The Spice is Right: Easy Indian Cooking for Today by Monica Bhide
2001, Callawind Publications, Kirkland, Quebec, Canada
Reviewed by Bess R. Emanuel for Good Cooking
May, 2002

This book takes a new, modern approach to Indian cooking. It is a very personal cookbook, with the author contributing many of her thoughts and even her failures, as she has worked to adapt the foods and cooking styles of her family and culture to the western kitchen.

The idea of cooking Indian food at home can be intimidating, but this book makes it accessible. One must of course plan ahead most western cooks don t have all of the ingredients in their cupboards on a regular basis. Here too, the author gives information about sources for Indian spices and products.

This is a nicely printed, easy to read book, although the layout by menus rather than the usual categories took a little time to adjust to. All of the dishes we tried (Chicken Tikka, Corn and Rice Pilaf, and Roti) were flavorful, fairly quick to prepare and recipes were relatively easy to follow, although at times I would have liked a bit more direction (i.e., in the Roti recipe, how long should I leave the roti on the heat after pressing down to make it puff? I did get the hang of it after one or two, and was happy to have puffy ones!). Results produced fresh flavors, and I particularly appreciated the author s work to make many of the recipes lower in fat than traditional versions. One note: items seemed lacking in salt, but that may be American taste buds as opposed to Indianperhaps some dishes should be more bland as foils to the spicy ones??

In any case, The Spice is Right is definitely a book to try if you want to begin to cook Indian food at home. You will be pleasantly surprised by these modern interpretations of authentic Indian dishes.

Monica Bhide the Author

Chicken Tikka

Prep Time: 15 minutes, plus 3 to 4 hours for marinating
Cooking Time: 20 minutes

1 cup / 250 mL fat-free plain yogurt
2 tablespoons / 25 mL lemon juice
1 tablespoon / 15 mL finely chopped fresh coriander
1 tablespoon / 15 mL ginger garlic paste
1 teaspoon / 5 mL ground coriander
1 teaspoon / 5 mL red chile powder
1/2 teaspoon / 2 mL ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon / 2 mL white pepper
1 pound / 500 g skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into 1-inch / 2.5-cm cubes
1 tablespoon / 15 mL vegetable oil

Garnish: Onion rings

In a medium bowl combine the yogurt, lemon juice, fresh coriander, ginger garlic paste, ground coriander, chile powder, cumin, and pepper; mix well. Add the chicken, turning to coat. Marinate, covered and refrigerated, For about 3 hours.

Preheat the grill. Thread the chicken onto skewers. Grill For 8 to 10 minutes or until chicken is cooked through, turning skewers occasionally and basting with cooking oil.

Remove tikka from skewers. Serve garnished with onion rings.
VARIATIONS: This is also a wonderful marinade for shrimp.

Good Cooking has had some serious Indian food experiences. Percy Sullivan, "The King of Curry" from Hyderabad, was Chef Vyhnanek's teacher. Bombay butterflies, curry base, lime pickle, raita and naan were some of the items they cooked together. With Monica's book you at home can cook like a pro too, just be sure you have all of the ingredients before you start! This is Indian cooking made simple and very tasty, enjoy!

Our Daily Bread: Roti

Cooking Time: 20 minutes
Prep Time: 20 minutes 2 cups / 500 mL whole wheat flour
3/4 cup / 175 mL water
pinch of salt

In a mixing bowl stir together the flour and salt. Add the water and knead until the dough is flexible and no longer sticky (about 5 minutes). Set aside for about 15 minutes.
Divide the dough into 8 portions. Roll each portion into a ball and roll it in a little flour. Flatten it between the palms of your hands. On a lightly floured surface, roll into thin 8-inch/20-cm rounds. Heat a small nonstick skillet over medium heat. Cook 1 round at a time for 30 seconds. Flip over and cook for another 30 seconds. With a small folded cloth, press down lightly on the round. The roti will start to puff up. Don't worry if it does not - it takes a lot of practice to get this to work right! Place the roti on a serving plate lined
with paper towels. Keep warm, covered with a paper towel. Repeat for the remaining rotis. Serve immediately, or wrap in foil and reheat in a 300 F/150 C oven until warmed through.

VARIATIONS: Add a pinch of red Chile powder and rock salt to the dough to make a Chile roti. Serve with any yogurt sauce or raita.
MAKES: 8 rotis

Corn and rice pilaf (pullao)
Prep Time: 5minutes
Cooking Time: 20 minutes 1 tablespoon / 15 mL vegetable oil

1 tablespoon / 15 mL cumin seeds
1 cup / 250 mL basmati or any long-grain rice, rinsed
1 cup / 250 mL corn kernels
I teaspoon / 5 mL turmeric
Salt to taste
2 cups / 500 mL water
Garnish: Grated carrot and finely chopped fresh coriander

In a large saucepan heat the oil over medium heat. Add the cumin seeds. As soon as they splatter add the rice; sautee for I minute. Add the corn, turmeric, salt, and water. Let mixture come to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat. Cook, without stirring, for ten minutes or until the rice is cooked through and the water is all dried up. Serve garnished with grated carrot and chopped coriander. VARIATIONS: You can use any vegetable or a combination if you do not wish to use corn.