I admit it - I have a love/hate relationship with Indian food. I grew up and live on the high, open plains of the Texas panhandle. The nearest good Indian restaurant is in Dallas, Texas (about 300+ miles from home). So my experiences with Indian food were almost nonexistent before my first visit to India.
On that first visit, my traveling companion and I noticed that almost all menus listed "fried chicken". Now, I do know something about fried chicken and am quite an aficionado! So every meal for 2 weeks, we ordered "fried chicken" - none of which tasted anything remotely like my Grandma used to make. Throughout the trip, we laughed and said that people at home would surely ask us how we liked the food in India to which we planned to reply "tastes just like fried chicken"!
Upon returning home, I was seriously disappointed in myself for not exploring and enjoying the food in India. So I took a solemn oath: I would never order from an Indian menu again (knowing that if left to my own devices, I would order fried chicken)! At meal time on every trip therafter, I politely refuse the menu and ask the waiter to order for me. In my best Hindi, I announce, "Please bring me your best food - what the local people like, not what the foreigners eat. It must be cooked, fresh, and delicious."
After a few confused looks and several attemtps to get me to select for myself, the waiter surrenders and then has a great time impressing me with his selections. I have eaten everything and loved almost all of it! Usually, I am served the regional specialty and almost always what the waiter himself loves. Many times, the cook/chef comes out of the kitchen to make certain that I'm delighted. And I pay much less than if I ordered for myself. I keep a small notebook in my pocket where I record the name of the restaurant, its location, the name of the waiter, and what I ate. It is a small volume of geography, art, culture and friendship.
So my lastest commitment is to learn more about Indian food and cooking. One of the best ways I've discovered in other cultures is to study cookbooks. I've read a few Indian ones and want to highly recommend a terrific find: Classic Indian Cooking by Julie Sahni.
Shani provides an excellent overview on the food of India; a good discussion on all the spices and herbs used; a section on cooking techniques; a discussion on the components of an Indian meal and selecting dishes that complement each other. In each of the recipe sections that follow, she provides several outstanding recipes that expemplify the food category she has described. At first, I was a little disappointed that there were only a few recipes in each category. However, I concluded that this approach works very well. Shani gives 2-3 excellent examples and discusses each one thereby helping you learn rather than simply providing a large number of recipes and expecting you to fend for yourself. If you are eager to learn about Indian cuisine - I recommend this cookbook highly.
What's your favorite Indian cookbook? Bon appetit!
"I am in love with India...where I find the heat and smells and oils and spices, and puffs of temple incense, and sweat and darkness, and dirt and lust and cruelty, and above all, things wonderful and fascinating innumerable." Kipling 1893
To the above practical books, I would like to add two books which are concerned more with the story of Indian food historically:
"Curry, A Tale of Cooks & Conquerors" by Lizzie Collingham, which is a super account of the history of Indian food; and
"The Calcutta Cook Book" by Minakshie Das Gupta, Bunny Gupta and Jaya Chaliha, which gives historical anecdotes along with the recipes. You will find in its pages recipes for Brain with fenugreek greens, descriptions of the menu at Firpo's, as well as a recipe for Halim.... :)
One of those 'only cookbook you'll ever need' type of things. At first sight I thought with such a quantity of recipes the quality would be compromised. We have tried several of the recipes in the Indian restaurant where I work and have been continuously surprised. Have been pretty bummed with things from Madhur Jaffrey's books. Cooking at Home with Pedatha is also a really lovely vegetarian cookbook.
NonIndianResident~ Here are a few from my list that you might like... www.astray.com www.ecu...taskitchen.com spicediary.com sanjeevkapoor.com shabscuisine.blogspot.com showmethecurry.com [url]www.vahrehvah.com
I'm looking for instructions on how to make typical achar that we can store for several months (for the Ladakhi winter). Looking at these websites (and the websites and one cookbook I've looked at before) there are no comments from users, and I'm dubious about whether the person who wrote it really measured, or just listed random amounts.
For example, looking at your links, I got excited at one recipe on astray.com that said the pickle lasts 6 mo, using ingredients we've got here in Ladakh. But then I looked again, and it lists some 14 lbs (6 kg) of vegetables, and only 2 teapoons of salt and a 1/2 cup of chilli powder. I don't think so!!! So I'd love to find Indian recipes that either have comments from users or are from an author who is reliable and actually proofreads and tests their own recipes.
You can write to these wonderful ladies and I am sure they will try their best to help you out with your pickle making or whatever.
Divya Burman has also started a foodie group on Facebook called FOODIE BY NATURE. It is an open group and you can join it and ask the members for pickle recipes or whatever else you want. I am positive these ladies will jump right in to help you out. Do give it a try. Cheers! Tulsi
drinking tea alone-- everyday the butterfly stops by. Issa, Zen Master