Ã¢â‚¬ËœWhy are you doing an impression of Churchill?’ I’m asked by a housemate. No, I’m not puffing on a fat cigar and putting people down in a fabulously cutting manner- he means the nodding dog from the insurance ads. And, actually, he’s not far off the mark. It’s just I’ve got a copy of Vivek Singh’s’Cinnamon Kitchen: The Cookbook‘ perched on my lap, and every recipe makes so much blimmin’ sense.
I’m heading for the osteopath if I stick with the vigorous physical approval, so I switch to a chorus of Northern-style’ooooh yes’-es which amuse me and infuriate my accuser. Wind-ups aside, though, the book’s a beaut- a fat tome stuffed with pretty pictures, useful step-by-step technique demonstrations, and the kind of food you’d not just like to eat but actually attempt to cook.
Vivek’s not silly. Witty, yes, up for a reet laugh, certainly, but not silly. And nor’s Cinnamon Kitchen‘s Head Chef Abdul Yaseen- so neither is their food. From day one, Vivek’s been committed to turning out the kind of modern Indian food so many chefs could never quite achieve- blending Western technique and ingredients with Indian technique with style, substance and little time for whimsy.
And, in Abdul, he’s found a kindred spirit. Cinnamon Kitchen strikes a balance between the formality of Cinnamon Club and the more trend-led innovation of Cinnamon Soho, and is a rare example of a venue that genuinely offers the best of both worlds. The cookbook brings that triumphant collision straight into your home kitchen, with pretty tasty results.
Lara Holmes’ photography helps, but these are the kind of lipsmackers that barely need imagery to inspire greedy lust. From starters through to desserts, taking in mains, grill, snacks and sides en route,’Cinnamon Kitchen: The Cookbook‘ is a sheer onslaught of culinary excellence- arming you with a bulletproof arsenal to impress anyone with a few tastebuds and a penchant for putting them to good use.
Take, for example, the Hyderabadi duck pao with its brioche-like bun; Haddock with a crab and kokum crust; onion seed-strewn Keralan seafood pie; mixed vegetable biryani baked in a pumpkin shell; any of the numerous game recipes like Jungle curry of guinea fowl; an ingenious chaat masala-spiked hummus; or Carrot-ginger halwa tart. See? You’re already feeling greedy. And lustful.
The step-by-step pictorial masterclasses littered throughout are handy to have under your apron, too, demystifying techniques such as paratha-coiling and marinating vegetables for the grill. Vivek’s’Basics’, meanwhile, mean you can load your cupboards with the artillery of masalas, dressings and condiments that underpin the oft-elusive flavours of well-executed sub-continental delicacies.
Vivek reckons the difference between this and his former cookbooks is largely in the amount of washing up you’ll be left with post-cook- leaving ample time for a lengthy and leisurely exploration of the smartly exotic cocktail chapter. Finally disclosing the very recipes which make drinks at Cinnamon Kitchen‘s Anise bar such an alluring prospect, it’s a particularly welcome inclusion.
But then everything that’s included in’Cinnamon Kitchen: The Cookbook‘ is particularly welcome. It’s an informative read, but not so prose-heavy that it detracts from the food; attractively presented, but no so that it detracts from the meat on its bones; and aspirational, but not so that it’s offputting. An all-round top book by an all-round top bloke- what a treat.