Cookbook Review: Madhur Jaffrey Indian Cooking
I'd dabbled in Indian cooking for several years, borrowing recipes from Indian friends and so forth. But my repertoire has been greatly expanded by a cookbook I picked up last year, Madhur Jaffrey Indian Cooking. Madhur Jaffrey is an Indian-American cookbook author and actress, and she is widely viewed as a premier popularizer of Indian cooking in the US, in the same sense as Marcella Hazan is of Italian food and Julia Child was of French food. I've used some of Jaffrey's vegetarian cookbooks in the past, but this newish book is my favorite of hers.
There's a fine line many cookbooks seem to miss between being too basic and being completely ridiculously complex. A too-basic Indian cookbook would call for "curry powder", which is not a real Indian ingredient. Buying whole spices is cheap, and grinding them in a spice grinder is worth the trouble for the additional flavor you get. A too-complex cookbook would be something along the lines of China Moon, a California-Chinese cookbook written by a restaurant owner, where every dish requires three secret spice mixtures, 12 hours of marinating, and separate deep-frying, roasting, and stir-frying of various ingredients. Not practical. (Although the results can be fantastic.) Jaffrey's book seems to hit the sweet spot. There's a mix of simpler side dishes, more complicated main dishes, and everyday curries and daals. She assumes you have a spice grinder, but makes no other dramatic requirements on the home cook. And almost everything I've made out of the book has been fantastic.
Some favorites include Beef Baked with Yogurt and Black Pepper, which is a dry stew baked in a sealed pot in the oven, Lemony Chicken with Fresh Coriander, Eggs Vindaloo, which is a spicy, garlicy, and fantastically vinegary dish, a dead simple and fantastic Cabbage with Peas side dish, Whole Green Lentils with Spinach and Ginger, and a Coriander Chutney that is unbelievable with the little frozen samosas I can get at a neighborhood Bangladeshi deli.
Here's the recipe for an Egg and Potato Curry I made recently. The photo is cheating -- it's a photo of the photo in the book, not of my actual preparation, which was not so beautifully plated and lit... I served this with basmati rice made the way an Indian friend taught me. Add a bay leaf, a few whole cloves, a few cardamom pods, and a cinnamon stick to the rice and steam it normally. Makes your house smell fantastic...
Unday Aur Aloo
2 cloves garlic, minced
1" cube ginger, minced or grated
1 lb potatoes, peeled
6 T vegetable oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1/8 t ground cayenne pepper
1 T ground coriander
1 t flour
4 T yogurt
5 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped
1 1/2 t salt
1/2 t garam masala (best if you make your own!)
1T minced cilantro
1. Hard boil the eggs. (14 minutes in simmering water.) Prep the other ingredients. Cut the potatoes into 1/2" french fry sized sticks.
2. Heat oil in a large non-stick or cast iron fry pan. Lightly fry potatoes until golden brown but not cooked through. Remove to a plate.
3. Add onions, cook until medium brown. Lower heat to medium. Add garlic and ginger and fry 30 seconds. Add cayenne, coriander, and flour and cook for a minute. Add yogurt a tablespoon at a time, stirring to incorporate. Add tomatoes and cook 2 minutes. Add 10 oz water, bring to a boil, cover, and simmer on low 10 minutes.
4. Add potatoes, bring back to a boil, re-cover, and simmer on low 10 minutes. Stir in garam masala and cilantro.
5. Peel and halve eggs and add, cut sides up. Spoon sauce over the eggs and simmer, covered, on low for 5 minutes.