Tuesday, November 23, 2010

I love curry. The question is: can I convince my boyfriend that he loves it too?

I have a problem. My boyfriend is English. You would think that would mean that he loves curry. It is, after all, supposed to be their national dish.
But no. He can't eat chillies. His stomach can't handle lentils. And he refuses chickpeas. So far, this has meant that he rarely - if ever - eats curry.
I, on the other hand, love it and I've been trying to convert him for years. I've had very little success to date but thanks to the delivery of a new cookbook, I think I am finally in with a fighting chance.
I Love Curry by Anjum Anand promises 'the best Indian curries you'll ever cook' and from my initial perusal of the book, I think it might be right.

This cookbook aims to broaden our knowledge of just what is meant by a curry. From the tomatoes, dairy products and garam masala of north India to the coconut, tamarind and mustard seeds that are popular in the south; there are more than 50 main courses to try. Some are hot. Others are mild. But all can be adapted to suit different palates, even those of chilli/lentil/chickpea-refusing boyfriends.

Anjum also wants us to understand that a curry can be much more than one main dish. At its best, it's a feast with rice, breads, chutneys, raitas and vegetable side dishes. The book contains some of her favourite recipes for these essential side dishes, many of which she learned from her Punjabi-born mother.

You'll find many familiar favourites here; from chicken tikka masala to vindaloo. There are lots of new dishes to try too, such as lamb chops with dried pomegranate or Bengali mustard fish.

Anjum starts with some tips for cooking Indian style. She tells us how to cook whole spices in hot oil at the beginning of the process. She advises on the importance of the onion base. (Did you know that the more you cook them, the deeper the flavour of your curry? Brown them for lamb or chicken curries but don't cook them beyond a golden colour when you are working with more delicate flavours such as fish.)

Anjum also has tips regarding garlic and ginger, cooking with tomatoes and yoghurt, slow cooking and leaving the bones in meat and fish for flavour. She also recommends cooking curries the day before you eat them so that the flavours intensify overnight.

The first recipe section is what Anjum calls 'bites': appetisers that she first started to cook with her mother as a little girl. I've already marked the spicy prawn cakes, steamed pea cakes and puchkas (small, crisp hollow balls of semolina pastry filled with potatoes, chickpeas, yoghurt and two chutneys, one sweet and sour and the other herby) as ones to try.

The curry sections are split into vegetable, fish and seafood, poultry and meat. From these sections, I've earmarked the Punjabi yoghurt and dumpling kadhi, the Bengali mustard fish and the creamy, nutty lamb curry with dried figs.

Most of the recipes are illustrated with wonderfully tempting photographs. You simply couldn't resist cooking something like this. Could you?

The final sections are devoted to vegetable side dishes, breads, rice dishes, salads and raita. I'll definitely be trying my hand at the naan bread with garlic and coriander butter and the many variations on raita.

The book ends with a section on spices and how to use them.

With this new book to help me, I'm going to continue my quest to convert my boyfriend to the joy of curries. I'm going to start with the Punjabi yoghurt and dumpling kadhi. I'll keep you updated on progress...

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