Madhur Jaffrey’s Ultimate Curry Bible

After three great weeks in Kerala, it is back to the daily non-routine, because it is a little difficult to slide back in the box, I have plugged out a book review for you. It appeared on the now defunct Paper Palate.

Madhur Jaffrey’s Ultimate Curry Bible is a book of best. Best curry recipes from India but also best selection for best curries from around the world. And because of that (+ an untimely computer crash) my review almost did not see the light of the day. Let me explain: my partner got hold of this book and it has been a battle to get it back. Yes, yes I hear you think: “Lucky her, he must have cooked lovely curries nonstop.” Well, wrong. He was reading it from cover to cover. Now you are as puzzled as I was, so let me enlighten you over the reason for this infatuation.

Madhur Jaffrey is a legend, an authority in the world of Indian food. Her books spell quality, her research is meticulous, her recipes are tried and tested many, many times. In this book she traces the origins and history of curry. There are as many curries as there have been destinations for generations of Indian immigrants. “This curry trail” leads us from Fiji to Trinidad via England, Kenya, the whole of South East Asia, and Japan.

But curries are not alone here, mouthwatering rice, breads, chutneys, relishes, and sweets recipes interwoven with pages of history, old illustrations and modern photographs and much more make for the 6 pages of the index. That explains why I could not put my hands on it when I wanted it most and also why this comprehensive book made the top 50 best.

Let me leave you with a taste of a Pakistani recipe and its introductory paragraph: Red Lentils from the Khyber Pass:

“In the brown hills of the Khyber Pass, Saika, the woman of the house, cooked red lentils, round squash and wholemeal breads for lunch. It was the once-a-week “no meat” day, declared so by the Pakistani government worried buy the nation’s excessive meat-eating habits. While butchers are not allowed to sell meat that day, most families get around the restriction by buying their meat a day in advance and freezing it. Not so Saika. She was an observer.”

180g/ 6 oz red lentils
half to one teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons ghee or corn oil
1-2 whole dried hot red chillies
2 gloves garlic, peeled and lightly crushed
Put the lentils in a lidded pan with 1 litre water and bring to the boil. Do not let the pot boil over. Skim off the scum that comes to the surface with a slotted spoon. Partially cover with the lid, reduce the heat to low, and cook for 40-50 minutes or until tender. Sir in the cayenne pepper and about 1 teaspoon salt. Taste, adding more salt as needed.

In a small pan, heat the ghee or oil until very hot. Put in the red chillies. As soon as they darken, put in the garlic. When the garlic pieces turn golden-brown on both sides, pour the oil and seasonings int the pan of lentils. Cover the pan quickly to trap the aromas.

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