By Madhur Jaffrey
Ebury Press – £20.00
Cookbooks come and cookbooks go, but as is resoundingly well known amid the cooking fraternity, Madhur Jaffrey is most certainly in the know – especially in relation to curry. Hence, the title of her most recent book, Curry Easy. Hence, a menagerie of taste buds throughout the entire British Isles doing the rumba at the mere mention of the word (curry).
In fact, I’ve known grown men who will travel the best part of a hundred miles, especially if they’re vegetarian, just to visit their favourite restaurant such as Khans in Bayswater, London – which really does take some beating. And who can blame them? Downing a good curry is after all, akin to writing a really constructive essay or having completed a really arduous, but fulfilling run. Upon completion of a great Prawn Biryani or a Bangladeshi White Korma or whatever else happens to pique your pallet, oodles of gastronomically induced endorphins are unleashed. So it’s hardly surprising therefore, to discover an array of current curry cookbooks on the market.
Where better to start than with this collection of over 175 recipes from one of the world’s leading authorities on Indian cooking, Madhur Jaffrey. It’s a tight, compact and very easy to follow cookbook (which may account for its title), in which the authoress magnanimously, albeit succinctly writes at the outset of the book’s Introduction: ‘’What gives Indian cuisine its uniqueness, its tingling excitement and its health-giving properties, is the knowledgeable use of spices and seasonings, which is ancient in its provenance. It is this very use of spices and seasonings that appears daunting to many approaching Indian cooking for the first time.’’
All things considered, Jaffrey has herein hit a collective hesitation towards Indian cooking on the head, and good on her for doing so. As unlike many dishes, a quality curry from scratch as opposed to from the shelf at Sainsbury’s, isn’t the easiest of culinary ventures – as well she knows and appears to essentially understand: ‘’My purpose in writing this book is to vanquish that fear, to make Indian dishes as simple and straightforward to prepare as, say, a beef stew, to hold your hand through the entire process with clear instructions and detailed explanations.’’
In so writing and invariably doing, Jaffrey has attempted to dispel the myth that Indian cookery is complicated, and has thereby developed no fuss recipes, dedicated to all cooking sensibilities. This might explain why the ‘Rice & Other Grains’ section for instance, is as (surprisingly) good as it is. Likewise, the chapter on ‘Relishes & Accompaniments,’ where, if you want to impress some dinner guests, this ought well be the place from which to embark. Reason being, it’s a lot more interesting than the usual mango pickle or raita so often served at restaurants.
To be honest, Curry Easy did at first seem a tad overwhelming, but this initial impression was soon cast aside upon closer examination, as everything really is, quite straightforward. The only down side, is there aren’t quite enough pictures, because at the end of the day, we all like to have an image of what our creations should actually look like – even if they don’t come anywhere near close! That aside, said minor point is more than made up for by way of the tremendous chapter on ‘Vegetables’ (almost all of which can be served with Western, Asian, as well as Indian dishes), not to mention the rather ace Stir Fried Chicken Breast with Black Pepper and Green Chillies on page eighty-one, served with the suggested Tomato Pullao on page 206. Which, as my partner and me have found, is indeed, mouth wateringly fab.