I love this cookbook so much that I have now bought it for my sister, boyfriend, mum and step-mother! I was prompted to write a review when I saw another review that only gave it three stars... as you may be able to tell from my extreme purchasing habits outlined above, I am a big fan and I think this book deserves the full five stars. I want to tell you why I like it so much.
First of all, it's a good read. I like to lie in bed and skim through cookbooks, it's one of my little pleasures in life! This one is particularly aesthetically pleasing. A jacketed hardback, it is filled to the brim with enticing and beautifully photographed recipes.
Rather than lumping all Indian cooking together, or just looking at one type, the book looks at the different types of cooking in India's regions - it's divided into four parts: the North, the West, the South and the East. Each part starts with a description of the cooking in all the regions, from particular flavours to types of food that are found in that part of India. Each section has recipes in the following categories: vegetables, breads, rice, pulses, dairy, accompaniments and puddings. So you can compare the different types of, say, lentil dal or desserts. It's really interesting to get a sense of the different 'feel' of the food in each region.
At the end of the book there's a useful section with advice and information about different ingredients, from herbs and spices to rice or types of chilli. I found this helpful, as I'm not used to cooking Indian food and felt I needed a bit of extra advice on choosing chillies, for instance.
I've used this cookbook a lot and have always got good results from the recipes. There are a lot of fairly easy recipes that don't take too much work or require too long a list of ingredients - always appealing as I'm a lazy cook!
If you are looking for an Indian vegetarian cookbook, I think this is a wonderful one. Madhur Jaffrey's Eastern Vegetarian Cooking probably can't be beaten for being comprehensive (and indeed it is a great book too), but this is definitely the book for you if you appreciate lavishly illustrated cookbooks that offer readable explanations and interesting facts as well as recipes. It's a very nice visual and cultural introduction to Indian food.