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CURRY LEAVES AND CUMIN SEEDS (article first published : 2003-01-6)

I was brought up in Kenya and curry was served for lunch every Saturday with the result that I am now a fairly proficient maker of curries. As a lover of Indian foods, I was therefore delighted when Curry Leaves and Cumin Seeds came to me for review. In it, the delights of mainly spicy (rather than hot) North Indian dishes are presented in recipes that have a reduced fat content without compromising on flavour.

All tastes are catered for, from vegetarian and the health conscious through spice aficionados to those with a sweet tooth. Author Jeeti Gandhi is a qualified dietician. A member of the Canadian Dietetic Association, she holds a diploma in cooking for special occasions. She was senior lecturer at the Institute of Hotel Management and Catering Technology and Applied Nutrition in India and has appeared on Indian television presenting a 10 episode programme on low fat, low cholesterol diets. She is currently based in Johannesburg and this is her eighth book.

In the introduction to Curry Leaves and Cumin Seeds, she tells how she finds comments such as: “To make any dish taste Indian, I just add curry” sadly unjustified. After a dinner party where she served food that was totally Indian in content, the favourable reaction from her guests encouraged her to compile this cookery book.

She says “The only spice that makes Indian food hot is green or red chillies …. and these can be adjusted according to taste without affecting the flavour of the dish.” In response to the fact that many people are turning vegetarian, she includes over 50 suitable and appetising recipes.

Chapters are clearly divided. Starters & Snacks can also be served as accompaniments to main courses or as a light meal, with Fried Chickpea Savouries and Spicy Corn Fritters being good examples. From the Tandoor - the characteristic common to the great variety of dishes that can be cooked in this style is the use of yoghurt, ginger and garlic. Kebabs and tikkas are small pieces of marinated meat cooked in a tandoor oven or on an open fire grilled or fried.

Fish and Shellfish - Coconut Fish cooks quickly in just 13 minutes while Seafood & Almond Sauce sounds unusual. Chicken & Lamb features delectable simplified recipes such as Colourful Stirfried Chicken and Lamb Mince with Green Peas. Vegetarian Dishes includes ways of cooking paneer (home-made cheese and legumes), vital for a balanced diet. Side Dishes covers the wonderful variety of vegetable recipes using ingredients that are familiar and readily available to South Africans. In the Rice Dishes section you’ll find the pulaos and famous breyanis. The chapter on breads gives details on producing the several different types of mostly-unleavened breads which look at bit of a challenge to me.

For the Sweet Tooth focuses on desserts which are are milk based with the generous use of nuts and dried fruits as well as sweet drinks which may be served in place of desserts. Basic Recipes gives the know-how on producing home-made yoghurt and cheese, tandoori masala and garam masala and other basics. The Glossary of Herbs and Spices gives their Indian and English names and uses. There’s also a list of stockists in Cape Town, Durban and Gauteng.

All in all, a beautifully produced book and the quality work of food stylist Abigail Donnelly and photographer Dirk Peters is up there with the best of their kind in the world. Beautiful photos include scenes of Indian life, particularly a lady in a patterned red sari selecting red tomatoes in a market and an elderly woman seated among her fresh vegetables. Having reviewed a fair number of cookery books over the last couple of weeks, I have come to recognise the crisp clear layout of designer Petal Palmer. One of her best ideas is to colour code the pages of the various chapters for easy reference.

Published by Struik in soft cover, Curry Leaves and Cumin Seeds retails at R119.95. – Review by Cherry MacIldowie.




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