This is a beautifully put together book and the following review is going to seem a bit mean spirited. I don't mean it to be but I am frustrated by its lack of focus, and the fact that its usefulness is compromised so much by its form. It is over-elaborate, over-expensive, over-fancy and ill-suited to the task of being a practical cookery book. In short - JUST GIVE US THE RECIPES!
Mother India and related restaurants are a byword for excellence in Scottish Indian food. There is no doubting of that. I, like many others I am sure, approached this book with the singleminded intent of having me some of that fabulous food from my own hob. The book has other ideas. The book also wants to give you a family/business history over several decades, and show you some nice photography by a friend of the restaurateur. So take note of the sub-title: "Recipes - Pictures - Stories", They are not kidding!
The recipes themselves are generally good. There is a slightly annoying lack of precision at times. We are often told to do things for "a few minutes". This is slapdash to me. Either tell me exact time to fry or simmer or whatever, or tell me what to look for to know the time is up. Most home cooks will use tinned chickpeas over dried, so it would be useful to have amounts given for these and not just a dried weight.
The recipes come in a wide variety from traditional classics through to those with a modern twist. There is a good balance of meat and veggie too. The recipes if contained in a smaller, cheaper more robust book would receive four or four and half grateful stars from me.
But as I say, there is also considerable space given over to the restaurant history, and the photography.
Monir Mohammed tells in some detail the story of his efforts in the restaurant business, through triumphs, bankruptcy, shifting locations and tastes. It is reasonably interesting but not compelling, The photography is perhaps the oddest bolt-on. Martin's Gray's images cover not just the restaurants and their staff, but the cities where they are located in the widest sense. I realise the chef feels it appropriate to set this book about his businesses in the wider context of their communities but it seems to me that many readers might prefer more curry and fewer snaps of people in parks or on tenement streets.
It might seem churlish to mark down this book for looking so good and having high production values, but I want cook books to be made for the rigours of the kitchen, not the coffee table. Its so pretty you worry about getting it splashed and spattered.
The high watermark for me when it comes to restaurants sharing their recipes, is Prashad Cookbook: Indian Vegetarian Cooking
. Mrs Patel gives a foolproof blow by blow account of how to make exceptional food. I wish Mr Mohammed had done the same.