A little while ago, I toyed with the idea of going all out and setting up a food blog to have somewhere to spout about how much I loved food and cooking. Then I remembered how much I loved this one and that dividing my attention would be moronic. Instead, I'm going to try and make a concerted effort in 2014 to take part on a more regular basis in Weekend Cooking, a lovely weekly gathering of people chit-chatting about all things food related hosted by Beth Fish Reads.
First up on the menu for 2014 (SORRY!), is the absolutely gorgeousRick Stein's India.
In 2013, I enviously watched the BBC Two series of the same name that saw Rick Stein travelling around India, learning about the cooking styles of the regions and looking into where the British idea and definition of a "curry" actually stemmed from and whether it really has any kind of roots in modern India. I have no idea whether Rick Stein has any kind of popularity anywhere else in the world but he's quite the stalwart of British TV cooking. Fortunately, the series was originally shown not long before my birthday, so I didn't have a particularly long wait before my Grandma bought me a copy of the related book.
One thing that I always love about Rick Stein's books (India being no exception) is that the recipes are almost always accompanied by an anecdote about where he picked it up. Be it from a street food vendor, someone cooking a family dinner or a high-end restaurant, the added detail always give the books a more friendly, chatty feel. It also means that the books are filled with a mixture of recipes that you can use for all different types of occasion. There's an India-style twist on a roast chicken for when you're feeding a family or entertaining, a really simple Lamb Dopiaza (an onion-based dish) that is perfect for a cosy Saturday night dinner for two (it's a real one pot treat and you basically throw everything in and simmer for two hours - so easy and really very delicious) and some fun street-food dishes that I'm looking forward to trying. Some of the recipes are more complex (like the Chicken and Rosewater Biryani) and involve quite a lot of roasting and grinding of spices and simmering and layering that I will tackle one day when I have some time on my hands and want something special but on the whole the recipes are straight-forward and easy to follow.
The quality of this book is outstanding too. The pages are thick and perfect for withstanding a little bit of artful splattering (I am not the tidiest of cooks) and the photography is stunning. There are mouth-watering pictures of the dishes but also fantastic images of exotic-looking markets, the people that Stein met and cooked with and India itself. So not only is it a really good introduction to more authentic styles of Indian cooking, it's also a lovely book to browse through.
If you have any vegetarians in your household, there are plenty of recipes centred around terrific looking vegetables and lentils. I actually do make quite a few vegetarian dishes for Boyfriend and me, despite the fact that neither of us are vegetarian. The lentils are a particular favourite and perfect for packing in some protein in a healthier way than loading a plate with meat. Cheaper too. There's a spicy lentil soup with squash, tomato and green beans that is spot on for chilly winter nights. This particular recipe freezes really nicely too so it's good as a standby for when you want something to pep up a gloomy evening without any of the work.
As with many books exploring different world cuisines, there might be quite a few new ingredients if you don't already cook Indian food at home that would take a little bit of investment before you get started. The ingredients do tend to be common throughout the book, though, so once you've done a little bit of ground work, the dishes don't require much more expense beyond the meat and vegetables. I cooked quite a lot of Indian food already but I haven't had any trouble topping up my spice cupboard from UK supermarkets and still haven't come across anything desperately obscure so a basic set of spices should see you through!
This is still one of my favourite food books, despite the fact that I got it last August. It's pretty, fun to look through and feels very authentic. If you're looking for something new to try in the kitchen or a gift for a foodie friend, I honestly can't think of many books that would be better.
If you want to have a nosy at the series or the style of cooking, you can see clips from the BBC series and pick up some of the recipes HERE, which I definitely recommend!