Anjum Anand is often referred to as Indian Nigella Lawson. Passionate and personal, traditional yet contemporary, rich in flavors and healthy at the same time – is what Anjum Anand’s recipes are about!
Anjum Anand encourages her viewers and readers to start cooking at home with fresh, seasonal ingredients, presents the Indian cuisine to the west in a very uncomplicated manner, hence making Indian food accessible to all. In Anjum’s own words: “People’s experience of eating Indian food in the west is not a true reflection of the real food we eat at home, which is lighter, fresher and far more well balanced than the offerings at Indian restaurants. I try to showcase the true face of Indian food. But, mostly, I cook food which fits into our hectic lives today and helps us work towards our ideals of being healthy…” This pretty much summarizes her goal of her TV shows and her books. “She challenges fiercely the assertion that Indian food is a special occasion meal and is determined to make ‘cooking an Indian’ as common as rustling up a stir-fry.” (source)
This latest book, “Anjum’s New Indian” features recipes from her BBC show, “Indian Food Made Easy” along with some others. You’ll find a collection of more than a hundred delicious recipes accompanied by very appealing photographs. It is a well constructed, elaborate, containing of 256 pages.
Along with the recipes are little notes, tips, background, history and culture of food and her personal views which makes the cookbook a pleasure to read and use. The introduction in the book simply reveals the essence of the Indian cuisine – as it stands internationally, locally and down to the individual homes. She speaks about the background; the originality, the flavors, the foreign influence and the regional flavors of Indian food. Here is what she says -”Many of us do still perceive Indian food is often a generic “curry”, so eating proper Indian food is often a revelation….It is a cuisine you can spend your life getting to know, and it is there to be discovered by all those who are interested…”
The presentation of the book is simple and inviting which will make you want to reach out for a bowl and try out each and every one of the recipes right away.
The cookbook begins with the Basic Recipes used in Indian cooking – garam masala, black masala. paneer, yogurt, spice/masala mixes and pastes like the Goan Red Curry paste. It also has a section where she concisely explains the little but important details - how to brown the basic onion, tomatoes and spices to develop the flavors, how to pick the right ingredients, stressing on local, fresh and seasonal. I feel this is a invaluable for someone who would be trying out the cuisine for the very first time.
The book is divided into sections as a full course meal would develop; Light Meals and Snacks, Fish and Seafood, Chicken, Meat, Vegetables, Beans and Lentils, Rice and Bread, Raitas and Chutneys, Desserts and Drinks, and then followed by a very helpful Glossary and Index. What I really like about the lay out is that the recipes are not listed on the basis of their origin and region. It makes is so much easier to choose from each section. Few, but fresh ingredients, uncomplicated style and the wonderful photographs of the final dishes make it the most non intimidating cookbook ever. The style is unimposing and the recipes require minimum effort and preparation.
The collection of the recipes in this book is a lovely blend of traditional and non traditional. She specifically mentions if the recipe is not so traditional and the changes she has made and why she has made changes. For example the book includes a recipe for well known Rogan Josh, but she calls it “My Rogan Josh“, or the Goan Bebinca is “My Coconut Bebinca“ (pg. 241) and specifies in details the changes she has made to the original. Her recipes are varied, as the the dishes and flavors are chosen from every region of India. Every state in India had its own signature dishes, and spices and method of cooking. She has amalgamated in all of their flavors and taste in her own beautiful way in her book.
All of the recipes in the book are healthy, succulent, full of flavor and nice color, just like she says - “… When deciding on a menu, I consider nutrition, textures and colors…” She uses all the flavorful spices as well as ingredients moderately, stressing on maximizing the flavors while using fresh and healthy ingredients. The recipes do call for many spices, which is the synonymous to Indian cuisine and you might have to make a trip to the groceries, but these are the kind of spices that will keep in your pantry for months.
Some pages are devoted to the origin of the dish, influences as well as Anjum’s own experiences with food. “When it comes to food, we must first understand our bodies and nature of food and only then can we make informed choices to remain in balance”. Her honest views throughout the book gives an insight to what she has in mind when she presents her recipes to the world. These little essays will give the freedom to the readers to go out and explore their own views and appreciate the way they feel about the recipes and connect to them.
Tried and Tested
I have tried out quite a few recipes from the book and loved them all. Over time you will see many more that I will post in my space.
Easy Lime Cookies (Pg. 236-237) – Desserts
Photographs in the collage: left- Anjum right- eCurry
Very quick and easy way to fulfill a sweet craving. These will remind you of the shortbread cookies, but so uncomplicated that a child could make them. I did the oven version (the recipe mentions both the stove top and oven methods).
Cucumber and Carrot Koshimbir (Pg. 218-219) – Raitas and Chutneys
Photographs in the collage: left- eCurry right-Anjum
This is a wonderful light and nutritious salad – vegetables lightly combined with nuts and tempered with spices. I have been making this quite often.
Chicken with Sour Cream and Red Bell Pepper (Pg. 92-93) – Chicken
Photographs in the collage: left- eCurry right-Anjum
A very exotic chicken curry with the very unusual ingredients. It was really easy to make and was tangy and pleasant with great depth of flavors.
Delicious Mint and Paneer Tikka (Pg. 26-27) – Light Meals and Snacks
Photographs in the collage: left- Anjum right- eCurry
These skewered Paneer are a lovely twist to the everyday Paneer Tikka – “Delicate and light”, and fresh flavors make it a wonderful vegetarian appetizer.
Being an Indian myself, I found some traditional recipes from my state, where I grew up – West Bengal; needless to say I was delighted. Bengali Squash with Chickpeas (Pg. 151), Bengali Red Lentils (Pg. 172), Bengali Tomato Chutney (Pg. 222), Coconut and Mustard Shrimp (Pg. 68-69) are very close to the kind that I have had since childhood and I have already posted in my blog.
The book is well rounded to include some-Indian recipes too! Indian Shepherd’s Pie (Pg. 115) and Raj’s Chicken Cutlet (Pg.98), Anglo-Indian Tomato Soup (Pg. 41) are few of them. Anglo-Indian recipes are a natural fusion that occurred when the British ruled and the Anglo-Indian recipes still rule some part of eastern India.
Some recipes are very original and non-traditional but incorporating Indian flavors and spices at the same time; Punjabi Cranachan (Pg. 235), Chicken with Sour Cream and Bell Pepper (Pg. 92). While some are very traditional but with a contemporary twist; My Coconut Bebinca (Pg. 241), Peshawari Bread Raita (Pg. 217), Gujarati Fries with Cashews (Pg. 169), Dried Pomegranate Chicken(Pg. 97), Keralan Salmon Wraps (Pg. 77), Trout with White Poppy Seeds (Pg. 55) and Chicken Tikka Salad (Pg. 21) are just a few to mention.
Today I will share the recipe for Anjum’s Red Goan Chicken.
Red Goan Chicken
(Recipe is as is from Anjum’s New Indian)
“I love the Goan red spice paste. It is spicy, chilli-like and vinegary and adds a real punch to anything it is added to. I have made my paste suitable for Western palates, but by no means is it mild or apologetic. I think the dish shows the flavors of the paste beautifully. The onion adds sweetness and the tomatoes balances out the flavors of the paste. If you like spicy dishes – and by this I don’t mean red hot – this is a great dish to try.” – Anjum
- 4 tbps vegetable oil
- 1 large onion, peeled and sliced
- 4 tbsp Goan red spice paste (Recipe follows)
- 4 large tomatoes, chopped
- salt, to taste
- 1.5 lb chicken pieces, skinned
For Goan Red Spice Paste:
“This is a spicy, vinegary paste from the beautiful region of Goa. It is great with meat, chicken and fish; I have used it in a few recipes to get you started. Just remember when you cook with it, it is all raw so it does need to be well cooked before you use it.” – Anjum
Makes about half a cup
- 2 largish, mild fresh red chilies, deseeded
- 1 tsp cumin seeds
- 1 1/2 tsp coriander seeds
- 3 cloves
- 6 peppercorns
- 3/4 tsp ground turmeric
- 9 large of garlic, peeled
- 1/2 in slice fresh ginger, peeled
- 1 1/2 in piece of cinnamon
- 1 tsp tamarind paste
- 3/4 tsp sugar
- 3/4 tsp salt
- 1/3 cup white wine vinegar
Blend all the ingredients together to make a fine paste. Store in a sterilized jar in the fridge for 1 week.
Heat the oil in a large nonstick saucepan. Add the onion and cook until browned, around 10 minutes. Add the spice paste and cook, stirring, for 2-3 minutes.
Add the tomatoes and the salt, cover, and cook for 10 minutes or until the tomatoes have softened and reduced. Uncover the pan and toss the tomatoes in their own juices for another 6-8 minutes or until they have become good shade darker.
Add the chicken and stir well in the pan for a few minutes. Add 1 cup of water, bring to the boil and cover. Cover over low heat for 20 minutes if the pieces are small and 25 minutes if large. Uncover , turn the heat up and boil off excess moisture in the pan, tossing the chicken in the reducing gravy all the time. Doing this for 3-4 minutes will finish off the chicken, deepen the flavor and darken the color. The gravy should be dark red and quite thick. Serve with Indian bread.
Anjum’s New Indian is a comprehensive, easy to follow book – encompassing the rich history and depth of the Indian cuisine. She captures the diversity of food in the Indian subcontinent and brings it near to every kitchen in a very approachable fashion. As she writes, “… this book is only a snapshot of the breadth and depth of cooking of this subcontinent. … Some of the dishes have been included for their simplicity, others for their history and some for their relevance to a region;..This book has been a culinary journey for me as much as it might be for you, and I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.”
This is a honest review. My reviews were not influenced in any ways by the views of the author or publisher. Thank you to Wiley Publishers for this wonderful review opportunity. In accordance with FTC rules, I am disclosing that I received the free book mentioned in the post to provide my opinion and review. This was not a paid endorsement nor have I received any form of compensation to do the review.