Title: The Great Curries of India
Author: Camellia Panjbi
192 pages; Hardcover Photography---Color
Simon and Schuster, Ny, NY 1995
Reviewed by, Heidi Safford, March 2007
The Great Curries of India is a lesson in Indian culture and cuisine as well as
a source of many varied recipes. The book has beautiful pictures of almost all
the recipes and full page layouts with color pictures of herbs, spices and
chilies. The left and right margins are lined with beautiful photographs of
The first 50 pages of the book introduces readers to the philosophy of Indian
cuisine and the principles of how to make a curry, or gravy as the word is
commonly used in India today. There is an overview of Indian geography as it
relates to the food cooked in different locations. Although readers may be
temped by the beautiful pictures to rush straight to the recipes and start
cooking, it is well worth taking the time to read the beginning of the book. In
addition to learning about the thickening, souring and coloring agents used and
which spices are used mainly for taste and aroma, there are some essential
lessons to learn before firing up your stove. One important note that I almost
overlooked, having read it several days before I began cooking, was that the
cookbook uses 7 fluid ounces to equal one cup.
Above each recipe, the author describes where, how and when the dish is served
as well as some fun and interesting stories about the dishes. There is an
intriguing chart on page 49 of the book which guides cooks through different
types of curries based on the main protein or vegetable ingredients and adding
thickening and souring ingredients, color, spices, chilies and accompaniments.
The author suggests full menus for different occasions and wine pairings for
each recipe. It is a very complete book.
I made four recipes from the book: Chicken Stew, a main dish, Egg Curry, a
common home-style curry usually made for children, Moong Dal, or lentils and
Kulfi, an Indian ice cream. The Dal and Kulfi were easy to make. The Chicken
Stew and Egg Curry were more involved and had long ingredient lists, but no step
in the recipe was difficult as long as the cook is patient and has plenty of
time. The Chicken Stew was superb. My tasters, both children and adults, also
enjoyed the Dal and Kulfi. The tasters felt the onion was a bit too strong in
the Egg Curry, although everyone cleaned their plates. The Great Curries of
India showcases the variety of flavors and ingredients found in Indian cooking
and it can help an American cook prepare an Indian feast.
CHICKEN STEW (KERALA)
The word `stew' has become part of the Indian culinary
vocabulary. In Southern India, stew is made with
coconut milk and Malabar coast spices. In Kerala in
particular it is commonly eaten with appams or rice
flour pancakes for breakfast or Sunday brunch. In
Northern India, even roadside eateries serve a mild
curry which they can stew. The dish can be made milder
still by reducing the green chile. But it is really
aromatic. A lady from Kerala says that she thinks the
combination of ghee and oil imparts a special flavor.
The Keralites use very tiny pieces of chicken on the
bone. But you can use small boneless pieces too. On
the bone, this quantity will serve 4, but boneless
should suffice for 5.
1-in piece of fresh ginger (half cut into thin
julienne, the other half into pieces)
1 teaspoon peppercorns a little turmeric powder 2
onions, chopped coarsely 2-3 green chiles (serrano) 2
cups grated fresh coconut or I 0 cups tinned coconut
10-12 new potatoes salt, to taste
2 tablespoons oil 1 tablespoon ghee
%2 teaspoon mustard seeds I cinnamon or bay leaf 2
garlic cloves, sliced lengthwise 2-in cinnamon stick
4 cardamoms 3 cloves
20 curry leaves (can substitute with 6 mint leaves)
1 3/4 lb boneless, skinless chicken pieces 1 carrot,
peeled and cut into
%2 cup fresh or frozen peas teaspoon garam masala
1 Pound the ginger pieces (retain, the julienne strips
for later), peppercorns and a little turmeric and make
into a thick, uneven paste. Blend the onion and green
chiles. If using fresh coconut, put the grated coconut
in 21/2 cups water and blend to make an extract.
Strain and set aside. If using tinned, add 1 cup water
to 11/2 cups milk.
2 Scrub the potatoes and half-boil them in their skin
with a pinch of salt and turmeric.
3 Heat the oil and ghee together in a cooking pot and
when hot add the mustard seeds. When these seeds start
to crackle, add the cinnamon or bay leaf. When the
mixture has turned a khaki color add the garlic,
cinnamon stick and cardamoms. After 20 seconds add the
cloves and curry leaves. Then mix in the pureed onion
and chile and saute for 3 minutes. Add the chicken
pieces and saute for 2-3 minutes.
4 Add salt to taste, potatoes and carrot and cook,
covered, for 5 minutes. Then add the coconut milk,
peas and juliennes of ginger, sprinkle with garam
masala powder and cook covered until the chicken is
KULFI INDIAN ICE-CREAM
A favorite Indian dessert, kulfi (opposite) is an
ice-cream traditionally made by reducing the milk as a
result of boiling it for a very long time. However, it
is also easy to make with evaporated milk. Traditional
kulfi moulds are made of aluminium but are now
available in plastic. Alternatively you can make the
ice-cream in an ice-cube tray.
4 tablespoons sugar about 12 strands of saffron
3 cardamoms 3 tablespoons heavy cream
2 1-lb tins evaporated milk 2 leaves silver leaf, to
1 Add the sugar and cardamoms to the milk in a
heavy-based saucepan and cook over a low heat for 10
minutes, stirring and scraping the sides and bottom of
the pan continuously. Remove from the heat. Remove the
cardamoms and add the saffron. Mix well and leave to
cool. Then stir in the cream.
2 Fill the kulfi moulds or pour the mixture into
ice-cube trays. Freeze for 4-5 hours. Frozen kulfi
keeps in the freezer like ice-cream.
3 To remove from the moulds, dip each into hot water
and press out the kulfi. Decorate with silver leaf,
especially for festive occasions.