If you have a wide selection of food blogs on your reader, then you've surely seen 'Anjum's New Indian' cookbook pop up on a few blogs over the last few weeks. Early last month I got an email from Wiley publishing house asking me if I would be interested in reviewing Anjum Anands latest cookbook. I really did not have to think twice about it. I've been watching her cooking show on TV and like that she showcases the variety in Indian cuisine. Anjum Anand is based in the UK and on her show she encourages her friends to avoid the greasy restaurant food and attempt cooking Indian food that is fresh, seasonal and local. And she does not confine herself to any particular regional cuisine either, you'll find a mix of recipes from Gujarati, Keralan, Punjabi, Parsi and many other cuisines from India. Its a pleasant surprise to see so many regional cuisines represented on a popular television show.
In this latest book, 'Anjum's New Indian' you'll find a collection of Anjum Anand's recipes from the show and a few others included. Its a huge book, over 250+ pages and its filled with 100+ mouth-watering recipes that are accompanied by photographs that will get you cooking immediately. I like the way the book in organized, you'll find chapters on light meals & snacks, seafood, chicken, meat, vegetables, beans & lentils, rice & breads, raita's & chutneys and finally desserts & drinks. For someone new to cooking Indian food, this book is a one-stop shop for cooking an entire Indian meal. The book begins with an introduction from Anjum Anand which is very succinct and explains briefly how Indian food differs with region and the influences that it has had throughtout its rich history.
When attempting a new cuisine for the first time, its important to know the little details like the choice of ingredients used, how they are prepped and cooked. For instance, when I see an Indian dish made on TV and the cook dumps onion and tomatoes in the pan along with all the other ingredients I know the flavor will be off. Anjum Anand has a section where she talks about just these details - how to pick the right tomatoes, seafood or meat, how to brown the onion and tomatoes to develop the flavors and preparing lentils for dals. These are the steps that make the food authentic and its extremely helpful to have them explained.
The recipes in the book are simple and extremely flavorful. They don't call for fancy, hard to find ingredients that would intimidate a beginner. Instead Anjum uses fewer ingredients and draws the maximum flavor out of them. A few of the more traditional recipes are presented with a creative twist like the idiayyappam noodle bowl or the steamed spinach & rice dumplings. Each chapter has a little food essay related to Anjum's food travels or the way the dishes evolved or some her own memories of enjoying it with her family. All these insights help you relate to the food at another level and understand its nuances.
some of the gorgeous photographs in the book (text overlaid by me)I tried out many recipes over the last few weeks, almost one from each chapter. Since V and I are vegetarians, I skipped out the seafood, and meat sections but I still had a lot to try! The recipes are very well written and each of them has a foreword about how the dish evolved or how its traditionally served and variations/substitutions mentioned when applicable. There are a few basic recipes like tarka dal, tomato rice, green beans with lentils and roti, but these are the essentials of home-cooking and almost each cook has their way of doing it.
I am really bad at following recipes but this time I stuck to them closely so I could taste what the author had in mind while creating these recipes. I made the mini-corn cakes as a light snack and we loved them. They were my absolute favorite among the recipes I tried I think. The use of cheddar & caraway seeds is new, yet totally right for the recipe. But the magic touch came from toasting the besan flour, brilliant.
I found the raita's section really interesting and learned a lot of new recipes. More often that not I make the traditional onion/cucumber/tomato raita, but you'll find recipes using potatoes, radishes, beetroot, spinach and even bread! I've always cooked my beetroots, so to have them served raw in a raita was new and it made me hesitate. But I had nothing to worry, the beet raita tasted really good with the crunchy raw beets. The magic touch here for me was the sesame seeds in the tadka. We had this with mushroom biryani, another of Anjum's recipes (not included in the book).
Another recipe that piqued my interest was the Stir-fried peas. I use peas a lot, but always as an addition to other vegetables. I've never made anything with them being the star ingredient and so this was one recipe I had to try. Both of us enjoyed this one too, its a mild dish with not many spices overpowering the peas. Its cooked with milk that makes them creamy and delicious. This ones a keeper!
From the lentils section I picked a curry using whole brown lentils. This was a hearty dish that completely warms you up from within. The flavor base is developed my browning the onion and tomatoes and with a good dose of ginger, cumin and coriander seeds its perfect for winter. The short list of ingredients will really surprise you when you finally taste the robustness of the lentils. Spiked with a squirt of lemon, I could have it by the bowl fulls.
Finally, the last recipe that I tried was the Bengali Squash with Chickpeas. I love butternut squash, but I always tend to roast it and use it in a salad or soup. Both of us prefer savory dishes and since the squash has a sweet flavor I've never used it as a main dish. I choose to try this recipe just to see if it would make me change my mind, and it surely did! When I served this with chapati's we were apprehensive about biting into something sweet, but like all the other dishes from the book, the balance of spices is perfect. There is mild heat coming from the ginger and red chillies but the main delight in every bite comes from panch phoran. With five different seeds used in the seasoning every mouthful is a pleasant surprise. Another new technique in this dish was finishing off with the toasted fennel powder, which really adds a depth of flavor and warmth.
Below is the recipe as written by Anjum Anand in the book - reprinted with permission from Wiley
Bengali Squash with ChickpeasThere is plenty more that this book has to offer, from snacks to desserts and everything in between. It also has a complete glossary of ingredients used in the book, how to find them and links to online stores to purchase Indian spices & lentils. So if you are tempted enough to lay your hands on a copy of this book, then this is your chance to win a free copy.
Butternut squash is one of my favorite varieties of pumpkin as it is smoother and creamier than the large orange pumpkins we see at Halloween. It is a wonderful match for the earthiness of the chickpeas, especially when paired with these sweet and earthy spices. These ingredients and flavors have a definitive West Bengali flair. This is a fantastic vegetarian autumnal main course (add more beans or some cubes of paneer) or a great side dish to meat or chicken dishes. You can vary the beans (cannellini or butterbeans would also be delicious) or make it with sweet potatoes.
3 tbsp vegetable oil
good pinch of asafoetida
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp panch phoran
1-2 mild dried red chiles
1 small onion, peeled and sliced
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
2 scant tsp ground cumin
1 rounded tsp ground coriander
salt, to taste
3/4 tsp sugar, or to taste
2 tsp ginger paste
1 1/4 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeds removed and flesh cut into 1 1/2 in chunks
1 cup drained and rinsed canned chickpeas (garbanzo beans)
3/4 tsp garam masala
3/4 tsp fennel seeds, ground
Heat the oil in a large nonstick saucepan. Add the asafoetida, bay leaf, panch phoran and chiles; cook over low heat for about 1 minute.
Add the onion and cook until soft and golden. Stir in the turmeric, cumin and ground coriander, along with the salt, sugar and ginger paste. Give the pan a stir, add a splash of water and cook for another minute.
Add the squash, pour in 2/3 cup water. Bring to the boil, then cover and simmer until the squash is cooked through, around 15-18 minutes.
Stir in the chickpeas, garam masala, fennel seed powder and a splash of water. Cook for another minute and serve. The dish should be moist but not gravied.
The kind people at Wiley have graciously offered a copy of this book to one of you, for free! It could be an early holiday gift to yourself or someone you love, and all you need to do is drop a comment at the end of this post. But not just any comment, I want you to share with me your best Indian meal - what did you eat ? and what makes it your favorite :) Limit one comment per person and your name will be entered into the drawing. Please make sure to fill in your email address so I can contact you in case you win! You have until Thursday, Dec 10th, 12:00AM PST to leave your comment. I will pick one lucky winner at random to receive the book. Wiley will mail the book directly to you, and is open only to those in the US. All the best!