People who know me well know I like to read, and a cosy comfortable corner, a good book, a steaming hot cup of tea (even better if it’s masala chai) is one of my ideas of heaven. Thrown in some rains outside and some crisp, savoury eats and I couldn’t really ask for more. By extension, I also really like good cookbooks. So I naturally said yes to a request from Tuttle Publishers asking if I would be interested in reviewing a couple of their latest cookbooks.
They sent me a copy of one of Indian born American chef Hari Nayak’s “Café Spice Cookbook” which is a collection of 84 quick and easy Indian recipes for everyday meals. The book, written for an American audience, aims at introducing them to easily cooked and light, fresh and healthy Indian food using ingredients that are easily available at the supermarket.
The Café Spice Cookbook gets its name from Hari Nayak’s collaboration with Cafe Spice, the quick-serve restaurant chain and line of “Meals to Go” for which he is Culinary Director. This cookbook is a compilation of recipes from different parts of India and while they have a distinct Indian identity, quite a few of them have been adapted to suit the American palate. While this is not an exclusively vegetarian cookbook, many of the recipes in it are suitable for vegetarians, vegans and those who follow a gluten-free diet.
The recipes are quite simple to cook with ingredients that are easy enough to procure, with concise and easy to follow directions and don’t take a lot of time either. Most of the recipes can be cooked in an hour or less. All the recipes are accompanied with good photographs and the recipe for Potato Pea Samosas comes with pictorial instructions on how to shape a samosa.
The book starts off with the Café Spice story, and then moves on to some techniques, kitchen tools and tips to making Indian cooking easier. There’s a detailed chapter that’s an introduction to ingredients used in Indian cooking followed by recipes for basic spice mixes used in the recipes in the book.
The recipes are grouped under Chutneys Accompaniments, Starters Salads, Soups Dals, Vegetables Cheese, Fish Seafood, Poultyr Meat, Breads Rice Grains, and Desserts Drinks. The book has a recipe index as expected and also a list of sources in the U.S (online as well) for ingredients.
Some of the vegetarian recipes in the book include Green Pea Relish, Veggie Sloppy Joe (a take on Pav Bhaji), Cauliflower and Curry Soup, South Indian Lentils and Vegetables, Fresh Pineapple Curry, Chickpea Curry with Sweet Potato, Okra Masala, Paneer with Creamed Spinach (Paalak Paneer), Brown Basmati Rice, Tomato and Curry Leaf Quinoa, Naan Bread, Milk Dumplings in Saffron Syrup (Gulaab Jamun), and Steamed Yogurt Pudding.
If you like Indian cooking and would like to explore it better, especially everyday Indian home style cooking which is light and healthy, unlike the very highly spiced and rich food which is usually served in most Indian restaurants then this cookbook is worth adding to your cookbook shelf.
About the Author:
Hari Nayak is one of a new generation of American chefs whose inspiration comes from his Indian heritage. His food today is rooted in his heritage but influenced by other cultures and cuisines that he has experienced in traveling the globe.
Since graduating from the Culinary Institute of America, Hari has worked in the food industry for more than 15 years—including stints at renowned New York restaurants like Aquavit and Daniel. His other cookbooks include Modern Indian Cooking and My Indian Kitchen.
The photography in Hari Nayak’s book has been done by Jack Turkel, a professional photographer with more than thirty-five years’ experience.
Being Indian, there were a lot of recipes in the book that were very familiar to me, and even though some of them were not exactly the same as how I do cook them, I decided to try my hand at something that I hadn’t made before.
Now a salad might not be a great choice to pick while reviewing a cookbook for some, but I liked the sound of this one. It also helped that I was planning to make a salad the day I chose the recipe from the book and I also had all the ingredients on hand so the Lentil Sprout Relish (Dal Aur Phooti Mung Ka Salad) it was.
This recipe is classified as a relish in the book and can be found under the chapter on Chutneys Relishes but the Indian name spells it out as a salad. To my mind, a relish is something that is cooked whereas this dish is raw but with the addition of tempering.
But as Shakespeare wrote, “”What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” So relish or salad, this is a dish that’s good, healthy, light and filling.
Hari Nayak says in the introduction that accompanies this recipe in his book, “This recipe uses green gram (mung beans) which is always the best option. This is a favourite among weight watchers. You can add a few more ingredients to convert it into a wholesome salad by adding dried fruits, walnuts, apples, carrots or even spinach leaves”
I took his advice and added some apple and almonds to my salad and a little bit of honey too. On the spur of the moment I decided to add the almonds (they were sitting in my freezer when I opened it) just before serving, and since this was a little after I had photographed the salad the almonds are missing from the photograph! (Recipe reproduced from the Café Spice Cookbook, with permission)
Lentil & Sprout Relish - Dal Aur Phooti Mung Ka Salad
- 1/2 cup sprouted green gram (moong dal)
- 1/2 cup split yellow peas (chana dal) soaked overnight and boiled till tender
- 2 cucumbers (about 250gm), peeled , seeded and chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh coriander leaves , chopped
- 1 green chilli , seeded and finely chopped
- 1 juice of lemon
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp oil
- 1/4 tsp black mustard seeds
- 1 tbsp plain yogurt
- Mix together the sprouted green gram, split yellow peas, cucumber, fresh coriander leaves, lemon juice and salt in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.
- Heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat and add the mustard seeds. When they splutter, take the pan off the heat and stir in the yogurt. Add the mixture to the salad and toss well.
- Serve immediately.
And the Worldwide Giveaway!
Tuttle Publishers have also very generously offered to giveaway TWO copies of Hari Nayak’s Café Spice Cookbook.
They have also been kind enough to ship the books WORLDWIDE, which means anyone all over the world is welcome (non-bloggers too) to enter this giveaway.
If you would like to take a chance at winning one of the two copies of The Café Spice Cookbook, then here’s what you have to do. Please leave a comment at this post telling me the name of one of your favourite vegetarian everyday dishes that you cook at home, and why you like it so much.
Please also leave an e-mail id or some way I can write to you if you win. This giveaway is open till the midnight of the 15th July, 2015, after which I will pick TWO random comments whose owners will be the lucky winners of this giveaway.
THIS GIVEAWAY IS CLOSED. Please see this post for details about the winners.