I picked up this beautiful cookbook in Solana Beach last month and I’m obsessed with the design. The book comes in a small canvas rice sack, complete with quality assurance seal, and the colors and fonts used are very reminiscent of the labels you see printed on basmati bags.
This comprehensive book is written by Pushpesh Pant who, apart from having an awesome name, happens to be a professor in New Delhi. He begins by outlining the culinary history of the 12 regions of the Indian subcontinent in great detail. I found this completely fascinating. When I was in India 5 years ago I visited a restaurant that specialized in dum pukht cooking, in which dishes are slow-cooked in a sealed clay pot. According to Pushpesh Pant, the art of dum pukht began in the Awadh region in 1784 with a food-for-work program in which workers building a shrine were fed biryani that was sealed in a giant pot and cooked throughout the night. If that biryani was as good as the one I had in India, I’d happily build a shrine in exchange for it.
After pouring over every page I got the sense that this is the only Indian cookbook I’ll ever need. Pushpesh starts with masalas (including 3 different garam masala recipes), moves through pickles, snacks, main dishes and meats, and ends on more drinks and desserts than I’ll ever need in a lifetime. Looking for a fish recipe? There are 77 of them. Chicken? 87. Just want to make kebabs? You’ve got 23 recipes to choose from, including one called “Melt In The Mouth Smoked Kebabs."
Another thing I like about this book is the recipe layout and page thickness. A detail not to be overlooked, this book sits comfortably on my countertop without a heavy jar or willing assistant to hold it open for me. And each recipe is confined to it’s own page so no page-turning is needed.
And then there are the pictures. They are stunning. I’m filled with minor anxiety that I’ll never be able to make all the recipes in this book, but I’m going to have quite the culinary adventure trying.