Everyday Food Blog

Cooking the Book: Simple Indian Cookery

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I hosted a cooking day at my house. We cooked from Madhur Jaffrey's Simple Indian Cookery.

I hosted a cooking day at my house. We cooked from Madhur Jaffrey's Simple Indian Cookery.

My twin sister and I and a friend had wanted to take a cooking class together. However, finding a good time and a fun class to fit that time had been difficult. The solution: We chose a cookbook and decided to tackle the recipes on our own. None of us had done much Indian cooking and my sister and I had the perfect cookbook to use—Simple Indian Cookery by Madhur Jaffrey. We had been in the audience when Mrs. Jaffrey was on Martha's show a few years ago and we had received the cookbook. I hosted the cooking day because I had the biggest kitchen and bought all the groceries. I divided the cost and had everyone contribute. It ended up being just $20 per person—a lot cheaper than an actual cooking class!

Check out my photos below to see what we cooked. We also made a few condiments—fresh green chutney and yogurt raita with cucumber and mint. Her basmati rice recipe called for soaking the rice before steaming it with an equal amount of water—it turned out so fluffy! My boyfriend even got involved, finding a naan recipe online with a video and making the Indian flatbread. To finish, we puréed yogurt with mangos for lassis. There were plenty of leftovers, so I was glad I had lots of old take-out containers for everyone to carry the extra food home.

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These are some of the spices we used (from left): ground and whole coriander, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, fenugreek seeds, cloves, dried hot Indian chiles, fennel seeds, garam masala, peppercorns, and cardamom pods.

1 These are some of the spices we used (from left): ground and whole coriander, bay leaves, cinnamon stick, fenugreek seeds, cloves, dried hot Indian chiles, fennel seeds, garam masala, peppercorns, and cardamom pods.

For the lamb madras curry, one of our main dishes, we toasted dried chiles, fennel, fenugreek and coriander seeds, and cloves in a skillet and then ground them in my coffee grinder. We coated the cubed lamb shoulder in the mixture and then marinated the meat for a few hours.

2 For the lamb madras curry, one of our main dishes, we toasted dried chiles, fennel, fenugreek and coriander seeds, and cloves in a skillet and then ground them in my coffee grinder. We coated the cubed lamb shoulder in the mixture and then marinated the meat for a few hours.

I marinated chicken breasts and legs overnight in a yogurt-based marinade for our chicken tikka masala. We cooked it in a very hot oven on a sheet pan, saving some of the marinade to use in the sauce later.

3 I marinated chicken breasts and legs overnight in a yogurt-based marinade for our chicken tikka masala. We cooked it in a very hot oven on a sheet pan, saving some of the marinade to use in the sauce later.

The roasted chicken is added to a skillet with spices, onion, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, and the reserved marinade.

4 The roasted chicken is added to a skillet with spices, onion, tomatoes, ginger, garlic, and the reserved marinade.

We used our pizza stone to bake the naan and our new pizza peel was great for sliding it in and out.

5 We used our pizza stone to bake the naan and our new pizza peel was great for sliding it in and out.

This simple side of shallots, chile, and kale—we subbed it in place of spinach—was a favorite (my sister served it at Thanksgiving). A little cream added at the end balanced the heat from the chile.

6 This simple side of shallots, chile, and kale—we subbed it in place of spinach—was a favorite (my sister served it at Thanksgiving). A little cream added at the end balanced the heat from the chile.

The final result (clockwise from top): the lamb madras on steamed basmati rice, a simple tomato and onion salad or cachumbar, the kale side, and the chicken tikka masala.

7 The final result (clockwise from top): the lamb madras on steamed basmati rice, a simple tomato and onion salad or cachumbar, the kale side, and the chicken tikka masala.

For a few tips on how to host your own "Cook the Book" day, read more after the jump.

Tip #1. Choose a cookbook. You don’t need buy a new cookbook—this is the perfect time to take stock of the your own cookbooks or look online at recipes sites to find a menu (many times, these menus might include a shopping list and a schedule).

Tip #2. Create the menu. Pay close attention to how many ingredients there are to prep and the cooking times. Make sure the menu is manageable within the allotted time and the menu will feed all your guests.

Tip #3. Set up a cooking plan. The night before, read through the recipes and figure out what needs to be prepped or cooked first. Take care of anything that needs to be done a day in advance, such as marinating. (I found that we spent most the afternoon chopping ingredients and the cooking part took up the least amount of time. If you want to focus more on the cooking part, you should prep ingredients in advance of everyone arriving.)

Tip #4. Make it fun. Prepare a fun nonalcoholic or alcoholic beverage for everyone to drink while cooking. A few small snacks, such as cheeses or nuts, are a nice touch, too (it’s hard for people to cook if they’re hungry).

Once everything is ready, set a nice table and sit down and enjoy all your labors!

What cookbooks do you love to cook from with a crowd?

Comments (2)

  • avatar

    What a great idea. You might also enjoy reading Madhur Jaffrey's wonderful autobiography, Climbing the Mango Trees. I'm almost finished reading it, and don't want it to end!

  • avatar Author Comment:

    I read the book earlier this year—it was a treasure and was sad to reach the last page, too!

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