Sunday, November 23, 2008

An Affair With Indian Cooking: The Khaana Sutra of Indian cusine by Geeta Maini

  • Paperback: 213 pages

  • Publisher: Vakils, Feffer, Simons (January 1, 2007)

  • Language: English
(available at Amazon.com or order directly here)







Six months ago, bored with my repertoire of recipes I decided to visit the library hoping to find a book that would breathe some life into my old, tired menu. As most of you well know, the library has a stack of recipe books making it rather hard to pick one, but the ingenious subtitle, "The Khaana Sutra of Indian cuisine" on Geeta Maini's book titled, "An Affair With Indian Cooking", caught my eye and made me pull it off the shelf. I was rewarded with such an aesthetically- pleasing book....its quality soft cover makes it easy to hold and the pages inside are dripping with eye-popping food photography and recipes which are very easy to read.

I carried it home excitedly and although the aim was to start cooking from it immediately I was drawn to Geeta's introduction of how she grew up in Kenya in an extended (Punjabi) family where her mom and aunts did most of the cooking. When she moved to Canada as a young bride she realized she was now the prime nourisher for her family, forcing her to hone her skills as chief cook, a job that she has perfected over the years.


The recipes in Geeta's sumptious book are arranged in organized sections with tantalizing subtitles that made me smile. Ofcourse, this being the "Khaana Sutra" (you might have heard of the Kama Sutra?) a referring to appetizers as "seduction of the palate"; Meat and Seafood as "Succulent,Saucy Somethings" and Desserts as "the final embrace" seems very fit. Some of the recipes have accompanying pictures but all include a brief introduction, giving you
the history of the dish or why Geeta chose to include it in the book. The recipes are well laid out and many are garnished with additional cooking tips and laced with suggestions on how to change the dish around so as to give it a different flavor the next time you make it( I found the suggestion box to be incredibly helpful!) .

The book closes with a chapter on Menus (
Planning the Affair) - another wickedly delicious subtitle - where Geeta, using the recipes provided in the book, creates menus for a complete meal. You can find menus for a "Spiced-up Christmas Brunch", "Formal Dinner Parties", 'A Sunday Brunch" and much,much more. I made my sampler meal from the"Meals in Less Than an Hour" menu which included:

"Green Beans and Potatoes"
"Green Coriander and Tamarind Shrimp",
"Cumin Rice" and
"Yoghurt with Cucumber".

I had made the "Yoghurt with Cucumber" and "Cumin Rice" before (and she's right, both dishes take around 15 mins to prepare). This was my first time making the shrimp with coriander and Tamarind and what a treat that turned out to be! Not only is it terribly simple to prepare but the combination of the sweet and sour flavors with the aroma and taste of the roasted spices is guaranteed to make your tastebuds dance!

Know someone that enjoys Indian food but is intimidated by how long it can take to prepare? Give them Geeta Maini's book. Her recipes are truly simple and easy to follow without compromising on taste or authenticity. Not just that, in "An Affair with Indian Cooking" Geeta also shares, through her recipes, her culinary heritage and recipes enjoyed by generations of her own family. In my opinion, this book is the perfect introduction to Indian cuisine.


Now, just before I sign off, here's a the recipe for "Green Coriander and Tamarind Shrimp" or like they say in Hindi, "Hare Dhaniya Aur Imbli ka Jhinga" Enjoy!

Ingredients:

2 lbs shrimp, shell on, deveined

1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp salt

fresh roasted
1 tsp cumin seeds
1/2 cup fresh coriander, chopped
1 tsp green chillies, fresh minced
2 tsp coriander seeds, dry roasted and crushed coarsely
1 onion, large, sliced thinly
1/4 cup tamarind paste

1 1/2 tsp garlic minced
1 tbsp brown sugar (optional)


Directions:

`Wash shrimp under cold running water and set aside to drain

`In a shallow saute pan heat the oil and butter on med. high heat
`Temper with the cumin and coriander seeds. Once they start to sizzle, add the onions and garlic
`Reduce heat to medium and saute until onions are soft and slightly pink
`Add the fresh coriander, salt, cumin powder and green chillies. Stir until well mixed.

`Add the tamarind paste and stir until all te spices and ingredients are now well blended.

`Add the shrimp and cook until the shrimp turn pink and are well coated with sauce (8-10 mins) `Adjust seasonings - if desired add the brown sugar for a sweet and sour flavor.
`Serve over a bed of couscous pilaf or with a crisp naan and mango salsa


(serves 6-8 people)

24 comments:

Sanjay said...

Thank you Lotus for a most wonderful and dare I say a delectable review! What looks like a really good cookbook has been further enhanced by the beautiful manner in which you reviewed it and brought home to us the important aspects of it.
I am so tempted to buy this book and I likely will! I am also sure to try out the shrimp recipe from the book that you so thoughtfully included. I haven't had seafood in a while and this seems like an ideal recipe to go with.
I do have a few questions though. Does she cover the vast breadth of Indian cuisine or is this book oriented more towards the most common dishes that folks out in the west here are familiar with?
Most of us have an Indian cookbook, what in your opinion makes this different?
Thank you again for a great post and telling us about this interesting cookbook.

Lotus Reads said...

Hey Sanjay!

You always say the nicest things, thank you!

Yes, you must try out the shrimp recipe and let me know how it turns out. It has quickly become one of our favorite dishes to make when we want something tasty but have very little time to spare.

Thank you for the questions. As usual, you make my poor brain go into overdrive (just kidding!)

WRT the recipes, Maini's book is unusual in that, it covers some eternal favorites like Butter Chicken, Channa Masala, Aloo Mattar etc. but she also includes some of her own creations, of which the tamarind shrimp is one. She also loves fusion cooking and some of her offerings from that genre include Spicy Lamb Leg Roast and Exotic Bread Pudding. I haven't tried either, but i can't wait to do so!

I know you love to cook so I am hoping you will get this book. What makes it different is that the recipes actually work!!!!!!! Also, they are not labor intensive. Not sure how Geeta pulls that off, but she does!

Have you made anything exciting lately? Would love to hear about it if you have.

*cheers*

starry nights said...

I think after reading your review I have to lay my hands on this book.I love to prepare food with a few ingredients and I think I will try out the shrimp dish.How are you doing Lotus.Happy Thanksgivng to you and your family.

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Starry!

Thank you so much for stopping by! I am going to pay you a visit soon..I think of you (and your sister) often. How is she doing now? Yes, please try the shrimp dish and let me know. I always add the sugar...I love the sweet-sour combo. How are you celebrating Thanksgiving? Are you putting paanch phoren in your cranberry sauce? :) (it's not an original idea, I heard an American-born Indian chef suggest it on Public radio this morning!) :)

Veens said...

Yummilicious POST ;)

ok I invented that word ;)

CG said...

Dear Lotus, firstly I have awarded you the superior scribbler award (look here: http://carrasdream.blogspot.com/2008/11/superior-scribbler-award.html) secondly my husband and I are both in Love with Indian food, since he ordered some real spices from India, we seem to have an Indian dish every other day, I will certainly try the recipe out!

Lotus Reads said...

@Veens ~ Love the phrase Yummylicious for it describes the recipes really well! Where in India are you from? And what kind of food do you like to cook?


@Carra ~ Thank you so much for the award, you are so kind to nominate me! Do try the shrimp dish...would love some feedback! Thanks for stopping by Carra!

Suzan Abrams said...

Hi Lotus,
Thanks for having stopped by and for still remembering me. Yours is one of the most beautiful book blogs I've ever seen. Am linking you to mine. :-)

Lotus Reads said...

Hi,Suzan!

Love your new blog! What a great idea to focus on Middle Eastern writing...I am sure it will be a very helpful resource to many, myself included!

Suzan Abrams said...

Lotus, I started to inherit a real unexplained and probably spiritual, passion for middle-eastern literature, immediately on my return from East Africa and Dubai last June. So everything I write is coming straight from the heart.
Just as I can see how very much you love the voices of the Indian sub-continent in your lovely blog over here. It's such a joy isn't it. For instance, what a deliciously sounding book you have made this out to be. :-)
On my part, I had been to Africa several times before but I still don't understand why now.
And then to my delight, I found all these terrific Middle-Eastern writers and read of how Arab literature has started to flourish big time worldwide. And especially from countries like Iran and Beirut. :-)

By the way, LR I really like your writing.

Sanjay said...

Lotus, Thank you for answering my Qs, and sorry about sending your brain in to overdrive. :-)

Spicy Lamb Leg Roast and Exotic Bread Pudding do sound good!

I did make some methi shrimp with aloo. The main spice was Mit Mirsang, was also looking to use some scallions which were sitting in the fridge. It was a shot in the dark, but it turned out really well. I take it you know about Mit Mirsang? :-)

Id it is said...

I can't wait to try the Tamarind Shrimp recipe!
I always associated cooking with tamarind as a characteristic trait of Mexican cuisine...guess I was wrong, hehe

Sharanya said...

(Off-topic) Love the new blog header!

Anali said...

I always love seeing food here! What a nice surprise. And I love the new blog look. ; )

A Reader from India said...

Lotus,

Thanks for the delicious review!
:-p

I liked the ideas of suggestions for changing the flavours of the dishes, and the menus.

Living on my own for the first time, I am just discovering the delights of cooking.

Thanks for the shrimp recipe, will try it. (Have been a vegetarian all my life, but living in Japan, I have started eating seafood and am loving it)

Anonymous said...

Hi Lotus,

I have just made and tasted the shrimp recipe. It was GREAT !!!!

Photography is my hobby (http://www.flickr.com/photos/sanghamitraa/) and I am planning to open a blog soon.


Regards,
S.Nath

gs said...

many thanks lr for the fine review.i am going to buy this book as a present for l who would i am sure like it immensely.

Lotus Reads said...

I want to thank you everyone for their comments, especially the ones that tried making the tamarind shrimp.

Sanghamitra, do let me know when you start your photo blog..I visited your site at Flickr and enjoy what I see...you have such talent!

Juman61 said...

Hey Lotus,
Here again....I love these recipes...I love to cook Indian dishes and would look up this book at the bookstore next (I'm using cash lately so don't order online :-) )..I would like to follow your blog..didn't know how to go about it...I looked...thanks.

Lotus Reads said...

Thanks Juman!

Happy Cooking and thanks very much for leaving me a comment!!!

Sunny said...

 Very good!!!

Kishore said...

Hey Lotus, Good review...

I had never cooked before..now that i stay with my friends,i had the need to learn to cook...just came across ur blog and found this a very good review...!!

Anonymous said...

Thanks for your post. I like the way you write, and I hope you won't stop doing that.

Anonymous said...

I can say that I have read a lot of posts from your site and I definitely like them.