For people who care about their food

50 Great Curries of India

50 Great Curries of India by Camellia Panjabi

Front cover of 50 Great Curries of India by Camellia PanjabiThe British restaurant style of curry is quite different to the “real” Indian food you’ll find in India. Having lived in India for several years, I can personally vouch for that! You can read more about that side of things, and the history of the British curry, in this interesting cookbook.

The author, Camellia Panjabi, was born in Bombay (now Mumbai), educated at Cambridge, and subsequently became an internationally successful restaurateur bringing the delights of regional Indian cuisine to both Asian and Western restaurants. The book is not simply a catalogue of recipes. It covers the philosophy of Indian cuisine, and the history of “curry” as we Brits know it. “Curry” simply means a dish to be eaten with rice and the word may even have been a British invention.

The book takes us through the introduction to the cuisine, the philosophy of Indian cooking, and a discussion about the origin of “curry” itself. Next it talks us through the use of spices and various techniques, such as thickening agents and the correct use of chillies – the latter being “vital” if you want to make a gourmet curry, apparently. It gives hints and shortcuts and describes which ingredients are used mainly for taste or for aroma. This fascinating background information takes up about a quarter of the book before you even get to any recipes.

The recipes themselves are excellent, each one illustrated with a beautiful photo. I just love cookbooks like this! And each is accompanied by a few paragraphs about where the dish originated and its history. Murgh makhani (butter chicken), for example, originated in the Moti Mahal restaurant in Delhi in the 1950s, where they made the sauce by adding butter and tomato to the leftover chicken juices in the marinade trays from which they used to sell hundreds of portions of tandoori chicken every day. Each recipe has its own fascinating facts and a wonderful photo. This could be a great coffee table book, even if you never have any intention of making a curry.
(If you’d like to find out how to cook butter chicken, please see my review of Camellia Panjabi’s recipe.)

As well as all the curries you’d expect – korma, rogan josh, and all the rest – there are more unusual ones, such as pork vindaloo, a Goan dish from an area which was historically dominated by the Portuguese. But no one just eats a curry on its own so the book doesn’t let you down there either. There are numerous recipes for accompanying dishes: rice, breads, chutneys, dal, raitas (yogurt), kachumbers (relishes) and more. There’s also a very small section on desserts, but who cares? Do any Brits ever eat Indian desserts?

Finally the book goes on to discuss planning a meal with menu suggestions and even a brief account of what to drink with an Indian meal. Interestingly, according to the book the British drink beer and the French drink wine with their Indian food. No great surprise there, then.

I’ve made some of the recipes in this book but can’t vouch personally whether they work or not as I tend to look at the picture, then look at the ingredients and get a general idea of what’s supposed to happen, and then just do it. That said, it’s a good book to have and I’m glad it’s in my collection. If you’re a fan of Indian food or have any interest in the cuisine itself, then I highly recommend it to you.

Namaste!

50 Great Curries of India

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Camellia Panjabi
Paperback, 192 pages
1995, Kyle Cathie Limited
ISBN 1 85626 186 7
RRP: £9.99

You can also see some photos of my attempt at butter chicken from this cookbook.


11 Responses to “50 Great Curries of India”

  1. Mike the curry fiend

    I bought this book a year or so back and have produced most of the curries in there. I can definitely vouch for it and it has given rise to a quantum leap in my curry making generally. It contains really useful info in the front end. Even the basic curry recipe at the very beginning makes a really good curry.

    Definitely recommended over and above anything else I’ve tried on Indian cooking.

  2. Not Delia

    Thanks for your comment, Mike. If you’re a curry fiend you might also like books by Kris Dhillon and Pat Chapman.

  3. Mike the curry fiend

    Thanks Not Delia. I will hunt those out.

    Incidentally, I think you have a great site here. I only stumbled across it yesterday but I’m looking forward to working through it.

  4. Not Delia

    Hi again, Mike

    Thanks for all your compliments. 🙂 If you have any ideas of how I can make the site better or any suggestions for new postings, that would be great too.

    As you correctly noticed, thank you, I’m NOT Delia. You can call me Kay if you like. LOL!

    I’ve been building another website dedicated to curry but I’ve got so many other things to do I’ve never quite got it to the stage where it’s fit for human consumption yet.

    Looking forward to hearing more from you and, if you ever have the time, I welcome guest bloggers if you’d like to write about your own curry-making experiences.

  5. Mike the curry fiend

    The curry website sounds interesting. I’ll keep an eye out for that.

    One thing I just noticed from a quick look through today is that it might be worth having a separate section for Mexican. I don’t have any fantastic inventions of my own and/or authentic recipes I could offer you though I’m afraid.

  6. Not Delia

    Yeah! Mexican is a great idea, thanks. I do quite a bit of “Mexican” style stuff at home but I suspect it’s not authentic at all – probably more like Tex-Mex. Still, it doesn’t really matter if it’s pukka or not. The bottom line is – does it taste good?

  7. Mike the curry fiend

    Kay, I’ve just taken your recommendation and ordered a Kris Dhillon and a Pat Chapman book on Amazon together with Gordon’s new book following his trip to India.

    This won’t go down well with my fiancee, however, as my cook book collection already takes up both shelves in a big double kitchen cupboard…

    But then she doesn’t complain about the results.

    Once, I’ve had the chance to try it out, I could offer you a review of the Gordon book if you like.

  8. Not Delia

    A book review would be great, thanks. I haven’t even seen that particular book yet.

    I know what you mean about books taking up so much space. There’s a photo of a few of mine here: http://www.notdelia.co.uk/off-the-cookshelf-introduction/

    I also have cookbooks and magazines all over the house, especially on my compost heap (aka my desk).

    Dave (Mr ND) never complains about me buying cookbooks – he encourages me to buy more! He also enjoys “tidying away” the models after our foodie photo shoots.

  9. Mike the curry fiend

    I have now tried out curries from Kris Dhillon and Pat Chapman so thought I would give some feedback.

    The KD one was nice but I found I ended up with far too great a quantity of sauce – maybe I should have simmered it more fiercely or possibly just added less water. That might be why I found his two-teaspoons of curry powder “vindaloo” very mild. I’ll try out some of his other curries and hopefully a more concentrated sauce could be the solution.

    On the other hand, the Pat Chapman “mild” chicken curry was spot on! I like my chillies 🙂 and I found this curry to have a really nice level of heat (might also be because I went for two very “generous” teaspoons 🙂 of chilli powder).

  10. Not Delia

    Thanks for the feedback, Mike. Kris Dhillon is a woman not a man! I earlier made the same mistake too. I like the KD book mainly because it gives an insider’s guide to Indian restaurant curries.

    http://www.krisdhillon.com/

  11. Mike the curry fiend

    Oops. I hope she’s not a regular visitor to your site. 🙁

    I tried her lamb curry again on Saturday and gave the sauce a bit more heat. It was still a bit too much by volume (so probably too liquidy) but much better than before. On top of that, I added a teaspoon of chilli powder into the sauce and a couple of fresh green finger chillies into the curry itself and the taste was getting more to my preference.

    I still feel a bit disturbed about the amount of oil used though. I suppose a large part of it (the bit she uses to prepare the meat) gets chucked.

    I am not convinced by her take on cooking chicken on the bone (she thinks it spoils the flavour of the sauce). I often do deliberately to get a good stocky flavour then remove the meat from the bone towards the end of the cooking time.

    I have yet to try your version. I might give that a go this weekend. 🙂

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