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16 November 2014

Spices & Seasons
Rinku Bhattacharya
Hippocrene Books, Inc, New York
Publication Date
May 2014
cookery, non-fiction

This cookbook combines her two great loves -- Indian cooking and sustainable living -- to give readers a simple, accessible way to cook seasonally, locally and flavourfully. Inspired by the bounty of local produce, mostly from her own backyard, Rinku set out to create recipes for busy, time-strapped home cooks who want to bring Indian flavours to nutritious family meals. Arranged in chapters from appetisers through desserts, the cookbook includes everything from small bites, soups, seafood, meat, poultry and vegetables, to condiments, breads and sweets. You will find recipes for tempting fare like "Mango and Goat Cheese Mini Crisps", "Roasted Red Pepper Chutney", "Crisped Okra with Dry Spice Rub", "Smoky Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Puree" and "Red Harvest Masala Cornish Hens", to name a few. As exotic and enticing as these recipes sound, the ingredients are easily found and the instructions are simple. Includes: Over 15 recipes, mostly gluten-free and Vegetarian / Vegan; Gluten-free / Vegetarian / Vegan recipes are clearly labelled; Helpful sections on spices, ingredients and utensils; Tips and tricks for getting the best results and "green tips" for making your kitchen eco-friendly; Colour photographs for each recipe.

My review:  
First impression: I like the sturdy look of this book. I know we shouldn't judge a book by it's cover, but let's face it, if you are going to use your cook book a lot, it can't be too flimsy. A quick browse through the pages (as you would do if you were to pick the book up in a book shop) reveals pictures with ever recipe, and that for me is what a good cook book is all about, as essentially presentation in cooking is very important. 

The emphasis in this book is on sustainability, and at the beginning, the author provides a short paragraph, taking her back to her grandmother's and mother's kitchen which were often much more efficient and less wasteful than our modern day variety. I do like this, and my grandmother was exactly the same. In fact, where I grew up in East Germany, we did not always had many ingredients available, so often it was about 'making do' but with the use of the right spices, it always tasted nice. 

Also in the introduction the chapter 'Learning the essentials' teaches as the 'Indian approach to cooking'. Even if you are an experienced cook, give this one a quick read. I found it very interesting, particularly the benefits of the spices, green tips and how to set up a 'Starter Kit' with spices. Not as difficult as you might imagine. 

The cooking chapters are divided in: Appetizers; Salads Condiments & Chutneys; Soups and Lentils; Protein: Eggs Paneer and Tofu; Vegetables; Fish; Meat and Poultry; Holiday Season cooking; Rice Grains and Pasta; Breads; Desserts and Sweets. The final chapter outlines the authors 'Spice Chest' - her mixed spices collection. I loved this and have never seen it before in a cook book. It has inspired me to make my own spice chest, indeed I was already using a few of my own spice mixes without realising it.

Importantly, and as with this author's previous cook book, all the ingredients for the recipes are really easy to find. Certainly here in the UK you will find them in the big supermarkets or in smaller Indian shops. Once you have a certain amount of spices in your larder, it really is only the fresh ingredients you have to get which is no different from your day-to-day cooking. My favourite recipes which I have cooked so far: Chicken Tikka Kebabs (page 39) - I have cooked this dish  before but never with yoghurt. It turned out absolutely lovely and (apart from the marinating) took me no longer than 5 minutes to prepare. I further cooked the Creamy Coconut Egg Curry. I do love anything with coconut and also eggs, and the one thing about Indian cooking is that it uses eggs in 'proper' dishes as the main ingredient rather than just one of the ingredients. If you do like this - than there are plenty of egg recipes here. The one thing I have not tried but will finally do give it a go now is Kulfi, the delicious Indian ice-cream.

In summery - I did love this book and even though so for I have only cooked 2 of its recipes, I am sure I will use many more in times to come. If you are a fan of Indian cooking, you can't go wrong. If not yet, give it a try. I would say that it probably does help if you are a little bit experienced in the kitchen, but by no means do you need to be a kitchen goddess. I am not, believe me! 

About the author:  
Rinku Bhattacharya was born in Kolkata, India and currently resides in Westchester, New York. She teaches cooking classes, maintains a popular food blog, Cooking in Westchester, and writes a weekly column, Spices and Seasons, for the Journal News website.

I have received this book from the author in return for an honest review.