I love cook books, and this is one of the best Asian food books I have seen in years. It is beautifully presented and would make an excellent gift for anyone who enjoys cookery and Asian food in particular. It is also well bound (hardback version) and looks like it will stand frequent use. It contains numerous original and refreshing recipes that are a million miles removed from the increasingly dull and predictable menus you find in so many 'Indian' restaurants. Even the most basic dishes are excellent, and frequently deliver real 'wow factor'.
One of the best aspects of the book is that it always seems to have a recipe that deals imaginatively with whatever it is you have too much of in the fridge - just look it up in the (excellent) index - there's usually a recipe you can adapt for it.
I am particularly enjoying working my way through the many recipes that have simple main ingredients that are then transformed into original and exciting dishes. It is often said that superb food doesn't need to be complicated, and there are numerous dishes in this book that bear this out. Two of my favourites are "Mushroom and Coriander Curry", and a simple sweetcorn with fresh herbs and lemon juice dish.
If you're seeking to impress with a real extravaganza, there are plenty of sophisticated recipes to meet any need. But my strong advice is to try the many more straightforward recipes and re-connect with quick, delicious meals from simple ingredients. If anything, they deliver more 'wow' factor by appearing to be simple, and so are great for when you are trying to impress or simply looking for delicious, everyday soul food. This is certainly far more than a book for special occasions - I cook from it at least twice a week and have never yet been disappointed by it.
One small word of warning - many of the recipes include authentic levels of chilli / cayenne that may be a little on the warm side for some. The recipes still work well if you reduce the chilli - as a rule I would say in most cases you can halve the amount of chilli for those who like moderately spicy food, and probably use 1/4 of the chilli for those who prefer mild food. Obviously each recipe varies in heat, and it is very much down to personal preference, but if you are cooking one of these recipes for the first time for someone who may not revel in hot food - just check the quantities of chilli being used and if it sounds generous, tone it down a fair bit.
You will need a moderate variety of spices - almost all of which are the standard sorts you'll find in any decent supermarket (turmeric, coriander, cumin, cayenne, cinnamon etc). It is worth investing the £5 or £10 you'll need to do this as most of the recipes work from the same palette of fairly standard spices. A couple of tips - quite a few recipes need 'nigella seeds', which unfortunately are known by many other names. Tesco sells them as 'black onion seeds', asian stores often call then 'Kalonji' seeds, and there are at least a dozen other names for them. Look out for little black, irregularly shaped seeds and then see if one of their alternative names is as above. Common fresh herbs include coriander and mint, and if you have space to grow your own that would be helpful. Another common herb is curry leaves - if you can't get these, try bay leaves as a different flavour substitute or leave them out - the food will still taste great.
Overall, this is a great book with superb dishes if you are seeking to create a memorable dinner party. But for me, the real treasure of the book is the many simple, everyday dishes that are an absolute delight - don't dismiss them!