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In the early days, one of the most challenging things for Iyer was finding ways to re-create familiar flavors using the types of ingredients found in mainstream Midwest supermarkets. As he notes in his new cookbook, Indian Cooking Unfolded, he experienced firsthand the frustrations that many cooks have when trying to buy ethnic ingredients in small towns.
Thus in Indian Cooking Unfolded, one of Iyer's goals was to show us that authentic Indian flavors and cooking techniques are within the reach of all of us who have access to a decent-size grocery store. The book can be used on several levels, depending on the home cook's experience and comfort in the kitchen, and is set up as a kind of cooking school in eight chapters.
Workman's cookbook designers were on the top of their game for Indian Cooking Unfolded. Within the covers, you'll find beautiful photographs, colorful sidebars, and attractive icons. I love the large step numbers in the directions, and I especially appreciate the step-by-step photographs that appear with some of the recipes. I immediately homed in on the "Extra Credit" sidebars, which offer tips for variations, serving ideas, uses for leftovers, and storage information, as appropriate.
The brilliant parts of the book design, though, are the unfolded sections, which start off each chapter. By opening up the flaps, the home cook can see the important information, directions, and photos all at once. Even better, the unfolded recipes work together to create "the perfect get-started Indian meal."
If you like to read your cookbooks as much as you like to cook from them, then Indian Cooking Unfolded is sure to become a favorite. Iyer offers lots of information about the history of Indian cooking and its influences over thousands of years. In addition, each recipe begins with a great blurb that places the dish in the context of his native country. The opening chapters help you stock your pantry with needed ingredients and even show you how to make your own spice mixes.
The recipes themselves are easy to follow and are written casually and with personality, so you feel as if Iyer were standing next to you in the kitchen. Besides the unfolded recipes, I was attracted to so many dishes in this book. The bread and relishes chapter had me hankering for naan dipped in spicy roasted yellow split pea tapenade. The cardamom lamb chops and gingery kheema will likely become regulars on my table. I particularly loved the Indian kick Iyer gives to mac and cheese and potato leek soup. I may never make the classic versions again.
Almost every dish calls for warm spices and/or chiles. If you like your food a little milder, check out the sidebars for sweeter chiles or simply cut back. As for me, I'm going with the full-on spices. Vegans, vegetarians, and gluten free eaters take note: every recipe is flagged so you can tell at a glance which dishes will fit your diet.
Whether you live in the city or country, Raghavan Iyer has made sure you can reproduce authentic Indian flavors in your own kitchen with little fuss. And even better, Indian Cooking Unfolded was created to be a learning tool, so no need to feel intimidated by new techniques. I can whole-heartedly recommend this book; I know many of these dishes will grace the table at my house.
Instead of typing out a recipe, I'm going to share the following widget, which shows you a recipe for chicken curry and gives you a peek at how Indian Cooking Unfolded is set up. Scroll all the way to the end to see how the unfolded pages work. I think you'll agree that it's a cool idea.
Workman Publishing, 2013
Source: Review (see review policy)
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