(Image from Amazon)
I’ve said before on this blog that if I had to choose one style of food to eat for the rest of my life, it would certainly be Indian. I live in an area where it’s reasonably easy to get food from India, both North and South, as well as its near neighbours Pakistan, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka. I’ve also done a bit of traveling around South India, and I cook Indian food quite a lot at home.
There are plenty of vegetarian Indian cookbooks around, and even most omnivorous Indian books have their share of vegan or easy to veganise recipes. But from the moment I picked up Vegan Indian Cooking I knew it would instantly top the list of my favourites and that I would cook more from it than my other Indian collection.
Some general impressions about the book first of all. It’s very nicely published and printed, and there is a page for each recipe, which I always appreciate. There are nice pictures scattered throughout the book, some of the recipes, some of ingredients and one or two of Indian countryside and markets. Many vegans will not appreciate the picture of the author riding an elephant, but I have done it myself and don’t mind seeing it. The other strange thing was a reference to using Quorn, but it only appears once and I guess it slipped through from a previous non vegan version of the recipe.
On to the recipes, and what I’ve tried so far. Indian food = breakfast of the gods, so that’s where I started. I made the masala tofu scramble with mustard seed potato hash (from the vegetable chapter), and served it with some chapati from the local Indian shop. I boiled the potatoes the night before so it all came together very easily in the morning. I don’t have a photo but both dishes were very tasty, salty and spicy, and just what I want in the morning.
I tried an evening meal next- the Punjabi curried beans, crackling okra and cumin rice. I tweaked the timings of the rice a touch to use brown rice, but the other dishes were made just as written, and I loved them all. Again, quite spicy and salty.
Next up, the chickpea flour crepes. I quartered the amounts and used the blender method this time, because I’m never confident that I’ll get these sorts of recipes to work. They worked perfectly. Next time, I’ll make one of the suggested fillings and pickles to go with them, because they were a very tasty breakfast and made with ingredients I always have in.
The savory cracked wheat with cashews was next, and I made it for lunches for myself, as Matthew won’t touch peas. I love traditional upma made with semolina, and I must say I didn’t like this bulgur wheat version quite as much but nonetheless it was a quick and interesting lunch. I might try the suggested quinoa substitution next time.
Today I made the tofu curry with the green beans with potatoes. I made the baked tofu from the staples chapter earlier in the week so it came together very quickly. By the way, the tofu recipe calls for the garam masala to be split but doesn’t specifically say so, and I missed it. It didn’t seem to affect the taste or texture though.
Both of these recipes again were nice and easy but they surprised me with how spicy there were. Both recipes use proper chile powder – ground dried chillies, not the blends called for by many American cookbooks. We both love our spicy food and usually like it very hot, and these dishes were at the top our range. I probably should have served them with rice but I used some store bought vegan chilli naan breads that I’m lucky enough to be able to get. They were both incredibly tasty, and the baked tofu in the curry and had a brilliant texture that mimicked paneer very well.
My overall impression of this book is incredibly positive. I love how it contains a mixture of traditionally vegan recipes using vegetables and pulses, and then some veganisations like the tofu curry, a couple of seitan recipes and some TVP versions. The recipes aren’t over complex but they aren’t dumbed down either. I can get hold of all the ingredients easily, but you may need a specialist Indian shop rather than a supermarket for some of them. I have a huge list of dishes still on my “to make” list and I’m even tempted to buy a slow cooker for the slow cooked chapter, something I’ve held off doing so far. Recipes I’m keen to try include tandoori tempeh, tamarind brown rice, cashew stuffed baby aubergine, “paneer” biryani and the intriguing ripe banana curry.
I would recommend this book to anyone looking to increase their Indian cooking repertoire, whatever your current level of knowledge of Indian food, but if you’re not very used to spice you might want to start off with lower chilli levels.