Cookbook Review: Raghavan Iyer - 660 Curries

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Posted by Petra Hildebrandt

Indian was my first love - when it comes to foreign cuisines - for a German girl, Indian food was as exotic as it gets. Yes, I've had my share of pasta and of Spanish and Austrian cooking, but when I started to cook seriously - and was a teenage and later twen vegetarian - I fell deeply in love with Indian food. Head over heels, to be honest. It started with Julie Sahni's terrific Classic Indian Vegetarian Cookery, and the love intensified later, watching Madhur Jaffrey on the BBC traveling through India an showing regional cuisine in the Flavors of India series.

A love that never faded, although I have left the world of vegetarian eating a decade ago (for health reasons, actually, but that's another story.)

So, when my husband handed me a review from Slashfood in the Cookbook of the Day column, I didn't hesitate a second to order

Raghavan Iyer - 660 Curries

The back cover quotes Madhur Jaffrey with "This book is nothing short of a treasure chest, containing an endless supply of very authentic Indian recipes, each bursting with the true flavors of Indias many regions." - and who am I to dispute Indian cooking with her?

The sections of the book:
  • Poultry, Game and Egg Curries
  • Beef, Lamb and Pork Curries
  • Fish & Seafood Curries
  • Paneer Curries
  • Legume Curries
  • Vegetable Curries
  • Contemporary Curries
  • Biryani Curries
  • Curry Cohorts

cover about everything you'll need to know about Indian curries (and cooking) in a lifetime. From traditional to modern and fusion cuisine, from makkaroni & paneer to bitter melon with onion and tomato, a myriad of fresh and classic tastes awaits the adventurous cook. The Curry Cohorts section adds rice dishes and breads as well as pickles and chutneys to the menu.

The part about vegetable and legume aka vegetarian curries is enormous, as is the variety of dishes offered in this book. I have made 18 dishes from the book so far - spice blends are a part of it, and I enjoyed Punjabi Garam Masala, one of the recipes, tremendously. Each and every one of the recipes I've tried was good, which is quite the quota for me, when it comes to cookbooks. But not only were they good - most of them were plain terrific, stunningly delicious.

The recipes are explained thoroughly, substitution hints are given for not-so-common ingredients, and although (aside from the front and back flap) there are no pictures you'll start drooling the very moment you read the first recipe.

This is without doubt the best cookbook buy of 2008 in my shelves. I can highly recommend it to anyone who loves Indian cooking (and I've collected a few Indian cookbooks and then some over the years). With Iyers big book of Indian curries you'll be equipped with tons of ideas to choose from in your cooking life - and I bet your family will love it as much as I do.

(if you do read German, there is a list of recipes from the book - with links - in my blog at the German review, recipes which my friend Chili & Ciabatta and I have tried and blogged, so go ahead and have a look). Iyer's recipe for (great) Mulligatawny can be found here (accompanying text in German, but recipe in English) - and to make your mouth water I've decided to tease you with his version of Bharela Baingan.

Cashew-8tuffed Baby Eggplant with Tomatoes and Spices - Bharela Baingan

Baby eggplants are not bitter at all, as the gargantuan ones (the Italian variety), widely available in American supermarkets, can be. These bell-shaped, light purple varieties, roughly 2 to 3 inches long, are easy to find in Asian grocery stores. They can also be found at neighborhood farmers' markets at the tail end of summer, especially in areas where there are concentrations of Asian immigrants. If they are unavailable, however, you can use the standard large variety.

1/2 cup raw cashew nuts, ground
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems
I tablespoon mango powder, or fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons cumin seeds, ground
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse kosher or sea solt
1/2 teaspoon cayenne (ground red pepper)
1/2 teaspoon Punjabi garam masola (recipe is in the book, or use regular Garam Masala)
8 to 10 small purpIe Indian (or 1 medium-size Italian) eggplants (about 1 pound total)
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup conned crushed tomotoes
1 teaspoon white granulated sugar

1 . Combine the ground cashews, 2 tablespoons of the cilantro, the mango powder, cumin, salt, cayenne, and garam masala in a small bowl. Stir together thoroughly.

2. If you are using small eggplants, wash them well but do not remove the sterns. Slit each eggplant threequarters of the way through by making two crosswise slits, forming an X. (Make sure you do not accidentally cut through the entire length. This keeps them held together and makes the pan-frying a bit easier.) If you are using one large eggplant, rinse it well and remove the stem. Slice the eggplant crosswise into 2-inch-thick rounds. Slit each piece three-quarters of the way through by making two crosswise slits, forming an X. Make sure you do not accidentally cut through the skin. You can use kitchen twine to tie them closed after you stuff them.

3. Stuff each eggplant with the spice-nut mixture (as much as you can push into the slits). Don't worry if some of the filling falls out; most of it will remain inside.

4. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the stuffed eggplants, arranging them in a single layer, and sear them on the underside, 1 to 2 minutes. Sprinkle any remaining filling over the eggplants, reduce the heat to low, and cover the skillet. Roast the eggplants, turning them occasionally (gently) with a pair of tongs, until they are fork-tender, about 30 minutes. As much as you are tempted, do not raise the heat to expedite the roasting; you will burn the spices and make the eggplant unpalatable.

5. Carefully lift the eggplants out of the skillet and transfer them to a serving platter.

6. Pour the crushed tomatoes and the sugar into the pan, and scrape the bottom of the skillet to incorporate all those wonderful pan drippings left behind after roasting the eggplant. Turn up the heat to medium-high and bring the sauce to a boil. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the sauce thickens, about 3 minutes.

7. Stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon cilantro, pour the sauce over the eggplant, and serve.


This post was written by Petra from Foodfreak

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I have this book and i am totally in love with the book.
I have tries few legume dishes from the book and they were all delicious and tried a Non veg dish which was so so yummy too.
If you have this book it is a real treasure.

Finla said...
March 6, 2009 at 5:02:00 PM GMT+1  

ive issued this book from the library countless times, i love it too! Good review.

ms said...
March 7, 2009 at 4:11:00 PM GMT+1  

i love this book! I bought it last year and it's one of my treasures! simple and tasty Indian dishes!

Meeta K. Wolff said...
March 12, 2009 at 2:07:00 PM GMT+1  

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