Book review: The World Vegetarian by Roopa Gulati

21 May 2020 by
Book review: The World Vegetarian by Roopa Gulati

India: The World Vegetarian is the latest instalment in Bloomsbury's new World Vegetarian cookbook series, which so far also includes Mexico, Italy and Japan.

One of the benefits of vegetarian Indian cuisine is that you never feel like you're ‘replacing' meat in dishes, as so much is inherently vegetarian. Indeed, author Roopa Gulati points out that around 70% of Gujaratis are vegetarian and there are at least 60 types of lentils and pulses used across India in recipes, from dhals to pakoras, savoury doughnuts and pancakes.

Cordon Bleu-trained Gulati formerly worked as consultant chef to the Taj Group of hotels and ran her own catering business in India, and now works as an author, broadcaster and consultant in the UK. Her 70 recipes range from the fertile plains of Punjab in north India, where crisp, ghee-laden parathas, tarka dhal and cumin-spiced vegetables are staples; to the more desert-like climate of Rajasthan, where many dishes are slow-cooked in yogurt to conserve scarce water supplies.

This book is split into three chapters: small plates (including snacks, sides and dhals, pulses and rice); large plates; and breads and relishes. There are also techniques pages offering tips on ghee; grinding and frying spices; making your own garam masala, tamarind pulp or paneer; and smoking.

Although some may struggle to find a few of the specific chilli and lentil varieties in the local supermarket during lockdown, Gulati is reassuring that dhals are "forgiving and open to interpretation", and so I fully intend to experiment with the variety of dhal recipes within, from makhani and tarka to green gram with crispy fried onions. Now feels like the perfect time to try naans, chaaptis, puris and parathas, while the squash and sweet potato vindaloo, matter paneer and butterbean and cashew masala also caught my eye. Although the World Vegetarian series is meant for the home cook, it could be a useful guide for chefs looking to extend their vegetarian repertoire.

India: The World Vegetarian by Roopa Gulati (Bloomsbury, £20)

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