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Anjum's recipes, whilst vegetarian and certainly with an Indian influence, are not always what you might expect if your desire is to cook strictly traditional Indian vegetarian food. In fact, several recipe represent more `an Indian take or variation on a traditional English food' - so we have a cottage pie - using that traditional Indian ingredient Quorn (!?!) but spiced up with cardamom, ginger, coriander, chilli, garam masala and cumin. Also a similar approach to that English picnic staple the Scotch egg. This is food cooked by a woman with an Indian background who has grown up in the West.
Does this matter? Well I think she is doing what any creative cook does - adapting a recipe to what is easily available and will work. Personally, I love this approach, there is a warm hearted, forgiving, playful, organic, dynamic ethos to cooking, which this book absolutely espouses, and there is a purist, up its fundament, food-as-art-made-by-experts approach which terrifies people from engaging in something so fundamentally earthy as feeding yourself and others, joyfully.
Anjum does indeed give recipes which one would imagine are traditional - and she also takes a traditional Indian food and adapts it to what might be more readily available in the fridge or food cupboard of people from a non-Indian background
As an example of this, the first recipe I looked at `Savoury yoghurt kebabs' Anjum had substituted paneer by using Greek yoghurt and cheddar cheese!
So I actually laughed out loud (yes, I do have a slightly weird sense of humour) at the Cheddar cheese and Greek yoghurt. Both of these being staples in my fridge I could get cooking straight away, and in Anjum-ish fashion, did my own adaptation. I wanted to eat NOW and the instructions were to strain the yogurt for quite some time, to reduce the moisture. Sorry, too hungry, so did the obvious `use less' approach, constructing the mixture by the feel of the consistency. And delicious it was too
For the vegan cook - some recipes DO use ingredients which are not suitable, but she is not cheese or egg heavy, and I guess, in keeping with the adaptability within these pages, soy cheeses, soy creams, soy yoghurt could be employed for those recipes calling for something milk based - after all, if she happily uses that ancient traditional Indian sub-continent ingredient Quorn I don't see why soya yoghurt can't make an entrance!
My only slight cavil is that the ubiquitous full colour photos we all now demand from cookery books, does of course mean fewer recipes. My cookery book shelves groan with sauce encrusted paperbacks, dating back to the 70s and 80s, much more suitably sized for having in the kitchen, without a picture amongst them, and with each book housing about 3 times the number of recipes found in a more modern book
I would also have welcomed a little more information about the wide range of spices used in Indian food, and some guide on how to blend these together to achieve specific tastes, so that I could experiment more confidently and more freely, outside set recipes
I received this book as a free review copy, through the Amazon Vine (UK) programme