by Victoria Challancin
In 660 Curries: The Gateway to Indian Cooking, award-winning author and cooking teacher Raghavan Iyer creates an almost perfect, comprehensive cookbook that celebrates the vast world of Indian cuisine. For beginners, he provides simple and thorough explanations. For more experienced cooks, he offers regional interpretations that will inspire and challenge. And for those who want a culinary tour of India through the eyes, nose, and ears alone, he offers a sensory journey through every part of the country just by reading his vibrant words.
Normally when I see large numbers of recipes touted in titles, I cringe from an image too similar to that of a 40-page Chinese menu, thinking, “How could anyone possibly provide anything of value with such an enormous range?” My good friend Marge Poore accomplished it beautifully with her 1,000 Mexican Recipes. And Raghavan Iyer does it as well in 660 Curries. Accessible and interesting, the recipes and explanation demystify the world of curries including many regional variations, making them approachable even by the most inexperienced cook.
I like to read cookbooks, relishing in well-written prose, almost as if they were novels. This cookbook provides plenty to read in its 816 pages. Though I miss color photos, I have no problem accepting this book just as it is, a near-perfect compilation written with love. Iyer’s voice is so joyously contagious, that I defy the casual browser not to get deeply involved in his culinary journey. His refreshing prose begs us to participate with him in the production of authentic, varied dishes of his homeland. There is a wide range of styles that are bound to suit any palate.
The contents include:
Spice Blends and Pastes (all are enticing)
Poultry, Game & Egg Curries
Beef, Lamb, and Pork Curries
Fish and Seafood Curries
Curry Cohorts (Sides and accompaniments)
Metric Conversion Charts
A Glossary of Ingredients
The Elements of a Curry
Some of the recipes that particularly appeal to me are:
Griddle-Cooked Eggplant with a Garlic Yogurt Sauce
Yogurt-Marinated Chicken in a Black Peppercorn Sauce
Almond Chicken in a Yogurt-Mint Sauce
Mangalorean Chicken Curry with Tamarind and Coconut Milk
Fennel-Kissed Chicken Simmered in a Ginger-Poppy Seed Sauce
Lamb with Pickled Mangoes and Yogurt
Cashew Lamb with a Coconut Milk Sauce
Pork and Cashews with a Black Peppercorn Sauce
Salmon with Garlic and Turmeric
Fish Fillets with a Cilantro-Cream Sauce
Almond Shrimp with Tomatoes
And more…so many more
For vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike, this enticing book offers enough recipes to satisfy even the most finicky cook. The regional diversity is enormous and the contemporary interpretations are satisfying and exciting.