Getting started

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For almost all of us, Indian cuisine starts with eating someone else’s cooking – and wanting to cook your own. The good news is that there are tried and tested recipe books which will help you do just that. And from the crack of the starting gun, you’ll be cooking some of the most delicious food you’ve ever eaten.

But which book do you choose?

Some books choose you.

The first Indian recipe book I owned was Cooking Class Indian: step-by-step to perfect results – a birthday present from wife Sue. I’ve cooked from it for four years, and the ghee and turmeric stained pages are proof of its happy times in our kitchen. Even now, I’d rate the recipe for Prawns Dhania Massala as one the most delicious  Indian seafood dishes I’ve eaten (and if you come to our home for a dinner party, you’ll get to know it). The recipes for Aromatic rice, Mixed dal and Mango kulfi are all sure-fire winners. If you’re feeling high-brow, then the numbered, step-by-step recipes and illustrations might feel a bit kindergarten. (And if you’re an alpha male, the Women’s Weekly masthead might be a deal breaker). But for everyone else, Cooking Class Indian is a practical, colourful and delicious first-step on a curry journey. Thank you, Sue.

Camelia Panjabi’s 50 Great Curries of India does what it says on the tin (or on the cover, to be more precise) and steers you through the masterpieces of traditional Indian cooking. The fifty page intro’ is a treasure trove of advice on the philosophy, ingredients and techniques on curry making. Panjabi’s CV as a restaurateur is world-class (Taj Hotels, Bombay Brasserie, Chutney Mary, Veeraswamy, Amaya) and the book oozes love for – and deep knowledge of – Indian food. The recipe for Lamb with plums is a personal all-time favourite. (And I could have cried with gratitude when Panjabi not only told me how to cook the dish – but when I’d seriously overdosed the chilli at a meal for 20 guests – also told me in the intro’ how to dial down the fire in any curry … simply add more of the astringent, in this case… plums). A landmark cookbook.

But we all have to have a favourite starter book, and mine – without question – is The Food of India: a journey for food lovers. Overlooking the fact that the word ‘food’ is repeated twice in the title (and that this wonderful volume comes from the dark star known as Murdoch Books) – The Food of India is a joy to own and cook with. Illustrated with mouth-watering images of street-food from end to end of India, the book steers you effortlessly from simple but delicious classics (Chilli Lamb Cutlets, Chuchumber, Methi Aloo) to high-end delights you struggle to find in gourmet cookbooks (Spiced Banana Flower, Chilli Crab). Every single recipe works with spectacular results, and if you cook your way from cover to cover you will be tempted to think you’re a Domestic Goddess (or God) of Indian cuisine.

In fact, you’ve dipped your little toe in the shallow end of the curryverse.

And you’re starting the culinary adventure of a lifetime.

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