India-in-Your-Pocket Cookbooks

We’ve enjoyed Indian food so much that I wanted to take some cookbooks back with me, both to use myself and to share with friends. However, a couple of hardcover cookbooks with glossy pages and color photos can really weigh down one’s luggage. So I was delighted to find a collection of pocket-sized cookbooks at the Phoenix Mall Starmark last week. They feature full color illustrations (so you know what you’re making), measurements in American quantities, and a variety of recipes ranging from simple snacks to complex entrees.

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Pictured above:

Snacks & Chaat, by Nita Mehta–This prolific author merits a whole section of cookbooks at Starmark. This volume concentrates on vegetarian snacks, ranging from relatively simple (Cheese and Garlic Pita Wedges) to elegant appetizers (Salty Sago Canapes). Chaat, I learned, is a popular fried snack that comes in many varieties, often sold at roadside stands. Many–but not all–are forms of filled or unfilled dumplings made from lentils, potatoes, and/or flour.

Curries and Rice, “Compiled by Master Chefs of India”–This book offers recipes for various pilafs and sauces, both meat and vegetarian. The front matter includes simple instructions for making basic items like Indian garam masala; green chili, tomato, and garlic pastes; and Indian cheese (commonly called “cottage cheese,” but much more solid than what Americans identify by that name). The publishers have utilized extra white space for helpful hints like this one, for making yogurt: “If you run out of the curd [yogurt] needed to set fresh curd, put a silver coin in warm milk. You will get thick curd.”

Know Your Dals and Pulses, by Tarla Dalal–As the title suggests, this book is a handy reference for the potentially confusing array of lentils and beans used in Indian cooking. Besides advice on selecting, storing and preparing them, it provides recipes for thirteen different kinds of legumes. Many are sauces and soups, but also present are salads, dumplings, and a sort of soft taco with shells made of split peas.

Recipes for Growing Kids, by Nita Mehta–This caught my attention, as I have found it a challenge to interest in Brianna in Indian food, most of which of is too spicy for her. The first section is “tiffin” meals, or school lunches, followed by snacks and mealtime dishes, such as oat patty burgers and beetroot raita (which turns the traditional yogurt sauce a pretty pink). The recipe for “chikoo,” or sopadilla, ice cream piqued my interest, though I’m not sure where one could procure the chikoo. I haven’t even seen these fruits here. (It also caught my attention because The Grand Plan to Fix Everything, by Uma Krishnaswami, which we thoroughly enjoyed recently, has an eccentrically charming “Uncle Chikoo” as a character.)

Not pictured:

Favorite Indian Desserts, also “Compiled by Master Chefs of India”–These tempting recipes include such uniquely Indian delicacies as Coconut Burfee (coconut fudge), Gajar Ka Halwa (shredded carrot pudding), Rajbhog (cardamom-stuffed cottage cheese dumplings), Modur Palao (sweetened Kashmiri rice),  Moong Dal Kheer (split pea pudding), and, of course, Gulab Jamun.

100 Tiffin Varieties, by Mrs. S. Malika Badrinath–This cookbook is a little more bare bones, with no photos, but it has a comprehensive selection of recipes for things that interest me, including a wide variety of chappathis and other Indian flat breads, puris (flat rounds of dough that puff up and get crispy when fried–Brianna loves these ), idli (see Food, Glorious Food), dosa (see A Dosa a Day), adai (a variety of dosa), porridges, homemade noodles, sambars (sauces–see A Dosa a Day), and chutneys.

I bought these cookbooks with the intention of putting some in The Booknest, but I may have to keep them all. Let me know if any of them catches your eye, and I’ll procure a few more.

In the process of writing this post, I ran across these two impressive blogs that will be of interest to anyone wanting to learn about or cook Indian cuisine:

Padhus Kitchen: Easy to Learn, Simple to Cook

The Chef and Her Kitchen: a vegetarian food blog from everyday cooking to exotic recipes

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