What makes Hari Nayak‘s My Indian Kitchen: Preparing Delicious Indian Meals Without Fear or Fuss (Tuttle 2011) such a good book is that he takes his time to explain all those parts of Indian cuisine that are intimidating and seemingly complicated. From explanations of techniques and step-by-step photos by Jack Turkel to good head notes to each recipe, Hari has crafted a thoughtful and useful book.
The book starts with Hari’s introduction to his own memories of cooking:
And then there was the rainy season, and the accompanying sounds of the flirty breeze playing with the leaves of the mango tree in our backyard, the rustic smell of wet earth, and the thud of mangoes falling to the ground. We kids often dashed out to pick them up before the sky broke loose! This priceless robbery of ours would mean that soon spicy green mango chutney would be on our dinning table! (p. 9)
It is important not to skip over the early chapters in the book – Hari goes over techniques, like roasting and grinding spices (p. 16) followed by a guide to tools, and in introduction to ingredients with helpful photos so that you can identify fenugreek leaves in the market. Best of all is a chapter on Indian Spice Mixtures like Indian Grilling and Roasting Rub (p. 33) and Home-Style Garam Masala (p. 35). The chutneys and accompaniments are in chapter 2, including both Sweet Mango Chutney (p. 41) with cardamom pods, fennel seeds and chili, and Green Mango Pickle (p. 47) with black mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, and dried curry leaves.
The spice mixtures are used throughout the book. Red Masala Paste (p. 32) is used in Mangalore Fish Curry (p. 105) while Home-Style Garam Masala is used in many of the meat dishes including Traditional Lamb Curry (p. 115) from northern India and Spicy and Fragrant Lamb Curry (p. 119) and Pork Tenderloin with Mango Salad (p. 119). This book is a guide to create a meal – not just a single dish.
My Indian Kitchen would make a wonderful gift for someone who is starting to explore Indian food. The recipes range from complex to simple and quick – all are presented with clear steps and expert guidance.