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All the recipes fit to print

This is a sumptuous-looking book dealing with a grand project: a definitive collection of more than 1,000 recipes from all across India.

books Updated: Feb 12, 2011 00:54 IST
Sudipto Majumdar

India Cookbook
Puspesh Pant
Phaidon
Rs 1995 pp 960

This is a sumptuous-looking book dealing with a grand project: a definitive collection of more than 1,000 recipes from all across India. Phaidon make this culinary-cum-anthropological exercise undertaken by columnist and author Pushpesh Pant take on a visually stunning edge.

Even the humble puri, pao bhaji and masala tea look like objets d'art in these full-page glossy incarnations. Along with Pant's exhaustive recipes, credit goes to Andy Sewell who took most of the photographs along with Nikita and Sarojini Gulhane, responsible for the food preparation and styling the book.

India Cookbook would have been the perfect recipe book weren't it for one thing: it strays at some points from what it advertises to be — a compendium of 'authentic home-style' recipes. Simply going by the dishes from Bengal, one finds some startling departures in recipes, not to mention the names. On page 430, for example, Pant has something called panther jhol. It takes a while to figure out that the lamb stew he's talking about isn't a curry of a feline beast but is what is called 'panthar (lamb) jhol'. A minor error, but try having a book where they call sambar 'simber'. The more serious complaints are the inclusion of chopped coriander leaves in kossha mangsho (another variety of lamb curry) and ground coriander and cumin in chingri machher malaikari (prawns in coconut sauce) — irritatingly called 'jhingru machher malikari' here — where there should be neither coriander nor cumin in them.

So if one is willing to take the 'authentic' bit in many of the recipes with a pinch of salt, and ensure that one checks with someone familiar with the dish that the dish is indeed pronounced or called so, India Cookbook is indeed a fabulous possession for the kitchen.

Sudipto Majumdar is a Kolkata-based writer and foodie