The only reasons I ever watch YouTube are for clippets of the Graham Norton Show or anything from the Bon Appetit test kitchen. And, while I’m not big into watching television I can quite happily while away an evening watching delightful interviews or people cook. I find watching people cook fascinating and educational. Some of the best kitchen tips or tricks I’ve learned is from watching cooking videos. If you’re new to the BA test kitchen videos I highly recommend beginning with any of the Gourmet Makes or It’s Alive series. It’s all great stuff and, it was when I was watching an episode of It’s Alive hosted by Brad Leone that I realized that I needed to get and try Priya Krishna‘s Indian(-ish) cookbook. On that episode Brad and Priya were making a batch of her Dad’s yogurt. I think it was the way Priya spoke about her father and the interactions between them while video chatting that drew me in. At the heart of my own cooking philosophies is family and I could see that these same philosophies are at the heart of Krishna’s as well.
As Padma Lakshmi points out in her forward: This is not a cookbook of traditional Indian food (VIII) and then Krishna explains in the introduction: Indian-ish describes my mom’s cooking — 60 percent traditional Indian, 40 percent Indian-plus-something else (5). It’s what she offers from her “family’s unique culinary canon” that makes this cookbook so wonderful. Recipes like the Chaat Masala-Almond Butter Toast and the Indian-ish Baked Potatoes are good examples of what Krishna describes as the “Indian-plus-something else” dishes.
This could be the longest I’ve ever had a cookbook before writing a review. At first, I thought I’d begin with making my own batch of Dad’s Yogurt (something that has yet to happen) but it was the internet darling of a recipe, the Spinach and Feta Cooked Like Saag Paneer, that I led with. Like everything in Krishna’s book, it is delicious and, in my mind, one of the best ways to prepare and serve feta. You start by making the “spinach gravy” and once it’s ready you add in the cubed feta and let it simmer and soften. It also soaks up a bit of the spinach sauce which turns this basic ingredient into something special. My family kept clamouring for this dish so I kept making it until I realized I should probably quit lingering and try some other recipes.
After cooking many recipes from Indian(-ish) what Krishna emphatically says in her introduction is true: INDIAN FOOD IS EVERYDAY FOOD. (8) The ingredients are easy to source, with most being found in my local grocery store or market and a few coming from one of my favourite food stores here in Halifax — Dhaba Sweet & Spice Shop. I took along my copy of Indian(-ish) and they advised me on what to buy (not all brands are created the same). I came away stocked with asafetida (Krishna describes the flavour as being “oniony, pungent, MSG-like”) and Chaat Masala (“funky, salty”). I really appreciate how approachable the recipes are — with many of the recipes being perfect for those busy weeknights where prep and cooking time is at a premium.
So, getting back to the fact that I’ve had Indian(-ish) in my possession for awhile, I think it’s because instead of cooking to review it I began to cook from it because it made my task of cooking for my family easier. The food is easy to make and incredibly delicious, so I just kept making and remaking recipes (not to mention that everything has been a big hit with my family). Being the cook of a vegetarian family of three I’m glad for the many vegetarian recipes Krishna offers. And, I think the reason why the recipes are so good is because they’re the recipes of her family, tried and true. The recipes are organized into 10 main chapters: Essentials, Mother Sauces, Vegetable Mains, Vegetable Sides, Breads, Beans + Lentils, Grains + Noodles, One Chicken + Three Fish Recipes, Desserts, and Drinks.
I really appreciate how time is a consideration, for example when I make the Khichdi, I use her suggestion to make it in the Instant Pot. The Instant Pot can be such a time saver and, after making this recipe several times I have halved the amount of water called for to just a scant 3 cups. With just a 1/2 cup of rice and a half of mung beans I find that 3 cups give me the perfect porridge-like texture. I’ve taken her advice from the notes and top it with a fried egg. This is one of my favourite recipes from the book — it’s one that I can make quickly for lunch and the whole dish feels like you’re eating a hug. Some of the most comforting food around.
While I haven’t tried to make Dad’s Yogurt, I have made Shrikhand (Sweet Cardamom Yogurt) which is, in fact, a beautifully decadent dessert using plain Greek yogurt as a base. Lightly sweetened with sugar and delicately spiced with ground saffron and cardamom, I loved this recipe so much it has become a favourite breakfast dish for me. Well, who am I kidding? I could pretty much eat Shrikhand any time. Definitely a recipe you want to make more of rather than less (a double batch is good). Another of her dessert recipes that you can eat almost anytime is the Quinoa Kheer. I can’t believe that such a creamy dessert can be made using whole milk and quinoa. It’s like magic! In her notes she compares the Quinoa Kheer to chia pudding but in my mind, I found it more like rice pudding but so much better! The quinoa lends a nuttiness which is complimented by the cardamom. With the holidays approaching I’ve bookmarked this recipe so that I can make it for my dad who is a HUGE fan of rice pudding and I feel like this is something he would totally love.
It feels like in every review I talk about the pack of cauliflower-haters I live with. When my daughter was learning to talk, some of those first words were used to describe her feelings on this vegetable “Mummy, this is horrible.” So, over the years I’ve looked for recipes to entice my people back to feeling a bit more love for this delicious (in my mind) ingredient. Enter Krishna’s recipe for Roasted Aloo Gobhi (Potatoes and Cauliflower), a recipe so wonderful and delicious I’ve made it (what feels like) a gazillion times. They can’t get enough of the oven-roasted potatoes and cauliflower seasoned with turmeric, cumin, asafetida, fresh ginger, caramelized onion, lime, and fresh cilantro. I always make a bit extra when I make this recipe so that I can enjoy it the next day for lunch.
Family is at the heart of this cookbook. Krishna has shared her family through the stories and food found within Indian(-ish). And, I think what makes this cookbook such a treasure is that Krishna’s whole family — from her parents, sister, brother-in-law, aunts, and uncles — had a hand in shaping the recipes in this book. From the illustration of Krishna’s mom on the cover urging the home cook to give it a try, all the recipes offer an easy and approachable (not to mention extremely delicious) way to get a beautiful meal on the table. The recipes have become a fixed part of our week and I’m starting to cook our Indian(-ish) favourites by heart now. Curious to see what I’ve been serving my family, then checkout my dedicated Facebook post or my custom Instagram hashtag #eatworthyindianish.
I would like to take this opportunity to thank Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and Raincoast Books for providing me with a free, review copy of this book. I did not receive monetary compensation for my post, and all thoughts and opinions expressed are my own.