When our son was still very little, we began feeding him curry. This was for two very good reasons, as the both of us like little better than a great curry and the thought of it being off-menu because our son didn't like it, was too great a sacrifice. As a consequence and one would hope, needless to say, we had to endure some fairly uninterestingly quiet and well-behaved curries but it was worth it, as today our son is as much a curryhound as the rest of us.
So, when the opportunity came up to take a look at Anjum Anand's new book "I Love Curry", of course I jumped at the chance. I already had confidence in Anjum Anand, having seen her cook on the t.v. and having already made dishes that carried her name beside the recipe.
It's a jolly book, with recipes that fit well with the brightly coloured cover. It carries a classic layout, being divided up into sections such as meat, fish and vegetable, so no difficulties there. The photography, by Jonathan Gregson, is particularly enjoyable with most dishes depicted (except maybe the Sweet & Sour Squash, page 144) seeming to urge you to sample their flavours and textures.
One thing I will say, is that I thank goodness I live close to an ethnic shop where I can seek out some of the less well-known herbs and spices. As I read through the book, I was muttering things like "well what the heck is Chaat Masala?" or "Panch Phoran? Whaaa?", however confidence was restored when I reached page 171 where Anjum has set out a "Spices 101", giving descriptions of the majority of spices and herbs mentioned in the book. *phew* That's a relief.
Another few pages of note begin at just page 8, where Anjum sets out some of the "secrets" to making a successful curry. To my way of thinking, the book is valuable simply for some of the learning that is set out in these two pages! As an example, the difference between Nigella and Mustard Seeds when placed in hot oil. These are things that you could pick up through trial and error, but why go through the error, when Anjum has explained it all for you? Sheer brilliance.
I've already marked out four dishes that I'll be including on our menu lists in the future - Tarka Dhal, Chickpea Curry, Prawn Patia and Mussels with Saffron. I've also got several of the "Bites" in mind for the Christmas buffet. You see, a "curry" covers a multitude of different recipes - and this book will help you to cook your way to an understanding of some of the major differences.
The book holds itself out as a recipe book for both the experienced cook and the beginner, but I'd say that it would be at it's most valuable in the hands of an "improving" cook. One who had enough confidence with the genre to be able to play with the recipes and tweak them to their own personal taste, because there's plenty of room to be able to do just that.