Cookbook Confidential – Michiel and Jeen review “An Invitation to Indian Cooking” by Madhur Jaffrey

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Dal soup is a classic Indian soup made with red lentils, onion, various spices, and perhaps ginger, orange, or pumpkin. Always a pleasure to prepare and serve.
When we leafed through An Invitation to Indian Cooking (published in 1973) by Madhur Jaffrey we were looking for something special, something new and exciting to prepare. Dal soup was not on our radar until we read her recipe. Interesting! Yellow Split Peas? Cloves? Croutons? Let’s start cooking!

The soup was very tasty and uplifting. The split peas brought structure to the soup, making this soup different compared to lentil-based dal soup. The combination of peas and cloves is one to remember. 

We’re always interested in new ways to prepare mushrooms, so when we spotted a recipe with cumin and asafoetida (asafetida) we immediately knew we wanted to prepare this dish. But what is actually asafoetida, and where to buy it?

The first thing to know about asafoetida is that it has an extremely powerful aroma. Its taste and smell are a combination of onion and garlic. We bought 25 grams at Jacob Hooy, which is Amsterdam’s premium shop for spices. The Dutch name is Duivels Drek, and the German name is Stinkasant. Both names are a clear indication of its pungent smell.

Mushrooms, tomatoes, various spices, and asafoetida: we didn’t know what to expect of the dish. The result was delicious, aromatic (in a gentle way), and a tribute to the tomatoes and mushrooms, with a long-lasting taste. We loved it.

An invitation to Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey contains many wonderful recipes. The book includes chapters on meat, chicken, fish, dal, soups, vegetables, chutneys, breads and desserts. Which reminds us of our plan to make Kulfi (ice cream with milk and cardamon pods). 

Should it be on your bookshelf? Yes, if you’re looking for a comprehensive introduction to the Indian kitchen, one with reliable, easy-to-follow recipes and contains useful background information.

What You Need (Dal Soup)

–       1 cups of Yellow Split Peas

–       4 cups Chicken or Vegetable Stock

–       16 Black Peppercorns

–       10 whole Cloves

–       ½ teaspoon ground Turmeric

–       Lemon wedges

What You Do

Add the unsoaked split peas and the stock to a pan and bring to a boil. Use a slotted spoon to remove the foam, if any. Add the spices to the pan. Mrs. Jaffrey ties the peppercorns and cloves in a cheesecloth. Reduce heat and allow to simmer until the peas are tender. This may take 2+ hours. Remove the peppercorns and the cloves. Press the soup through a strainer or food mill. We used a blender and pulsed the soup, just to get the right consistency. Leave on low heat for 15 minutes. Serve in bowls and garnish with lemon wedges.
The original recipe suggests serving the soup with croutons.

What You Need (Mushrooms with Cumin and Asafetida)

–       1 pound of Mushrooms

–       Vegetable Oil

–       generous pinch of Asafetida

–       ½ teaspoon of Cumin Seeds

–       generous pinch of Chilli Flakes

–       ¼ teaspoon Ground Turmeric

–       1 cup of Tomato Sauce

–       2 cups of Water

–       Basmati Rice

What You Do

Clean the mushrooms with kitchen paper. Heat the oil over medium heat, add the asafetida. After a few seconds add the cumin seeds and some 10 seconds later add the chilli flakes. Stir, add the turmeric and the mushrooms. Gently fry the mushrooms for 1 or 2 minutes, then add the tomato sauce and the water. Allow to simmer for 30 minutes. The sauce should be thin, but feel free to reduce (as we did). Remove from heat and leave to integrate for 1 or 2 hours. 

Reheat and serve with basmati rice. Mrs. Jaffrey suggest serving the mushrooms with chapatis or pooris. Recipes are included in An invitation to Indian Cooking, obviously!

Thank you Jeen and Michiel for this excellent review. You certainly live up to the name of your blog, Cook and Drink – The Art of Flavors,

12 responses to “Cookbook Confidential – Michiel and Jeen review “An Invitation to Indian Cooking” by Madhur Jaffrey”

  1. Darlene – British Columbia, Canada – Writer of children's stories, short stories and travel articles.!/supermegawoman!/pages/Darlene-Foster-Writer/362236842733
    Darlene says:

    Those mushrooms look so yummy. Thanks for two more great recipes from this cookbook.

  2. Hi Bernadette, this is a great post, I enjoyed the feedback from Michiel and Jeen and their comments about the name of the spice were very funny.

  3. Dorothy's New Vintage Kitchen – I'm a writer, cook, gardener, photographer, poet, quilter, and accomplished daydreamer. I'm also a wife, mother, grandmother, sister. cousin, aunt, and friend, no particular order on any given day. I've been a writer all my life, newspaper reporter and columnist, radio news writer, and magazine contributor, and poet and short-story writer as the spirit moves. Now, I turn my attention to my cookbook, the blog, and a cooking column "Memorable Meals," which runs in our county newspaper. Besides my family, I love dogs, cats, good coffee, chocolate, and my never-dwindling pile of books I intend to read. Our family ran a small Vermont Inn for 18 years, with our focus on local, organic ingredients. I cook from scratch, and try not to use anything that has ingredients I cannot pronounce! After many years of daily serving up local delicacies, cooking classes, and catering, we are now only open for special events, and the odd cooking class. We also host musicians and artists, having helped produce a musical festival and other musical events for nearly 20 years. Many incredible artists have found a place at our table. Wonderful experiences, we will treasure always. My family and friends are my practice subjects. With a family that includes nut, peanut, tree fruit, and vegetable allergies, gluten intolerance, dairy intolerance, vegetarians, vegans, heart conscious, and a couple of picky eaters, there has to be a few quick tricks in the book to keep everyone fed and happy! Personally, I do not eat red meat or most full-fat dairy (usually) for health reasons, making the occasional exception at Thanksgiving and Christmas or our anniversary if the duck is locally raised. I do eat fish and seafood, so I try to come up with alternatives and substitutions when available. I serve local organic eggs and cheeses to my family who can tolerate dairy (My husband recently had a heart attack, and I need to watch my own cholesterol so I am careful, but have been known to let a little piece of really good cheese accidentally fall on my plate!). I believe strongly that eating in a way that is good for our planet is also good for our bodies, and I try to educated myself about our food sources! I cook by the seasons and draw on inspiration from the strong and talented women in my family who came before me, as well as the youth in the family who look at the world with fresh eyes. Food links us all, whether sharing a meal, cooking it together, or writing about it for others to enjoy. I love taking an old recipe and giving it a modern spin, especially if I can make it a littler healthier and use foods that are kinder to the Earth and to our bodies. I believe strongly in sustainable, delicious eating of whole foods, and the wonderful flavors we have at our fingertips! And finally, I love conversing with all the talented cooks and chefs out there who dot the globe! It's a wonderful, world full of culinary pen pals, and I cherish them all! XXXOOO Dorothy
    Dorothy’s New Vintage Kitchen says:

    Both dishes look delicious! Since I bought my second-hand copy, I’ve not excuse not to try making them!

  4. Awakening Wonders – Everyday life is filled with wondrous things and embraceable moments, but only if we allow ourselves to be fully awakened. I invite you to join me as I share passionate life adventures and ramblings that awaken my spirit. I look forward to awakening your senses to the simple, joyous wonders that are all around us. I feel that we are destined to become soulful adventurers!
    Awakening Wonders says:

    With the blend of flavor and spices these recipes will fill up my family! Love your serving dishes too!

  5. Woo, I think I could eat that entire bowl of mushrooms. It isn’t often that I see a recipe where mushrooms are the highlight. This sounded like a really special recipe, without being too difficult.

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