Sauces & Sources

Here are some of my favourite South Asian cookery books and sources of information.

Mrs. Balbir Singh's Indian Cookery

       Mrs. Balbir Singh's Indian Cookery is one of my oldest cookery books on Indian cuisine. The first edition of the book was published in 1961 although my paperback edition, published in New Delhi, is a later, revised version containing a host of additional recipes. I used the book as a trusted source when I was devising my own recipes for the restaurant-style curries in Quick Meals from The Curry House. Apart from Mrs Balbir Singh's classic recipes, the book contains a wealth of general information on Indian cooking. One of my favourite quotes is "The art of Indian cookery lies not in high spicing but in the delicacy of the spicing" and I try to follow her advice in my own cooking.
Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cookery

       I remember watching every episode of the accompanying BBC TV series to Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cookery and thinking how wonderful she was and how exciting her cooking looked. My copy of her 1982 book is well worn and not a little stained with splashes from meals past. The book has some home-style recipes for restaurant favourites; for example lamb do piaza, rogan josh, shahi korma and butter chicken. But there are many other recipes which were new to me when I first bought the book and which are now firm family favourites. In particular, the vegetable recipes such as Bengali potatoes, spicy green beans and Gujerati-style cabbage with carrots taught me that South Asian vegetable dishes do not need to be swamped by an oily sauce (as I'd been used to from restaurant meals); they can taste fresh as well as spicy given the right treatment.
50 Great Curries of India

       Camellia Panjabi's 50 Great Curries of India is the classic cookery book on curries and deserves a place on every curry fan's bookshelf. Camellia takes a trip around the sub-continent, showcasing recipes such as palak gosht from Punjab, dalcha from Hyderabad, jeera aloo salan from Lucknow, murgh makhani from Delhi, kozhi varatha kosambu from Chettinad and doi maach from Bengal. Each of the recipes is introduced with a description and a history of the dish. I particularly like how Camillia explains which communities cook particular dishes and how they have spread to new regions when people have migrated. The book is illustrated with enticing photographs which make you want to grab the food right off the page!
Khana Khazana

       I treasure my copy of Sanjeev Kapoor's Khana Khazana because it was given to me by the man himself. Sanjeev Kapoor is arguably the most well-known chef in India, and is a legend in the realm of Indian cuisine. I was fortunate enough to be invited to the book launch of Khana Khazana which was held at Tamarind restaurant in London's Mayfair. When the event was over, Sanjeev was on hand to give his guests a copy of the book, have a chat and answer any questions they might have. Aubergines with yoghurt - Kasmiri dahi baingan - is one my favourite recipes from the book and I make it often as a vegetable side dish.
Vegetarian Delicacies from South India

       I bought this book - Vegetarian Delicacies from South India by Viji Varadarajan - in the famous Higginbotham's bookshop in Chennai. Higginbotham's opened in 1844 and holds the honour of being the oldest bookshop in India. South Indian cuisine was something of an unknown to me before my trip to India, but I have enjoyed making the recipes ever since. Viji Varadarajan explains the methods and ingredients that are needed to make the meals that are commonly found in Tamil homes. If you're keen to learn how to cook sambhar, rasam, idli and dosa, the book explains in clear language how to make them like a South Indian cook.
A Historical Dictionary of Indian Food

       A Historical Dictionary of Indian Food by Dr. K. T. Achaya has been my principal reference book over the years when writing for The Curry House and researching articles on the British love affair with curry. The book is invaluable on many different levels. The dictionary explains the historical significance of cuisines and foodstuffs, but can also be used to discover the meaning of Indian culinary terms. The book lists common indigenous and non-indigenous crops and gives a history of how and when new foods were introduced into India. For example, Dr. Achaya explains that there are no references in Indian literature for chillies before the sixteenth century. Until then, all mentions for a pungent spice in historical documents and recipes refer solely to black pepper. This is one of those fascinating books that you can skip through randomly and still discover new information each time you do so.
The Cooking Colonel of Madras by David Smith