This book was chosen by the cookbook club and the point of Cookbook Confidential is to review the chosen cookbook and, in that review, to state whether it deserves a place on your cookbook shelf. Easy, right?
Well, here’s the thing … For the first time since I joined, I’ve been unable to get a copy of this book – at least not in time to get the review done. There isn’t a copy in any of the Sunshine Coast Libraries, it’s not on iBooks, and while I could order a paperback copy from Booktopia it would cost $41 and was unlikely to arrive before we’re due to leave for Vietnam – and this review is due when we get back.
All, however, was not lost. Luckily for me, The Observer (UK) Food Monthly did a series of reviews of classic cookbooks some time back – and this was one of them. More importantly in those reviews recipes from the book were shared. Cue fist pump to the air. If you want a read (and find the other recipes), you’ll find the article here. (I’m a Guardian subscriber, but they don’t have a paywall.)
So, rather than me telling you why I believe this book belongs on my cookbook shelf, this review is about whether I want this book on my shelf … and whether I’ll preorder the 50th anniversary edition which will be released in Australia in November.
What I cooked
We decided the Kheema would be a perfect Sunday supper (and we had everything other than the meat already in the pantry) so we chose to make that one for this review. Because it’s Madhur Jaffrey, I followed the recipe exactly … and was disappointed. Perhaps it’s because the book was originally written in 1973, but we found the spicing very underwhelming. I added some Kashmiri chilli towards the end for a bit of a tingle, but … yeah and nah. Let’s just say if I made it again, I’d definitely boost the spices at the beginning.
What was more successful was the following night when we repurposed the leftovers into curry puffs and served them with a spicy tamarind sauce.
This book is a classic for a reason. First published in 1973, Jaffrey introduced American readers to Indian cooking by taking the mystery out of it and making it accessible to an American audience and American kitchens.
From the recipes we cooked (I also made the Pullao – rice with lamb), however, tastes have moved on. For a start, we’re not frightened of spice (in fact, are very much the opposite), and many of the ingredients that were so mysterious back in the 70s are pantry staples these days.
Will I be preordering the 50th anniversary issue for my bookshelf? I’m sad to say, no, I won’t … at least not unless some of the recipes have been tweaked for the 21st century. That’s not to say I won’t pick up a copy for a look if it comes into the library.
Kheema – minced meat
According to Jaffrey, this is the first Indian dish all Indian students abroad learn to make. It can be cooked plain or with potatoes and peas … I added both potatoes and peas. Also, in full disclosure, I copied the ingredients and method exactly as it appeared in the Guardian (which is why, unusually for me, I’ve kept the non-metric measurements in).
What you need…
- onion 2 medium-sized, peeled and coarsely chopped
- garlic 4 cloves, peeled and coarsely chopped
- fresh ginger 1 piece, 2 inches (5cm) long, peeled and coarsely chopped
- vegetable oil 4 tbsp
- cinnamon 1 stick, about 2 inches (5cm) long
- cloves 4 whole
- black peppercorns 4
- bay leaf 1
- hot red peppers (chillies) 1-2, to taste (optional)
- ground coriander 1 tbsp
- ground cumin 1 tsp
- ground turmeric ½ tsp
- tinned tomato 1 large or 2 small ones, chopped
- finely minced lamb or minced beef 900g (2lbs)
- salt ¾-1 tsp (or to taste)
- lemon juice 1 tsp
What you do with it…
Place onions, garlic and ginger in blender with 3 tbsps water and blend to smooth paste. Set aside.
Heat oil in a 10-12 inch (25-30cm) frying pan over medium heat. When hot, add cinnamon, cloves, peppercorns, bay leaf, and then the peppers. In about 10 seconds, when the peppers turn dark, add paste from the blender. Fry for about 10 minutes, adding a sprinkling of water if the food sticks to the bottom. Add the coriander, cumin and turmeric, and fry for 5 minutes. Now put the chopped tomato in, fry for 2-3 minutes, and add the minced meat and salt. Fry on high heat for about 5 minutes. Break up the meat and brown it as much as you can. Add ¼ pint (150ml) water and the lemon juice. Bring to the boil and cover. Lower flame and simmer for 1 hour.
To serve: spoon off any fat and discard. Serve with rice, or chapatis, or parathas, and any vegetables you like.
Joanne Tracey is an Australian author of contemporary women’s fiction and cosy culinary mysteries inspired by her travels, a love of baking and happy endings.
Based on the Sunshine Coast in South-East Queensland, Jo is an unapologetic daydreamer, eternal optimist, and confirmed morning person.
When she isn’t writing or day-jobbing, Jo loves baking, reading, long walks along the beach and posting way too many photos of sunrises on Instagram.
Jo’s life goals (apart from being a world-famous author) are to be an extra on Midsomer Murders and to cook her way through Nigella’s books.
You’ll find her foodie blog at Brookford Kitchen Diaries (BKD).
Her travel and bookish blog at And Anyways
And her books at: www.joannetracey.com