Jaffrey, Madhur. An Invitation to Indian Cooking. New Jersey: Ecco Press, 1999.
I have to start off by saying I love Madhur Jaffrey’s cookbooks. I own several and all of them are well-organized and beautifully illustrated (or have gorgeous photographs).
An Invitation to Indian Cooking might have been a more accurate title had it included the subtitle Getting to Know Indian Cuisines and Ingredients because Jaffrey not only invites you into the world of Indian cuisine she also includes history lessons and ingredient explanations in addition to recipes. While her tone is conversational I found it to be a little didactic at times. Her claims that Americans, on the whole, don’t know what well-prepared rice tastes like is one such example. Another drawback to An Invitation to Indian Cooking is its out-of-date information. Basmati rice, Jaffrey recommends, is readily available at specialty stores. That may have been true in 1973 when her first cookbook was published, but I expected the reprint to have some updated information. I also find it hard to believe that out of 50 states only 12 have stores that carry authentic Indian ingredients.
But, having said all that, I love the recipes Jaffrey includes in her first cookbook. I like her attention to detail and her comparisons between American and Indian products. For example, Jaffrey points out that American chicken is more tender than chicken purchased in India, therefore traditional Indian cooking techniques would not work well on an American-raised bird.
“The chicken available in American markets is so tender that it begins to fall apart well before it can go through the several stages required in most Indian recipes” (p 86).
If you are ambitious enough to make several Indian recipes at the same time Jaffrey includes a series of different menus to try.
BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter called, “India: a Reader’s Itinerary” (p 125).