Category Archives: Cookbooks and Blogs

By the Book

I just spent a bit of time in Asia with my in-laws. Not only did I eat some truly fabulous food, but being around my mother-in-law always inspires me to cook since she makes it look so easy. If you remember, this blog was built based on her recipes (Mattar Paneer, Chicken Curry, Gobi Mattar, Koftas, Dal Masur and Baigan Bharta). My husband still makes them frequently but I haven’t tried anything new in a while. Watching her sauté pretty much any old thing in ginger, garlic, tomatoes, onions and Indian spices made me realize that this cooking thing doesn’t have to be so complicated.

wild-about-greens     hungry-girl-book

I’ve also got a couple of new cookbooks: Wild About Greens by my favorite veg chef, Nava Atlas (a big thank you to Virtually Vegan Mama for sending it to me!), and The Hungry Girl Cookbook by Lisa Lillien. I’ve already started experimenting with both, will fill you in soon 😉

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The Hip Girl’s Guide to the Kitchen

It’s hard to believe that it’s been a year and a half since I started my cooking journey and this blog. I would like to have more recipes and dishes to show for it by now, but it can be difficult to lead a busy life and make time for cooking at the same time. Living in New York City, where restaurants, take-out places and delivery abound, makes it even harder. After a long day at work, I can buy a delicious $2.50 falafel sandwich from across the street, or I can spend 2 hours in the kitchen… hmmm.

But, as I wrote here before, I do see the value in cooking and eating at home, from so many angles. It’s less expensive. It’s better for your health. It gives you a feeling of accomplishment. It can bring couples together to prepare and eat a meal together instead of watching TV and stuffing your faces from Chinese food cartons. It’s a beautiful thing that connects me to the history of women everywhere – great grandmothers who prided themselves on nourishing their families with the fruit of their labors.

This weekend I’ve been reading Chapter 8 of my friend Kate’s classic book, The Hip Girl’s Guide to HomemakingChapter 8 is entitled, “Cooking at Home: Step Away from the Takeout Menu” 🙂 I highly recommend the book and especially this chapter to those of you out there who want to conquer your fear of the kitchen. (Exciting news: Kate is currently working on book 2, The Hip Girls’ Guide to the KitchenYes!)

Kate, even all the way from Austin you are guilting me into doing the right thing! 😉 My husband and I try to eat a mostly plant-based diet, so we tend to buy a lot of vegetables. Sadly, we get lazy and many of them go bad. (I know I’m not the only one guilty of this.) So I just took stock of my fridge and made a list of the newly purchased ingredients I can make use of. Internet/Pinterest… do your magic!

What recipes do you want to try? Have you tried any lately with success? Share, share!

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Back in Business

I have a love/hate relationship with cooking. I love the idea of it. I love trying out new recipes and finding success. I don’t love all of the work involved (sometimes 2 hours in the kitchen!) and I certainly don’t love trying something that falls flat. So it can be a challenge for me.

I haven’t cooked in a long while (as you can tell from my blog) and this past week I have resolved to get back on track. I electronically checked out the following cookbooks from the library:

Hoping to get some good ideas and have some new adventures for you soon 😉

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The Best of the Best: Indian Cooking Blogs

No, despite what you were thinking, Adventures in Desi Cooking is not the only Indian food blog out there. There are literally tons of them! I’ve combed through my Google Reader for some of my favorites to share with you:

  • Sinfully Spicy– Not only does the blogger, Tanvi, tackle some great recipes, but her photos are gorgeous!
  • The Spice Spoon – This blog was just included as one of the 50 Best Food Sites by The Independent.  Blurb: ‘Stunning photography, beautiful food and evocative writing, Shayma Saadat’s Pakistani/ Afghan/Persian blog is a treat. Very original recipes from a blogger who is keen to offer a much-needed dose of humanity and romanticism to the countries of her heritage.’
  • Saffron Trail – Mango paneer cake, cauliflower potato salad with Middle Eastern flavors and aloo palak biryani are just some of the recipes featured here.
  • Quick Indian Cooking – This blog belongs to the author of Miss Masala: Real Indian Cooking for Busy Living.
  • 365 Days of Pure Vegetarian – These recipes are mostly Indian, though not exclusively: “Cooking with Compassion – recipes from India and around the world.”
  • My Dhaba – This blog is no longer updated but still has a great library of recipes, organized by food type (Rice, Fried Vegetables, Curries and Sauces, etc.)

Looking for more?  Check out the list over at The Cooks Cottage.  I’ll be making my way through that list myself to find some goodies 🙂

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India: The Cookbook

I came across this review of India: The Cookbook on Twitter via @VeenasMarket and was glad to read it because I have seen this massive tome in bookstores and thought about picking it up.  So far, rather than buying Indian cookbooks, I’ve been checking them out from the library so I can test a few of the recipes before investing.  I have always had a love/hate relationship with cookbooks.  Some of them are just too difficult to follow – the recipe looks easy enough but even if you follow it to a tee, the results are no good.  (I’m not sure if the fault lies with the cookbooks or with me, but it has been quite a challenge!)

Since beginning the 28-Day Vegan Challenge (of which we are on Day #21), I’ve checked out a few new cookbooks, including Veganomicon and Skinny Bitch.  What are your favorite cookbooks (Indian or not)?

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Dish #9 – Royal Chicken Korma

I’ve owed you this post for several weeks now. Forgive me!

On the same night that I made Dal Masur, I also made Royal Chicken Korma from Madhur Jaffrey’s cookbook, “From Curries to Kebabs.” I botched it, but it was still a good recipe 🙂

I’ve always been a fan of korma. I’ve eaten Navrattan Korma and “Vegetable Korma” in Indian restaurants here in the U.S. They are usually sweet, creamy white curries with nuts, fruit and vegetables in them. So good. My husband tells me that these are not authentic – big surprise.

A little reading in Madhur Jaffrey’s book, along with some internet research, tells me that korma came from the Mughals, the Persian conquerors who invaded India and stuck around for a couple of centuries. The Mughals have a fascinating history, some of which I was lucky enough to learn from my father-in-law, and some I learned from William Dalrymple.

Recipes from the web:

I’m not ashamed to admit that, as I stated above, I botched this recipe good.  I halved the recipe, but forgot half the time that I was halving it.  I added about 5x the cinnamon that was called for.  In the end, I was so put off by all the cinnamon and disappointed by my failure that my husband’s protestations that it wasn’t bad didn’t convince me.  I will happily try this recipe again.  It had some really interesting aspects to it (e.g. soak a thread of saffron in warmed heavy cream for 2-3 hours).

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The Great Chicken Tikka Masala Fraud

I mentioned before that Chicken Tikka Masala was the first Indian dish I had ever tasted, so imagine my dismay at opening up “From Curries to Kebabs” and finding out that the origins of this dish are in… the UK!  Not only non-Indian, but Western, to boot.  The shame.

Then my copy of “Curry: A Tale of Cooks and Conquerors” came in the mail (Royal Mail) and I opened the first chapter named “Chicken Tikka Masala” and read the following:

“No sooner had the then Foreign Minister Robin Cook announced chicken tikka masala as the new national dish of Great Britain in 2001 than food critics were condemning it as a British invention.  Chicken tikka masala, they sneered, was not a shining example of British multiculturalism but a demonstration of the British facility for reducing all foreign foods to their most unappetising and inedible form.  Rather than the inspired invention of an enterprising Indian chef, this offensive dish was dismissed as the result of an ignorant customer’s complaint that his chicken tikka was too dry.  When the chef whipped together a can of Campbell’s Tomato Soup, some cream and a few spices to provide a gravy for the offending chicken, he produced a mongrel dish of which, to their shame, Britons now eat at least eighteen tonnes a week.  Chicken tikka masala’s most heinous crime, according to its critics, is not so much that it tastes horried but that it is not authentic.”

Wow.  Campbell’s Tomato Soup??  Way to put a damper on my making the dish.  The BBC even reported that this British dish is gaining popularity in India despite it’s not being an Indian dish at all.

I decided to push through, however, since it’s so damn delicious. I followed Madhur Jaffrey’s recipe to a tee. And in the end… I didn’t have Chicken Tikka Masala. I had a chunky curry, not smooth, filled with tomatoes and onions.  I couldn’t reconcile this with the Chicken Tikka Masala I’d had before, I just couldn’t.  I was about to give up altogether when I saw that my “Indian Cooking” cookbook, previously maligned, had a recipe for Chicken Tikka Masala as well. I already had the chicken tikka made, so I attempted this sauce instead.  It called for a can of chunked tomatoes and heavy cream, so right off the bat it sounded more accurate.  I made it within minutes, added the chicken and voila!  It may not be “desi” (or red, since I left out the paprika), but it’s damn good.

I also got the chapatis recipe from “Indian Cooking,” and those were great, so perhaps I was too quick to judge!

Recipes from the web:

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The Indian Spice Trail

Some exciting things are afoot. I am making several brand new surprise recipes for Valentine’s Day, which I will share here. I also just checked Madhur Jaffrey’s “From Curries to Kebabs: Recipes from the Indian Spice Trail” out of the library. It contains recipes not only from India, but also from Kenya, South Africa, Guyana, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia, Japan, Trinidad, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, the U.S. and the U.K.

Finally, I have been promised some in-person cooking lessons from Indian friends and family, so stay tuned!  In the meantime, Veena over at the Veena’s Market blog has put together a list of essential Indian spices that you should consider keeping in your kitchen.  Enjoy!

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Desi Cookbooks

Unless you’re one of the lucky few who can just “whip something up” without instructions (note: I am not), your food is only as good as your recipes.  I am fortunate to have excellent, authentic recipes coming from my mother-in-law every so often, and – good news! – she has permitted me to share them on this blog.  Yet for those times when I want to make something without bothering her, or something she doesn’t traditionally make, I’ll need a cookbook.  As I discussed in my last post, my beautiful pink one with the woodcut Taj Mahal on front isn’t cutting it.

This week was pretty hectic for me and so I didn’t cook at all, but I did take some time to scan Indian cookbooks on the internet.  Below are the top ones I found.  I will admit that, not having read any of these, that I judged them on the basis of reader reviews and having author names that are Indian.

There are many, many  more but I just had to stop!  🙂  I think I should start borrowing these from the library, testing out the recipes and reviewing them here.  Does anyone have any experience with one of these, or a different Indian cookbook, that they’d like to share?

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Dish #4: Saag Paneer


While I wait for my mother-in-law’s saag paneer recipe, I decided to try the one in my Indian Cooking cookbook.  It wasn’t until after I made the recipe that I realized that the author’s name is Beverly Leblanc.  Hmm.  Is this why it was $3.99 at Marshall’s?

Nevertheless, the recipe seemed simple enough so I gave it a whirl.  I cubed and pan fried paneer, then put it aside.  I then sauteed an onion in ginger garlic paste and water.  I added 3 bunches of fresh spinach leaves and simmered with the lid on until it was soft.  I added garam masala, salt and chili powder.  It didn’t taste like anything.  I added more garam masala.  Nothing.  Finally, out of frustration, I added a teaspoon or so of sabji masala.  Bingo.

In the end, it tasted good, though it was a little wetter than I would have liked and I probably should have drained it.  It also didn’t really taste like any saag paneer I’d had before.  My husband pointed out that I should have chopped the spinach fine.  It wasn’t until after he said that that I realized that that was exactly what was wrong with it.  The spinach leaves were too long.

Recipes from the web:

I suspect that my Indian Cooking cookbook, beautiful as it is, is geared towards non-Indians.  When I added the amount of spices mentioned in the recipe, it didn’t have any taste.  I think I need a new book – any recommendations?  From Mom with Love looks good.

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