14 September 2013

Weekend Cooking: Indian Cooking Unfolded by Raghavan Iyer

Weekend Cooking hosted by www.BethFishReads.comWeekend Cooking is open to anyone who has any kind of food-related post to share: Book (novel, nonfiction) reviews, cookbook reviews, movie reviews, recipes, random thoughts, gadgets, quotations, photographs. If your post is even vaguely foodie, feel free to grab the button and link up anytime over the weekend. You do not have to post on the weekend. Please link to your specific post, not your blog's home page. For more information, see the welcome post.
Indian Cooking Unfolded by Raghavan IyerJust days after Raghavan Iyer arrived in the American Midwest to attend college, he was sorry he never learned to cook. He missed the warm spiciness of his native Indian cuisine, which was conspicuously absent in Minnesota. Fortunately, his dorm had a kitchen, and it was there, Iyer began his culinary journey.

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. [[EDIT 10 years later: the widget no longer works, so I've embedded a video in which Iyer tells us all about curry.]]

Workman Publishing, 2013
ISBN-13: 9780761165217
Source: Review (see review policy)
Copyright © cbl for Beth Fish Reads, all rights reserved (see review policy)


Couscous & Consciousness 9/14/13, 6:18 AM  

That's a great looking book, Beth. I love Indian food and that's definitely a book I'm going to keep an eye out for.

Beth, I've linked up a couple of posts, but unfortunately the first one I linked up, I had the link wrong so it doesn't work. Hope you can delete it as I relinked (so entry # 3 is OK, entry # 1 is not) - hope that makes sense.

Have a great weekend

Marg 9/14/13, 7:03 AM  

That is a very cool sounding cookbook! My library has another book by him so I will check that one out, but I will be hoping that they get this one too!

Tina 9/14/13, 7:04 AM  

I am one of the few people who love the cooking blogs who doesn't like Indian food. I have tried it a few times but it's so hot for me :-(

Since there are sidebars in this book for making things milder I could venture down this road again. Always willing to try something new.

JoAnn 9/14/13, 9:22 AM  

What a wonderful book! I enjoy Indian food, but have never experimented with the recipes myself. This could be the perfect place to start.

Col (Col Reads) 9/14/13, 9:33 AM  

I have been cooking with the same, battered Indian cookbook that I bought 20 years ago -- this seems like a fantastic upgrade!

rhapsodyinbooks 9/14/13, 9:47 AM  

Workman's cookbooks are the best!!!

Cecelia 9/14/13, 10:05 AM  

This sounds like the perfect cookbook for a newbie to Indian cuisine (me!). I'm going to put it on hold at my local library. Thanks for sharing!

ChaosIsAFriendOfMine 9/14/13, 10:32 AM  

I love Indian food but I've never cooked it myself. This sounds like a great cook book to start with. Thanks for the review!

Joy 9/14/13, 10:58 AM  

This might work for me. I've checked out Indian cooking books from the library but sent them back without doing anything with them. This looks basic enough to work!

Joy's Book Blog

Laurie C 9/14/13, 12:08 PM  

I only have a couple of Madhur Jaffrey cookbooks, but I think I just heard this author interviewed on The Splendid Table and the cookbook sounded good there too!

Margot 9/14/13, 4:51 PM  

Yes, I am one of those cooks who loves to read my cookbooks. This one seems like an interesting read.

bermudaonion 9/14/13, 5:51 PM  

My mom lives in a smallish town and one of her biggest complaint about cookbooks is they often feature ingredients she can't find. I love that he makes Indian cooking accessible.

Beth S. 9/14/13, 7:38 PM  

This sounds like a very well-rounded cookbook. I have to admit I've never tried to tackle much Indian food in my own kitchen before but I absolutely LOVE the flavors. It's some of my favorite ethnic cuisine.

Uniflame 9/15/13, 4:12 AM  

I just love Indian cooking. It is one of my favorite cuisines to make :) We make currys on a regular base :)

Leslie (Under My Apple Tree) 9/15/13, 11:38 AM  

This is one type of cooking I haven't tried to do at home. Living in a large metro area I do have access to the ingredients so perhaps I should give it a try. Thanks for the book tip.

Patty 9/15/13, 3:05 PM  

next year I intend to do monthly cooking themes, and I want to explore a bit more the Indian cuisine. Thanks for the tip - this seems to be a great introduction to the great world of indian cooking!

Peaceful Reader 9/15/13, 9:25 PM  

I love Indian cooking and this books sounds wonderful. I will keep my eye open for it at the library. Or I could use the B & N card from my birthday!

Anonymous,  9/17/13, 9:14 AM  

Oh, I like the look of that cookbook. Great idea to embed a snippet so that we can get a real picture of what the book is like :)

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