New cookbook brings Indian comfort food home
Tangy Grape Salad is featured in “Indian For Everyone.” Brave New Pictures and Gregg Lowe
American interest in Indian food and flavors has been growing in the last few years. We dine at Indian restaurants and wonder whether we could that favorite dish at home.
The answer is a resounding yes from a new cookbook by a Chicago author that sets out to show how accessible the cuisine is for home cooks.
“Indian for Everyone” (Agate Surrey, $35) by Anupy Singla is a true celebration of Indian food. A reader of the cookbook can’t help but catch Singla’s enthusiasm for the recipes and ingredients.
This is Singla’s third cookbook and one with great variety, a wonderful showcase for fresh ingredients. “Indian for Everyone” is a fine tool for a novice, but will be embraced by a seasoned cook as well. No one’s left out, either. Vegans, vegetarians, meat eaters and those with dietary restrictions will find instruction on how to make these recipes their own.
It begins with the basic blends and sauces used in Indian food. Singla also provides a thorough explanation of the herbs and spices these recipes incorporate.
And for once, vegetables aren’t treated as a supporting act hovering in the shadows, but are shown for their versatility and creativity. With these recipes there’s no reason a vegetable dish can’t be the star of a meal.
While some of the recipes may seem lengthy, the instructions are clear and give us the confidence to give ’em a try. I enjoyed the intros that often provide insight into Indian culture or little tales about Singla’s family.
Off to the side of each recipe are lists of the kitchen tools each recipe calls for as well as tips. Ideas for swapping in different ingredients to give a taste twist to different dishes also are included. Beautiful photos by Brave New Pictures and Gregg Lowe fill the pages with inviting dishes. (Could I please give Mary Valentin, who was in charge of the photo direction, a shoutout?)
Throughout is Singla’s voice cheering the reader on, saying, here’s why you want to try this recipe and yes, you can do it. Give “Indian for Everyone” a try and see if she isn’t right.
Note: Singla has a number of local appearances coming up. (Contact the locations for reservations.) They include (oh, and don’t miss the recipe at the end here):
Thursday, Oct. 16: Savory Spice Shop in Lincoln Square (4753 N. Lincoln Ave.) hosts “An Evening with Anupy” pre-launch party. An intimate night of storytelling, discussion, demonstration and food. 7 to 10 p.m.
Friday, Oct. 17: Whole Foods Market in Lincoln Park (1550 N Kingsbury) hosts the “Indian for Everyone” book launch party, which includes a cooking demonstration, recipe tasting, discussion, music and a special edition Goose Island “Devon Ave.” beer. 6 to 9 pm.
Saturday, Oct. 18: Anderson’s Bookshop in Naperville (111 W. Jefferson Ave.) hosts a demonstration and signing. 2 pm.
Sunday, Oct. 19: Flavour Cooking School in Forest Park (7401 W. Madison) hosts a demonstration class and signing. 4 to 6 pm.
Nov., 1: Marcel’s Culinary Experience in Glen Ellyn (490. N. Main Street) hosts a demonstration class and signing. 2 pm.
Lastly, here’s a recipe I think that shows the diversity of “Indian for Everyone.” I wouldn’t think to use grapes this way, so am intrigued by the sweet/savory recipe offered here.
(TANGY GRAPE SALAD)
MAKES 2 CUPS
Combining sweet fruits with Indian spices and lemon juice is common not only in Indian kitchens but also on the streets, where vendors mix these combinations for their customers.
Feel free to substitute any fruit, such as papaya, cantaloupe, banana, or even mango, for the grapes to make a healthy treat that your whole family will enjoy.
Tools: You’ll need a large mixing bowl.
1 pound green or red grapes, cut in half
½ teaspoon kala namak (black salt)
½ teaspoon Chaat Masala (see below)
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon red chile powder or cayenne pepper
1 heaping tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
In a large mixing bowl, combine all the ingredients and stir well to combine.
Refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
Transfer into individual serving bowls and serve as a side salad.
Note: To make the Chaat Masala:
MAKES 2 CUPS
½ heaping cup coriander seeds
2 heaping teaspoons cumin seeds
2 heaping tablespoons fennel seeds
8 whole dried red chiles, broken into pieces
½ cup whole black peppercorns
2 tablespoons kala namak (black salt)
2 teaspoons amchur (dried mango powder)
2 heaping teaspoons dried ginger powder
2 heaping teaspoons ajwain (carom seeds)
Combine coriander, cumin and fennel seeds; dried chiles and peppercorns in a shallow, heavy pan over medium heat and dry roast the spices for 4 minutes. During the entire cooking time, shake the pan every 15 to 20 seconds to prevent the spices from burning. The mixture should be just toasted and aromatic. Remove from the heat, transfer to a plate and set aside to cool for 15 minutes.
Place the cooled, roasted spices in a spice grinder or powerful blender, such as a Vitamix. Add the kala namak, amchur, ginger powder and ajwain and process into a fine powder. Take your time, as this might take a few minutes. If your spice grinder is small, you may need to grind it in several small batches. Sift after grinding to refine the powder or use as is.
Store in an airtight (preferably glass) jar in a cool, dry place for up to six months. (Look for hard-to-find ingredients at spice stores or any market that includes Asian ingredients.)
Reprinted with permission from Indian for Everyone: The Home Cook’s Guide to Traditional Favorites by Anupy Singla, Agate Surrey, October 2014.