I’ve rediscovered my cooking mojo, after more than a year of being almost completely disinterested in doing anything in the pots and pans department. My fall from culinary grace began when we moved out of our house and into a series of short-term lets (seems a lifetime ago now, when we renovated our home, but we’ve actually been back in for less than twelve months) and all of these lets, without exception, had terribly equipped kitchens*. There’s nothing more disheartening, cooking-wise, than trying to chop an onion with a rusty bread knife and stir your pasta sauce with a plastic spatula. (You could have bought utensils! I hear you say, but I was very pregnant and trying to deal with a money-pit Grand Designs project. I had other things on my mind.)
Anyway, as I said, I’m back on the cooking train and enjoying making my favourite food: curries. And rather than cracking out my faithful old recipes, tried and tested, I’m making an effort to discover new flavours and techniques – jazz things up a bit. Coconut prawn curries, spicy stir-fried greens, fresh and zingy relishes with mint, coriander and lime. All of it healthy, quick and supremely tasty. When it comes to Indian food I have three books that I like to turn to the most – I thought I’d give you a little run-down, in case you’re thinking of having a go!
Madhur Jaffrey’s Curry Easy, £17.95 here.
Mahur Jaffrey has dozens of brilliant Indian books, but this is the one I always pull out for ideas, especially when I have stuff to use up in the fridge – a cauliflower, a load of courgettes, too many shallots – and want a quick way of cooking it. This book covers everything from simple stir-fried prawns to tandoori-style duck breasts and there are lots of brilliant meat-free recipes too. The recipes are easy to follow and the photos are appetising – this is probably the book I’d start with if I’d never made a curry before…
Rick Stein’s India (£17.68 here) is a proper visual feast. If you ever do that thing where you eat lunch on your own and read cookbooks to get excited about dinnertime (please tell me someone else does this?) then buy India to add to your appetite-whetting arsenal.
There are so many fresh-looking, vibrant dishes in this book and the photography is just excellent – it’s like a stylish travel book! Favourite recipe? Prawn Curry with Green Chillis from Calcutta (page 136) though I feel as though I’ve eaten nearly everything in the book because I’ve stared at each page intensely about five hundred times.
Camellia Panjabi’s 50 Great Curries of India (£8.48 here) is just an absolute cracker of a book and probably my number one curry “bible”. I’ve had it for about ten years, I think, and it has served me well through many a dinner party “feast” – there are whole sections on relishes and chutneys and dals, so you can easily create a colourful, varied spread of dishes. It’s just a small paperback but it’s packed full of information and gives you the basics for gravies and so on, if you want to be able to cobble together your own authentic-tasting dishes.
Favourite recipe in this one? The Malabar Prawn Curry – I must have prepared this a hundred times or more.
*disclaimer: I also stayed in my cousin’s flat when our short-term lets ran out and this had a very well equipped kitchen, just in case she’s reading!