kedgeree", "Chicken Biriyani" (an everyday biriyani rather than a celebratory version mentioned above) and “Goan Sausage and King Prawn Jumbo Shrimp Pilaf”.
Finally, "Delightful Desserts" satisfies everybody with a sweet tooth (that's everyone right?). There are just so many lovely flavours to choose from, such as “Pistachio Ice Cream”, “Mango and Mint Kulfi”, the deeply unhealthy but-oh-so-tempting “Rose Water and Cardamom Gulab Jamun”, and “Darjeeling Chai Panna Cotta”.
I am very fond of this book, it's like a warming spiced hug. I love the idea of making things easier and quicker to cook, and I like the variety of flavours and textures strewn throughout. Everything sounds delightful and, thanks to photography by Clare Winfield, it looks it too. Whether it is the recipes themselves or the colourful, fresh backgrounds and borders created from pretty embroidered fabrics, everything about this book feels authentic - I almost expect to feel a wave of heat, and smell the aroma of toasted spices drifting from the pages.
My Modern Indian Kitchen by Nitisha Patel
Photography by Clare Winfield
Published by Ryland, Peters & Small