As anyone who is a "foodie" or a lover of cooking knows, the culinary fare from India is not only one of the more popular, it is also one of the more healthy. Due to this fact, there are many cookbooks on the market today which feature Indian dishes. There are none, however, which present the flavors of Indian cooking in such a varied and easy-to-understand way as the latest cookbook from Rinku Bhattacharya entitled Spices & Seasons: Simple, Sustainable Indian Flavors (Hippocrene Books, 2014).
When a home cook first decides to venture into Indian cuisine, it can be daunting. You will be dealing with a myriad of spices and herbs and in most cases, the cookbook you're using will be of no help in introducing you to these staples of Indian cuisine. This is not the case with Spices & Seasons. Before you even get into the incredible dishes Rinku serves up, she will take you on a virtual tour of the essential spices and herbs in detailed fashion and as an added bonus, she goes into their nutritional attributes as well.
Where Spices & Seasons really shines, however, is in the simplicity of not just the recipes but in how the book is presented. No matter what you might be craving -- from appetizers to desserts -- you will find a section and within those sections will be recipes that are siimple to understand and if you should have some dietary restrictions, Rinku will often give variations for some of the ingredients. It should also be pointed out that for those who suffer from gluten allergies and those who are vegan/vegetarian, there are two indexes within the book pointing you to the dishes you can enjoy without worry.
Another item about this book which I find very special is the fact there are four sub-chapters dealing with the seasons (Spring,Summer, Autumn and Winter). Since we are currently into Summer, I want to share with you one of the dishes from the book that I prepared for a party the other night and which had my guests tongue's wagging, both literally and figuratively. Since I was going to be grilling some rather spicy entree's, I wanted a side-dish which would be refreshing. In Chapter Two: Palate Cleansing Pleasers: Salads, Condiments and Chutneys, I opted for Warm Red Cabbage Slaw with Pecans. The following recipe is from the book Spices & Seasons: Simple, Sustainable Indian Flavors (copyright 2014 Hippocrene Books):
Ingredients (serves 6):
- 1 Tbs. oil (mustard oil if you have it is great)
- 3/4 tsp. mustard seeds
- 1 Tbs. freshly grated ginger
- 2 cups grated red cabbage
- 1/2 tsp. salt or black salt or to taste
- 3 Tbs. fresh limes juice (about 1 lime)
- 1/2 tsp. honey
- 1 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 2 Tbs. chopped cilantro
- 4 Tbs. coarsely crushed pecans
- Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok on medium heat for a minute until the oil is hot but not smoking.
- Add the mustard seeds and wait for them to crackle. Add the ginger and saute lightly.
- Add the red cabbage and salt and toss well for 3 to 4 minutes until very slightly wilted.
- Place the cabbage mixture in a mixing bowl. In a small bowl stir together the lime juice, honey, and pepper flakes and toss with the cabbage mixture along with the cilantro.
- Cool the salad and place on a serving platter and serve topped with crushed pecans.
This is what Indian cuisine is all about! Flavor! Texture! Nutrition!
Spices & Seasons: Simple, Sustainable Indian Flavors is available at all bookstores and can be purchased from Amazon. It is a wondrous culinary tour of India. It is a great read, as Rinku shares stories about the dishes and anecdotes. Whether you're a novice to the cuisine of India or a cook who wants to increase their roster of Indian dishes, this book may be as close to perfect as you will find.