Thursday, 13 December 2012

Book review: Quick and Easy Indian Cookbook

It's very rare for me to cook curry at home, as I've said before. So when I was asked to try out the Quick and Easy Indian Cookbook by the Three Sisters, I took as a good opportunity to increase my somewhat basic knowledge.

Despite the title, prepping the various spice mixes was time-consuming. The ginger and garlic paste used in many recipes took me half an hour to make, most of that peeling the garlic cloves. However, it made a generous quantity that can be kept in the fridge or frozen in ice trays and it's the kind of thing I would use for non-Indian dishes too, so I didn't mind. Likewise, toasting and grinding spices before the cooking could begin - I spent 30 minutes preparing the chaat masala spice mix (which is used in many of the book's other dishes). The recipes themselves were mostly fairly straightforward once everything was prepped, although a major challenge for me was working out how to cut down recipes intended for 4 or 6 people into 1 or 2 portions.

I was wary of the chopped green chilli in the Cumin Chicken as I don't like fierce heat, but I needn't have worried. The finished dish was warm and fragrant rather than searing although mine looked rather wetter than the book's photo of it. I made a little tomato and cucumber raita to go with it (not in the book).

The book gives a recipe for making paneer but my kitchen doesn't have the space for setting cheese curds aside to drain so I bought some from an Asian supermarket and cooked two recipes. The shahi paneer, or royal Indian cheese, was a fragrant tomatoey casserole that turned the paneer into very soft curds. The shallow-fried paneer chaat really was quick and easy. I will definitely make both these again.

The gosht boti (lamb chops with tomato) were a disappointment, tasting very bland despite the large number of spices. The instructions were also a baffling mess - during the browning of the meat it says to boil off the water, except the water gets added much later.
The Goan fish curry, which I made with king prawns, really hit the mark. Packed with ginger, garlic and chilli and softened with the coconut milk, it soothed the cold I was suffering from. Despite the long list of ingredients, it was simple to assemble and tasted amazing. And it was easy enough that I'd feel confident cooking it without the book on front of me.

All in all, it's definitely a book I'd cook from again especially if I had guests. A big downside is that too many recipes need you to toast whole spices then grind them as part of the cooking rather than something you can do ahead in quantity - that belies the claim of quickness. I've still got a few bookmarked recipes to try and of the five above, I'd make all of them again except the lamb chops.