Holiday Book Reviews – Made In India

Cauliflower with Cumin, Turmeric, and Lemon

I received a review copy of Made In India from Raincoast Books. Nevertheless, all opinions in the following post are my own.

A few weeks ago, I found myself discussing authenticity in cuisine with a group of restaurant aficionados. We agreed that trying to match your experience of a far away place to its local interpretation is pointless. What matters is how the chef translates that cuisine using the best of what’s available locally.

What doesn’t often get discussed is authenticity in the home kitchen. Many of us associate world cuisine with the dishes we find in our favourite restaurants, rather than the dishes you’d find served around a kitchen table.

Meera Sodha‘s Made In India is an antidote to that, sharing her family’s treasured recipes alongside dishes she’s brought back from her travels in India.

And as the title suggests, she doesn’t fall into the trap of the well-travelled restaurant critic, either. These dishes are rooted in India, but they were perfected in her family’s English kitchen, picking up flavours and ingredients from their migration from Gujurat, through Kenya and Uganda, and into Lincolnshire.

So, there are recipes for a kedgeree using British smoked haddock, Ugandan-Gujurati dishes like mashed plantains with Indian spices, and techniques from the vegetarian traditions of Gujarati applied to meat and fish. This book is a product of a living, evolving cuisine.

It’s also a powerful tool for understanding the ingredients and techniques of Indian cooking. The back of the book includes a thorough guide to Indian ingredients with descriptions that are a pleasure to read. There are useful sections for meal-planning, leftovers, and trouble-shooting. Sodha includes a guest essay on wine pairings, too. Throughout the book she provides more detailed instructions, like her guide to making samosas that includes step-by-step photos.

She also does two things I’d like to see in every cookbook. First, there is an alternative contents page that lists recipes best suited to a number of categories, like party food, gluten-free, and foods for freezing. Then, in her weights and measures section, she clearly defines what she means when she calls for quantities like one large onion or the juice of one lemon (it’s 200 grams and 1/4 cup respectively). This last inclusion would solve the headaches of every home cook who has brought home a softball-sized onion or an heirloom tomato.

All of these things are designed to help you get cooking. Made In India is full of delicious recipes, but so are many other cookbooks that only get pulled off the shelf for bedtime reading. Meera Sodha wants you to keep the book in your kitchen, unintimidated by ingredients, techniques, or planning. My copy hasn’t hit the shelf yet.

Cauliflower close up

ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH CUMIN, TURMERIC, AND LEMON

Masala phool kobi

Cauliflower is a hero of the Indian vegetable world, but its fate doesn’t just lie in an aloo gobi. Roast it with just a few spices and you’ll have a vegetable you hardly recognize. At home, left to my own devices, I would eat it like this all the time. It’s addictive to eat by itself but also goes really well with lamb curries, in salads, and with kebabs.

Serves 4

  • 1 large head of cauliflower (around 1 ¼ pounds)
  • 2 teaspoons cumin seeds
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon chili powder
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 5 tablespoons canola oil
  • 1 lemon

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two oven trays with foil and bring a deep-sided pan of water to a boil.

Wash the cauliflower, pull off the leaves from around the side, and discard. Break the cauliflower into small, fairly evenly sized florets using your hands and put to one side.

Put the cauliflower into the saucepan of boiling water and blanch for 1 minute, then drain really well. Let it dry for around 5 minutes in its own steam; if it is waterlogged it won’t crisp up nicely in the oven.

Using a mortar and pestle, grind the cumin along with the salt, then add the chili powder and turmeric, followed by the oil. Mix it all together really well. Lay the cauliflower out onto the trays in one layer and drizzle the spicy oil over it. Make sure the cauliflower is well coated, then put the trays in the oven for around 30 minutes, shaking them every 10 minutes or so to ensure the florets roast and brown evenly. If they start to burn, loosely cover them with foil.

Put the roasted cauliflower in a dish or bowl, and squeeze the lemon over the top before serving.

This dish disappears very quickly. If you’re cooking for a family, I’d suggest doubling or tripling the recipe, because it will fast become the focus of the meal. My partner is usually very measured in his feedback on dishes I make for the blog. When he tried this one, though, all I heard were variations on, “This is so good. Oh, this is really good.” Once he finished, his only comment was, “Can we have this again tomorrow?”

Luckily, this is a simple dish to put together and one that can happily roast away in the oven while you’re preparing the rest of your meal stovetop. It’s also going to become part of our afternoon snack repertoire. I’d take a bowl of this over popcorn any day. It’s crispy, tender, spicy, and tart all at once.

Sodha suggests pairing it with a lamb dish or kebabs, but there are plenty of possibilities for a vegetarian or vegan meal, too. My preference is to serve it with a curry or rice dish, but you could also serve it as part of a small plates meal, using some of the recipes from the starters or sides chapters – a table laden with Sodha’s spiced potato tikki, papadum chaat, fire-smoked eggplants, spicy chapati wraps, Jaipur slaw, and this cauliflower would make for a great evening with friends.

MadeinIndia

Raincoast Books has been generous enough to offer a copy of Made In India to one Canadian reader. You can find the giveaway here and enter until December 17th: Win a copy of Made In India*

So good it's all gone

Gift Giver’s Guide: For flavour hunter, the week night chef, the traveller come home, and the pantry filler.

Come back next week for a review of a book that’s a walk on the wild side.


*This giveaway is open to residents of Canada. You must have a Canadian mailing address. The winner will be required to answer the following skill testing question: 7 X 6 =_____ This promotion is in no way sponsored, endorsed or administered by, or associated with, Facebook. We hereby release Facebook of any liability. Winner(s) will be contacted by email within 48 hours after the giveaway ends. Entrants must provide a valid email address where they can be reached. Each of the winners must respond to the email announcing their win within 48 hours, or another winner will be chosen. No purchase of any product is required. If you have any additional questions – feel free to send us an email!

Have you checked out the rest of my holiday cookbook review series? There are copies of 5 great cookbooks up for grabs. You can find the links to the giveaways here and enter until December 17th.

25 thoughts on “Holiday Book Reviews – Made In India

  1. I love the sounds of this dish. I bet it would go beautifully with the slow cooker butter chicken I’ve got in the freezer. You’ve given me another cookbook title to add to my wish list. One of my favourite Indian dishes (besides butter chicken) is Saag Paneer (Spinach with Indian Cheese).

  2. Teresa, the recipe for Roasted Cauliflower from the book sounds wonderful and quite different – I cannot say that I cook Indian food much but I am always curious to learn and this cookbook certainly looks like it would be a nice addition to my collection of cookbooks.

  3. Over the past two years my thoughts on Indian food have evolved from “That looks unappetizing” to “Is 5 times a week too often to cook Indian?”. All it took was a close friend for a knack with spices in the kitchen and I feel in LOVE.

    Great review and thanks for passing on the recipe to your readers!

  4. Yum! This dish is so nutrient-dense I love it! Turmeric is super healing and paired with anti-inflammatory cauliflower.. this is a perfect dish for me! Thank you! #foodismedicine

  5. I love this cookbook….took it out of the library just to peruse…Tried a few recipes…The cauliflower cashew pea coconut curry was so tasty. Need to own it and try a lot more!

  6. Enjoyable overview Teresa and the dish looks lovely. I also like your assessment in regards to authenticity and making dish taste flavorful based on available ingredients. The home cooking aspect reflecting the cuisine within this cookbook seems like a great pic for a cookbook!

  7. Oh, that book looks great! Just seing the pic on top of the page made my mouth water:) For the giveaway, my favorite indian dish is butter chicken. I just love most indian spices!

  8. Love all the spices in this cauliflower recipe! I think sometimes Indian recipes can seem intimidating just with the sheer amount of spices alone haha, but I have an Indian spice box, which was a present from a friends, that’s going under-utilized!

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