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Twelve Months of Cookbooks: April|”Quick & Easy Indian Cooking” by Madhur Jaffrey

Is that May over the horizon?

This month, we’re taking a look at Madhur Jaffrey’s excellent “Quick & Easy Indian Cooking.”  This is not a book I would ordinarily be inclined toward – if you ask anyone who has ever had to clean up for me after I cook, my style is neither “quick” nor is it “easy.”*  I like to think my painstaking method of food prep lends itself to “authentic,” but that’s probably my own fanciful idea rather than an accurate reflection of reality.  Digressions and self-depreciations aside, my husband is the one who bought this book.  As with so many things in our home, it’s a welcome addition and another reason I’m very glad I live with him.

I’m not sure I’d call the recopies in this cookbook “authentic” – I’m not Indian and I’ve spent no time in India or studying India or its cuisine, so I have no idea what “authentic” Indian cooking is.  I do know that I love the Indian food we’ve been able to eat in Los Angeles, and that we have a couple of highly recommended Indian cookbooks that have helped us prepare some amazing meals.  Of all of them, this book is far and away our go-to.  Because it is “quick & easy,” the recipes are fairly straightforward and not all that time consuming.**

But the thing I really like about Indian cooking is that it’s generally both economical and healthy.  There are a lot of vegetarian, if not vegan, recipes in Indian cuisine.  They are heavily spiced*** so everything is quite flavorful, without being salty.  And the spices are different than many other cuisines**** so it makes eating Indian food fun and like an adventure.

One of the great features of this cookbook is that if you’re new to Indian cooking, there are a few things that will feel slightly more western.  A dish like “Fish Fillets in a Curry Sauce” (pg. 67) is essentially oven fried fish with cream sauce that happens to be flavored with curry powder.  If you’re spice shy, just tone down the curry power until you like the flavor.  And curry powders can be mild as well as spicy, so there is a lot of room for experimentation.  There are also recipes like “Rice with Peas and Dill,” (pg. 107) which is just pilaf that includes garam masala and some other spices not generally used in western cooking.  This is a great side dish that works well as a staple substitute for anything you’d normally serve with boiled rice.

Overall, this is a great Indian starter cookbook and a wonderful addition to the kitchen library.  If you’re not at all acquainted with Indian cooking, this will get you going without needing much anything out of the ordinary aside from a few spices available at most grocery stores***** .  If you are more experienced but self-taught as far as Indian cooking goes, you will find new combinations and ideas that showcase how flexible Indian cooking is.


Twelve Months of Cookooks Quick Recap:

The book: Madhur Jaffrey’s Quick & Easy Indian Cooking
How long I’ve owned it: One or two years
Three things I’ve made from it  that always turn out, without fail: “Hamburger” Kebabs – page 25, Fish Fillets in a Curry Sauce – page 67, Rice with Peas and Dill – page 107

*My step-mother has taken to calling post-cooking annihilated kitchen with all the pots and pans dirty (think Thanksgiving) a “Katie kitchen.”  Yes, “Katie” is my childhood nickname, and no, I don’t like being called “Katie.” 🙂
**A few words on “quick” when applied to cooking – there is no real “quick” in cooking.  It’s a process.  Sure, you can make a sandwich and that’s pretty fast.  You can also do a lot of advance preparation for things that make dishes come together quickly at the end.  And certainly, the more you make something, the more skilled you will become, and the faster it will go.  But really, there is not much “quick” in cooking.  It’s like quick diets or getting rich quick – these things generally just take time.  And it’s time well spent.
***Although sometimes I think that the recipes in cookbooks published here are spiced down for American palettes.  We almost always add more spice, sometimes doubling the amount of things like garam masala.
****Although I’ve noticed a lot of similarities between the spices used in Indian, Latin and other Asian cooking, as well as an amazing variety of vegetable dishes…hmmm….
*****Although if you have an Indian or Latin or even Asian market available, I highly recommend a visit.  The spices (and many ingredients you can use) will generally be cheaper and it’s a really fun trip!

One Comment

  1. I have this book in my ‘to try’ pile – so pleased to hear it’s good!

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