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Book review –  Capital Spice

25 September 2012
Book review –  Capital Spice

Capital Spice
By Chrissie Walker
Bloomsbury Publishing, £25
ISBN 9781906650728

Indian food has long been a staple in the British diet, earning curry the title of the nation's favourite dish. But only recently has real regional Indian food gained recognition on these shores.

Increasingly Indian restaurants are becoming more authentic, reflecting the diversity and invention of a cuisine that goes way beyond the ‘traditional' masala and jalfrezi. Nowhere outside the subcontinent is this more evident than in London, which boasts some of the finest Indian restaurants in the world.

Capital Spice focuses on a collection of chefs in the capital who are credited with reformatting our understanding of Indian cuisine beyond the Bangladeshi-inspired British curry house cooking. Compiled by food writer Chrissie Walker, the book is a collection of recipes from 21 Indian restaurants along with biographies of each chef.

As the writer acknowledges, it doesn't cover every exponent of fantastic Indian cooking in London, just those that were willing to participate in the project. But there are many recognisable names, from fine-dining chefs to those running celebrated neighbourhood restaurants. Most share five dishes, which offer a cross-section of taste and style.

Contributors include Tamarind's Alfred Prasad, Vivek Singh and Atul Kochhar, who explains the philosophy behind Benares and shares his squid salad and a chicken tikka pie with spiced berry compote. Meanwhile Cyrus and Pervin Todiwala explain their struggle to open Café Spice Namasté and describe how to prepare masala nu roast gos, a Parsee-style roasted joint of lamb, and leeli kolmi ni curry, which translates as green prawn curry.

Representatives from the exciting neighbourhood restaurants include Navin Bhatia from Dockmaster's House, Claire Fisher from Ganapati in Peckham, and Sanjay Anand from Madhu's in Southall, who share recipes for roasted aubergine soup, vegetable istoo (a stew cooked in coconut milk) and chilli chicken respectively.

Though pitched as a reference for the home cook there is plenty in Capital Spice to appeal to the professional chef. All those featured have a high regard for British produce, while bringing in their own brand of Indian inspiration, so most ingredients are easily sourced.

The biographies of each chef are a little light in culinary detail but the recipes are sure to pack a punch.

If you like this, you'll love these:
Food of the Grand Trunk Road Anirudh Arora and Hardeep Singh Kohli
â- India: The Cookbook Pushpesh Pant
â- Madhur Jaffrey's Ultimate Curry Bible Madhur Jaffrey

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