There’s a bit of hole on the bookcase where the Indian cookbooks should be. We have TV cooks to the left, Michelin Star chefs to the right and now a section increasingly filled by bloggers as publishers desperately cast around for new faces and, more importantly, new buyers.
Of course there’s Madhur Jaffery’s Indian Vegetarian Cookery, a classic that’s still a treasure chest of fantastic recipes, but new Indian cookbooks seem to be mostly about glamorous young Asian women tottering about on high heels and pouting into the camera.
Sanjeev Kapoor is different. Yes he’s a TV star in his native continent, seen in more homes than Jamie or Gordon combined, and yes he has written over three dozen cookbooks few of which will have been seen by anyone in the West, but he is a real professional.
There are no photos in this book, which will disappoint some people, but their absence means Sanjeev can cram more recipes in and there are definitely a lot. Over 600 pages, with often a recipe per page, cover every dish you could ever want to eat and you want to eat them all.
It’s a book unashamedly aimed at an international audience, with classic and modern recipes updated and amended so as to make cooking them both easy and straightforward. Recipes for soups and shorbas, kebabs, snacks, starters, main courses, desserts, breads, pickles and chutneys. And by the nature of the cuisine there are plenty of dishes for vegetarians to get their teeth into as well.
Unless you live in Midsomer, the ingredients should be easy to find and if not Sanjeev offers substitutes. The recipes cover the vast range of the subcontinent. Try a Masala Chai with Lemongrass, a refreshing tea on a hot day, taste the vegetarian spice of spinach and paneer cheese in a curry sauce, spread some chilli, garlic and sesame seed chutney on your cream cracker.
Open any page and you’ll be doing the Homer Simpson gurgle. Garlic and coriander chicken, Punjabi Samosas, Purple yam and potato patties, Hot and sour salmon curry, Sweet sour and spicy bitter gourd, it’s a roll call of tasty.
The language is often American, so you may occasionally need to check what’s what and the primary measure is that strange beast the American Cup, although thankfully metric measurements are also alongside. The main feel is one of simplicity and of getting on with the job. Anecdotes and stories are only ever brief, interesting and to the point.
All the ingredients that Sanjeev feels you should have as larder basics are listed at the front, with descriptions of what to look for and how to make classic pastes, and there’s a guide to must-have tools too. You may not own a ‘mixie’ yet, but you soon will.
In a world of glossy tomes pandering to chefs’egos, or a quick sale riding on the back of a TV series, Sanjeev Kapoor’s book is a solid piece of work that you’ll soon have covered in foodstains. There’s no higher recommendation than that.