18 August 2012

Weekend Cooking: Quick-Fix Indian by Ruta Kahate

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I like Indian food and I like quick, so when Ruta Kahate's Quick-Fix Indian: Easy, Exotic Dishes in 30 Minutes or Less arrived in my mailbox, I was looking forward to diving in.

Because not everyone is familiar with Indian ingredients, Kahate devotes the beginning of the book to discussing pantry, freezer, and refrigerator items as well as tips for successfully cooking from her book. Tips and definitions of cooking terms are also scattered throughout the pages, when needed.

One of the first things I noticed about Quick-Fix Indian is that I didn't have to worry about tracking down unusual ingredients. Although my pantry doesn't always contain coconut milk, brown poppy seeds, and fresh curry leaves, my local grocery store and/or health food store stocks everything I'll need to cook from Quick-Fix Indian.

The cheerful red and cream color scheme, which evokes the warm flavors of Indian cuisine, is inviting, and I appreciate that most of the recipes are super-fast to make. Kahate developed many of these dishes after she became a mother; no-stress weekend cooking is a must for busy families.

One chapter I know I'll turn to often is called "Shortcut Shelf." Here is where Kahate tells us how to make our own masala mixes and a fresh milk cheese (kind of like ricotta) called paneer. The chapters are organized in a familiar way but with cute titles such as "Mains in Minutes," "Express Veggies," and "Zippy Snacks."

The recipe directions are easy to follow and many include serving suggestions, but not all. There are very few photos, and none of the finished dishes, which may be a problem for some cooks. I made several dishes from Quick-Fix Indian and had no difficulties in the kitchen. However, my general opinion is that, although we liked the flavors, nothing was particularly spectacular.

Our biggest success was the eggplant bharta, which is a roasted eggplant dish with hot peppers, warm spices, onion, tomato, and cilantro. Unfortunately, Kahate didn't provide serving instructions for this dish, and I had to do some Internet investigation to discover that this is often served with naan as a snack or side dish. Because Kahate recommends serving the bharta at room temperature and because it contains no meat to spoil, this would be a terrific choice for a pot luck, picnic, or packed lunch.

Regardless of my thoughts, I can still recommend that interested cooks give this book a try. Quick-Fix Indian would be particularly appealing to those of you who like Indian cuisine but don't want to stock your pantry with hard-to-find ingredients. It's also a good source for weeknight recipes. In addition, the sauces, spice mixes, and snacks are all worth checking out.

Vegetarian/Vegan alert: If you like Indian food, you should absolutely give Quick-Fix Indian a look. Yes, there are meat and fish recipes, but many dishes will suit your diet.

Eggplant Bharta
Serves 4
  • 2 globe eggplants (about 2 pounds)
  • 4 tablespoons canola or peanut oil
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ¼ cup minced yellow onion
  • 1 minced serrano chile (seeded, if desired)
  • ¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne
  • ½ cup minced tomato
  • Salt
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
  • ¼ teaspoon garam masala (recipe in the book)
Wash and dry the eggplants. Use a paring knife to poke a few tiny holes into their skin. Rub 1 tablespoon of the oil all over the eggplants and place under the broiler. Turn frequently so they blacken evenly all over. They're ready when they collapse inward when touched—15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool.

While the eggplants are cooling, make the sauce:
Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons of oil in a medium skillet over high heat. When the oil just begins to smoke, add the cumin seeds and cover. When the sputtering stops, add the onion and chile and saute until golden brown.

Turn down the heat, add the turmeric, cayenne, and tomato, and stir-fry until the tomato breaks up. Turn off the heat while you peel the eggplants.

When the eggplants are cool enough to handle, peel off the charred skin and save all the mushy goodness inside. It's okay if a few black specks also make it into the bowl; it heightens the smoky taste.

Now add the smoked eggplant to the skillet and turn the heat back on to medium. Add salt to taste and stir gently, breaking up any large lumps. Don't overstir; you don't want a smooth puree. Simmer for a minute, then remove from the heat and stir in the cilantro and garam masala.

Tastes best a room temperature.

BFR's notes: We blackened the whole eggplants on the gas grill, which gave them a good flavor and didn't heat up the kitchen. We served this spooned on pieces of naan.

Buy Quick-Fix Indian at an Indie, at Powell's, at Book Depository, or at bookstore near you. These links lead to affiliate programs.
Published by Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2012
ISBN-13: 9781449409777
Rating: B-
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


caite 8/18/12, 6:09 AM  

I like Indian food...and I like quick too, so this sounds like a winner. Although the lack of many pics is a negative...

Rikki 8/18/12, 6:13 AM  

Sounds like a book for us. We all love Indian food, Quick is even better!

Chinoiseries 8/18/12, 7:00 AM  

Yum, Indian food. I love making curries and naan bread, but I find it difficult to get my head around all the different ingredients required for your average Indian meal...
Thanks for the veg remark, now I will definitely add this cookbook to my wishlist!

bermudaonion 8/18/12, 7:08 AM  

I don't think I've ever had Indian food - this sounds like a good way to give it a try.

jama 8/18/12, 7:38 AM  

I do like Indian food but have never cooked it. This looks like a good starter cookbook for me. Thanks for the review!

Laurie C 8/18/12, 7:55 AM  

I have already stocked up on some of the hard-to-find ingredients, so I guess I will stick with the Indian cookbooks I already have. A lot of my vegetarian cookbooks have Indian-ish recipes, too. This review is a good example of how to write a balanced review of a book that you weren't the best audience for, and I enjoyed reading it.

Trish @ Love, Laughter, Insanity 8/18/12, 8:53 AM  

I'm not really sure but I've always been a bit intimidated by Indian food even though I'm a pretty adventurous eater. Think I may have had a bad experience with curry as a child? Maybe I'll have to browse some titles at the library.

Marg 8/18/12, 9:04 AM  

I should find a good Indian cookbook. We do like Indian flavours in our house.

Cecelia 8/18/12, 9:29 AM  

I've never made Indian food at home, but I should... however, the fact that this cookbook doesn't have many photos puts me off from trying it. I do love my illustrated 'manual.' LOVE eggplant, though - so that recipe looks like a keeper.

Esme 8/18/12, 10:00 AM  

This is a recipe book I could really enjoy.

Vasilly 8/18/12, 10:54 AM  

I've never had Indian food before but I think I would give this book a try.

Too Fond 8/18/12, 12:21 PM  

I could eat Indian food everyday, so I really should make a better effort to cook it at home. This cookbook sounds like a great resource for quick meals--I definitely have to check it out. And I currently have an eggplant that needs to be used, so I'll be trying to recipe, too! Thanks for sharing.

Margot 8/18/12, 1:28 PM  

I confess to being quite ignorant of Indian food. My kids all love it and I'd like to learn why. This sounds like a good place to start, especially with her beginning section.

Carole 8/18/12, 4:19 PM  

It's good to hear about an eggplant dish - I have had a spectacular lack of success with them.

Have a great week.

PS Food on Friday this week was all about slow cooker dishes

rhapsodyinbooks 8/18/12, 6:08 PM  

This sounds so wonderful! I have to confess I am usually too lazy to make Indian food, or any food that involves a lot of vegetable peeling. (One of my favorite fantasies is to be able to buy peeled and chopped containers of all root vegetables and also eggplant, my most hated thing to peel and chop.) But I also admit to having bought almost every variation of Indian spice or component thereof at Penzey's, which I throw into EVERYthing!!!

Heidenkind 8/19/12, 1:25 AM  

I love naan, but that is the extent of my familiarity with Indian food. I wouldn't even know where to start cooking it.

Krista 8/19/12, 3:35 AM  

Great Link Up love it I did a post on all the Skinny Italian books VS SkinnyGirl turned out pretty good:) Thanks so much to Carole for the invite to link up

Heather S-G 8/19/12, 8:17 AM  

You know, I have this book, but I've yet to cook anything from it. I just haven't been able to decide what to make. I'm happy to hear your thoughts on it...and thinking I should definitely start w/ the eggplant bharta then!

(Diane) bookchickdi 8/19/12, 9:17 AM  

I can't believe I haven't made Indian food yet, I have to get with the program here.

Tina 8/19/12, 10:36 AM  

I like your review of the Indian Cookbook. I think they are going to go with Madhur Jaffrey on IHCC coming up for the next chef...so you may be checking that out.

I just linked with my book blog for Ant-Vampire Chicken :-)

Daryl 8/20/12, 10:29 AM  

Spicy Eggplant Bharta is one of my favorite dishes ...

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