The recipe for recipe books


If you’re reading this as a member of a foodie Asian family, then this post probably won’t make much sense. You KNOW how to make a great curry, and the recipes are in your DNA. You know your achar from your elaichi. Curry genius is all second nature.

For the rest of us… there are recipe books.

If there’s one national cuisine that you truly can’t bluff you way through, it’s Indian. The sheer number of spices, herbs, seeds, grains and legumes you’ll need (not to mention the thousands of different permutations of grinding, mixing and cooking with them) make the chances of guessing your way to a great curry virtually zero. In fact, take your eyes off a curry recipe for ten minutes – and you’re almost certainly heading off-piste (in a bad way).

Curry recipe books are the Magna Carta of successful Indian cooking.

If you start your search for Indian recipe books in Waterstone’s, it doesn’t look too intimidating. Even the bigger branches stock 15-20 curry cookbooks at any one time – normally a smattering of ‘British Celebrity Chef does Curry’ (Hairy Bikers, Gordon Ramsey… take a bow) plus a selection of books by Indian authors. It all looks pretty manageable.

Then you go online, and experience your culinary Big Bang. Like medieval man swapping a geocentric view of the solar system for a glimpse of Planet Earth as a grain of sand on a beach – you realise the ‘curryverse’ is infinite.

Try it for yourself.

Search for a curry cookbook online, click on ‘people also bought’, click again, again, and again… and you’ll never even glimpse the horizon. Splintering off into sub-sections (vegetarian, regional, religious, seasonal, travelogue, historical, nutritional… and many more) there’s an infinity of Indian recipe books out there.

And you want the best of the best.

You want a cookbook that’s perfect for your stage in your ‘curry journey’. You want a book with soul, a book that will give you the alchemical power to cook the most delicious food that you or your friends have ever eaten.

That’s where my next posts will go.

Over the coming days, I’ll review dozens of curry cookbooks under the following themes:

  • Getting started (great, simple recipes)
  • Multi-country (cuisines of different Asian countries)
  • Multi-regional (cuisines of different Indian states)
  • Regional (cuisines of individual Indian states)
  • Masterclass (gourmet/ restaurant)
  • Beyond beyond (historical/ encyclopaedias)

And somewhere on that journey, I promise to review ‘fennel-scented parathas with sugar’ – a pan-fried bread which we cooked at home this week and re-defines the concept of ‘savoury and sweet’. Indescribably delicious.

Can anyone tell me the Hindi for ‘bon appetit’?

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