Classic Cookbooks: Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cookery

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Virtually all the cookbook reviews I see are for new cookbooks, most of which are soon forgotten. Personally I don't see newness as a plus: the cookbooks I want to know about are the tried and true, the books that people have been cooking out of for years, that are food-stained and falling apart from overuse.

On my short list of such books, Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cookery stands out as particularly reliable. Everything I've cooked out of it has been delicious, and the recipes all work perfectly, probably because they were thoroughly tested in the course of producing the 1980s BBC TV series of the same name.

The book is out of print, but it's readily available used online for under $10 including shipping from the UK. Here are a couple of favorite recipes that I've streamlined from her originals a bit over the years:

Indian-style Beets

12 ounces raw Full Belly white beets (or other raw beets)
4 tbsp. corn oil (or other vegetable oil with a high smoke point)
1 tsp. whole cumin
2 cloves garlic
4 ounces onion, coarsely chopped
1 tsp. flour
1/2 tsp. cayenne
8 ounces Pomi chopped tomatoes
1 tsp. salt
1 cup water

Peel the beets and cut into wedges roughly the size of one section of an orange. Mix the flour and cayenne in a small dish or cup. Mix the tomatoes, salt, and water in a bowl. Put the oil in a five-quart Dutch oven or similar pot. Add the cumin to the oil. Press the garlic directly into the oil, or chop finely and add to the pot. Turn the heat on high and stir until the garlic begins to color. Add the onion and stir for two minutes. Add the flour and cayenne and stir for another minute. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Then lower heat, cover, and simmer for half an hour. Remove the lid, turn up the heat, and let boil for seven minutes to thicken sauce. Serve with rice or bread to soak up the delicious sauce.

Warm Carrot and Cabbage Salad

4 tbsp. corn oil (or other vegetable oil with a high smoke point)
1 tbsp. brown or black mustard seeds
1/2 to 1 tsp. hot pepper flakes
pinch of asefetida
12 ounces shedded cabbage
12 ounces grated carrots
1 to 3 jalapeƱo or serrano chiles, seeded and sliced into thin strips
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
1 heaping tsp. salt
1 tbsp. lemon juice or juice of one Meyer lemon

Put the oil, mustard sees, hot pepper flakes, and asefetida in a five-quart Dutch oven or similar pot and stir until well mixed. Turn heat to medium-high. When mustard seeds begin to pop, throw in cabbage, carrots, and chiles, and stir for one minute. Add cilantro and salt, and stir for another five minutes. Remove from heat and stir in lemon juice. Serve immediately as a side dish or let cool to room temperature for a picnic or buffet. (If you use the larger amount of chiles and hot pepper, this will be quite spicy; the original recipe calls for 1/2 to 1 green chile and 1 whole dried red chile.)

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