Spices and Seasons
Publication date: May 1, 2014
Genres: Cooking, Recipes, Indian Cuisine
Rating: 5 stars
Spices and Seasons, Simple Sustainable Indian Flavors
Rinku Bhattacharya combines her two great loves―Indian cooking and sustainable living―to give readers a simple, accessible way to cook seasonally, locally, and flavorfully. Inspired by the bounty of local produce, mostly from her own backyard, Rinku set out to create recipes for busy, time-strapped home cooks who want to blend Indian flavors into nutritious family meals. Arranged in chapters from appetizers through desserts, the cookbook includes everything from small bites, soups, seafood, meat and poultry, and vegetables, to condiments, breads, and sweets. You’ll find recipes for tempting fare like “Mango and Goat Cheese Mini Crisps,” “Roasted Red Pepper Chutney,” “Crisped Okra with Dry Spice Rub,” “Smoky Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Puree,” and “Red Harvest Masala Cornish Hens,” to name a few. As exotic and enticing as these recipes sound, the ingredients are easily found and the instructions are simple. Rinku encourages readers to explore the bounty of their local farms and markets, and embrace the rich flavors of India to cook food that is nutritious, healthy, seasonal and most importantly, delicious.
So this is a new one for me. I love to cook, I love to try new foods, and I might have a slight cookbook addiction…so when the opportunity came along to review this (and another one coming soon), I jumped at it. Unfortunately, I had a slight miscalculation in that I live about an hour from the nearest city that would have a decent Asian/Indian grocery and I didn’t get a chance to get there. However, I scoured the recipes in this book and was pleasantly surprised to find that many of them didn’t require special ingredients. Unfortunately, I live in an area where even whole coriander is considered special (let alone cardamom pods). With a little bit of ingenuity, though, I was able to find the stuff I needed (ugh, pre-ground spices and I had to give up on the mild dried peppers entirely). And while I don’t doubt the complexity of flavors that would have been present would have far surpassed what I did get, the substitutes did no harm.
I wound up making Slow-Roasted Chicken with Caramelized Onions (p. 229) and it was a hit. My children devoured it while singing praises the whole meal. The beautiful mix of sweet (cinnamon, clove, and cardamom) with savory (cumin, coriander, garlic) made for a meal that had the children rolling on the floor begging for dinner to be done and going back for seconds and thirds once we ate.
Bhattacharya puts a personal note at the top of each recipe, often sharing anecdotes and the history of the recipes. This lends to the feeling that this book was definitely a labor of love. She also adds notes into the directions in the recipes. In this particular recipe, she points out that “these onions are at the heart of the recipe, and they need to be fried with a lot of tender loving care.”
Beyond this, though, the recipes are extremely easy to follow. There’s no guesswork on what she means. Ingredients are frequently referred to other parts of the book where she guides you to making your own pastes and spice mixes. The times are generally spot-on (though I always have to cook my onions for far longer than recommended to get them to caramelize…it doesn’t matter where I get the recipe from). Each recipe is accompanied by a full-color image to tempt you into trying it, and the occasional mix of Western foods (a fusion of Italian and Indian to create an Indian-style bolognaise, in one case) creates a varied and intriguing cookbook that is definitely going to get some good use.
I am putting this in a place that is easy to access…and the kids agreed that this was a good choice. Grab your copy of this beautiful and flavor-heavy cookbook by clicking the link below.
About Rinku Bhattacharya
Rinku Bhattacharya (spicechronicles.com) was born in India, and now lives in a house with a vibrant backyard in Hudson Valley, New York with her husband, an avid gardener, and their two children. Rinku’s simple, sustainable approach to Indian cooking is showcased on her blog, Spice Chronicles, and in her Journal News column “Spices and Seasons.”
Rinku has been teaching recreational cooking classes for the past nine years, and works extensively with local area farmer’s markets on seasonal demonstrations and discussions. Rinku is also the author of The Bengali Five Spice Chronicles (Hippocrene Books, 2012), winner of the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2013 for Best Indian Cuisine. She writes for the Poughkeepsie Journal, the Journal News, and several online sites, and is a frequent guest on CT Style TV.