When Indian food is mentioned, most people think immediately of the spices, the chillies, the heat. Next it's the colour, and the heaping plates, the aromas of meats braising for hours, stirred in vast cauldrons, and heaped over rice.
Yet a vast proportion of Indian people do not eat meat, for a variety of religious, health or economic reasons. Khanna's earliest food memories are of his grandmother's garden in Amritsar, India. Those herbs, the spices, the vegetables he helped her tend and select, shaped his world view of food from an early age.
Of course no one then knew that he would go on to become a Michelin-starred chef in New York, heading up Junoon, one of that city's most highly regarded Indian restaurants. But don despair. These recipes are for a home cook. The ingredient lists are short, directions clear and easy to follow. Yet the results will please everyone.
This book is crammed with traditional recipes, just like Chef Khanna's grandmother's ones, along with new ones of his own creation. And while vegetarian usually relates most to main courses and savoury foods, there is the full menu here: breads, a section of drinks - lassis, mango drinks, tropical fruit drinks - and desserts. From the British era comes ginger cake with pistachios, from India cardamom-scented sweet rice balls, and much more.
Stunningly illustrated with photography by Michael Swamy, this is a book to read, drool over, but most of all to cook from. After all, how can your resist the urge to try cooking some Sichuan pepper bread, or a rainbow-coloured dish of spiced cauliflower with orange sauce? Or how about a pot of green lentils with spinach and chipotle?
Every page is evocative of a country which raises the best produce, and here we have dishes from a chef that loves that produce too and wishes ito share it with the world.
Indian Harvest - classic and contemporary vegetarian dishes, by Vikas Khanna, published by Bloomsbury, 2015, hardcover, rrp A$55.
- reviewed by Sally Hammond
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