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India: the Cookbook – book review

14 October 2010 by

India: the Cookbook
By Pushpesh Pant
Phaidon Press, £29.95
ISBN 978-0-7148-5902-6

In the competitive world of cookbooks there is always the demand for a comprehensive collection of recipes, so it's surprising that this book of 1,000 Indian recipes is the first of its size and scope.

India: the Cookbook guides readers through all the basics of Indian cuisine while also giving extensive background information by explaining the history of Indian food culture as well as providing information on ingredients, techniques and utensils.

For instance, it includes a chapter on the traditional system of Hindu medicine, Ayurveda, which is based on the idea of balance in bodily systems. Its core belief system is that all foods have different properties and a direct effect on our health and mental wellbeing.

Author Pushpesh Pant has dedicated the last 20 years to travelling and researching India's gastronomic heritage and to illustrate its history and evolution, lists a detailed description of the country's 10 major culinary regions.

The recipes, meanwhile, are divided into 11 different chapters from spice mixtures and pastes to Indian desserts. A chapter on pickles, chutneys and rattas explains not only the importance of preservation in India but also the instrinsic presence of fiery pickles, mild fruit chutneys and yogurt-based raitas, while chapters on pulses, breads and rice discuss and illustrate the importance of accompaniments in any Indian meal.

The main recipe sections are divided into two chapters - snacks and appetisers, and main dishes, which again are subdivided into vegetables, fish and seafood, and meat sections comprising hundreds of recipes.

Finally, the book also features a chapter with recipes from some of the world's most celebrated Indian chefs, including our very own Alfred Prasad, Tamarind; Vivek Singh, Cinnamon Club; and Anirudh Arora, Moti Mahal.

Illustrated with 200 specially commissioned colour photographs and unique illustrations, India: The Cookbook is clearly aimed at the home cook. It provides a great introduction and extensive overview of the country's rich culinary history and diversity, and is a must read for anyone interested in Indian cooking.

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