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Authentic Recipes from India    by Brinder Narula, Vijendra Sanjay Mulkani & Thomas John order for
Authentic Recipes from India
by Brinder Narula
Order:  USA  Can
Periplus, 2004 (2004)
* * *   Reviewed by Hilary Williamson

The first impression of this exotic looking cookbook is of its splendid photography, not only of the mouth-watering dishes themselves, but of their cultural context, including the implements and spices in a traditional Indian kitchen. The book opens with an introduction to the 3,000 years of tradition and variety in Indian food, influenced by a history of conquests, by religion and caste, as well as a great range in climates and produce available. The typical foods of each region are described, as well as the combinations of spices (masalas) used in them (also for medicinal purposes) and other authentic ingredients like Basmati rice and Chironji nuts.

The section on recipes begins with general advice on planning an Indian meal, and with spice mixtures, pickles and chutneys, relishes and drinks. Preparation and cooking times are included for all recipes. I've often eaten Samosas and Pakoras but have never made them, so welcome the recipes here, and am intrigued by Deep-fried Banana and Potato Fritters. I'm also happy to have recipes for Indian flat breads like Chapatis, Puris and Naan (have a griddle on a new gas oven I plan to cook them on). I once enjoyed South Indian food (in a Calcutta hotel) and now look forward to trying Dosai (rice flour pancakes) at home. There are all kinds of delicious sounding rice/lentil combinations, and Paneer (a tasty kind of Indian cheese - the recipe is here also) is featured in many recipes.

The cookbook gives a wide variety of spicy selections for vegetarians, as well as plenty of choices in fish and shellfish curries (I've only tried shrimp before, but plan to expand my repertoire). Curried Crabs with Coconut anyone? I expected to find Chicken Tikka and Tandoori Chicken here, but Parsi Chicken Curry (served with deep-fried potato straws) also looks appealing. Feel like sampling a Portuguese influence on Indian cuisine? There's Goan Pork Vindaloo (once taken on sea voyages). I must try Braised Masala Leg of Lamb, which is apparently incredibly tender, and the picture of Lamb Meatballs in Cashew Almond Gravy makes me salivate.

On to desserts (yes, there are Indian desserts). Gulab Jamun (often served in Indian restaurants) is here as well as a nutty Indian version of ice cream, a sweet yoghurt/saffron dessert, rice pudding, cream cheese balls in syrup, and a southern coconut dessert. Authentic Recipes from India is a feast for the eyes as well as the tastebuds, a cookbook that I will enjoy exploring over the years. If you've eaten only Indian restaurant food and are ready to try your hand at home, get yourself a copy and get cooking.

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