One of the best cookery programmes of the last few weeks has been Rick’s India on the BBC with the English restaurateur, chef, and cookery-school owner once again donning his signature blue and pink shirts embarking on a culinary odyssey in search of the world’s best food.
Having already focused on France, the Mediterranean, Spain and the Far East in programmes over the past number of years, his latest quest has been in search of the perfect curry. And, of course, having followed up his television programmes with such books as French Odyssey, Coast to Coast, Far Eastern Odyssey, and Rick Stein’s Spain, he has repeated ‘the recipe’, here, so to speak, with another ‘side-order’ as an accompaniment to this particular programme.
Like most of his previous books, Stein’s voice and philosophy can be heard throughout, whether he is talking about what curry really means to why saffron is often replaced with yellow food colouring in an ideal biryani. There are also tales about the culture of eating with one’s fingers in India; how eating in the subcontinent is not a series of courses; the importance of bread at mealtimes; the way to cook onions correctly; the ideal sequence for adding spice; and the significance of hygiene.
The recipes themselves are divided into dhaba (street snacks ); sabzi (vegetable dishes ); macchi (focusing on fish and shellfish ); murgh (creamy butter dishes ); gosht (meaty dishes ); meetha (sweet dishes ). The best of the recipes include those for millet and fenugreek flatbreads; green chilli and turmeric dhokla with prawns, curry leaves and mustard seeds; kakori kebabs; lamb koftas in yogurt with cinnamon and chilli; vegetable makhanwala; potato and cauliflower curry; butternut squash in sweet tamarind Masala; Keralan seafood biryani; Mangalore lobster Masala; fish fry with garlic, cumin and Kashmiri chilli; Rocky’s chicken korma; tandoori chicken; chicken and rosewater biryani; chicken skewers with cardamom; shami kebabs; lamb korma; beef vindaloo; bread-and-butter pudding Indian-style; lime and ginger cordial; and cardamom shortbread with chilled mango fool. And the perfect curry recipe to Stein’s mind? “Madras fish curry of snapper, tomato, and tamarind.”
Overall, a really colourful recipe book that imaginatively reflects the cornucopia of India’s spices and packed with lots of enticing recipes, it is a decent substitute if you missed the television programme and, not surprisingly, one of the best cookery books of the year.