Cookbook Review & Giveaway: Mr Todiwala’s Bombay (Why I May Not Hate Indian Food) + Indian Spiced Potatoes
I do not like Indian food. Or, at least I thought I didn’t. Curries at school always smelt hideous so I never even got close enough to trying them, and the smell coming out of most Indian takeaways just turned my stomach. I went to an Indian restaurant once, with my friends family on New Years Eve. My two memories from that meal are that I did not touch much of the food except for papadums and mango chutney, because I knew I did not like Indian food, and that the waiter tried to serve my friends big sister Pimm’s straight without a mixer. Now, my friends will be sitting reading this slightly confused. “Rachel, how can you hate Indian food, when I’ve seen you eat entire plates of vegetable samosas?” and my regular readers will be pointing towards one of my favourite and most popular recipes on this blog, my Indian Spiced Leftover Vegetable Fritters.
You see, while I will eat practically anything put in front of me these days that won’t make me ill and does not taste of peanuts, I have avoided having Indian food put in front of me because my head tells me that I don’t like it. But as those two examples above illustrate I’m pretty sure that I actually like Indian flavours, just none of the Indian food I’d ever been near was anything appealing enough for me to decide to eat it. Fast forward to my being asked if I wanted to review the new book Mr Todiwala’s Bombay by Cyrus Todiwala, executive chef of Cafe Spice Namaste who you might recognise from the BBC’s The Spice Men, my instant reaction was no. I can’t review an Indian cookbook as I don’t like Indian food. But then, before replying to the email I paused. Why did I not like Indian food. I’d never really eaten much of it, and I actually did not know all that much about it. Wouldn’t a cookbook be the perfect thing to learn from? Aside from picking up things from eating in restaurants, most of my food history knowledge and of different cuisines comes from reading specified books. Anyway, if worst came to worse, I could always offer to send the book back and let someone else have it if nothing appealed to me on the page enough for me to want to put my apron on and actually cook it.
The book itself is beautiful. While many of the old cookbooks I work with seem old fashioned and not very visually appealing, I’m lucky through my Mother’s cookbook library to have more of them with classic, traditional recipes and typefaces than I could ever need. When I’m looking for a cookbook to actually buy myself (or, if it has been sent to me as a review copy, for me to actually keep in my rotation, refer back to and use once I’ve cooked a few things from it and written about it) as well as being an interesting read and having good recipes, the visuals with the type, layout and photos are really important, because I feel it adds to the whole enjoyment of creating a beautiful and delicious finished product. With its typeface and beautiful photography, a mix of food photography and snapshots from the streets of Mumbai, this book fits the bill.
Mr Todiwala’s Bombay by Cyrus Todiwala, (£25, Hardie Grant) Photography: Helen Cathcart
So, aside from the fact that Indian food is not just all about rice, curries and flatbreads, what did I learn? Well, while I think it is still going to be a while for me to work up to trying some of the things in the book because in my head they still fit the original bill of ‘why I think I don’t like Indian food’, there is so much more that I am really excited to try. The snacks section at the front has some divine looking Deep-Fried Chicken Wings (pg 21) and dome Banana Cutlets that seem right up my street made with spices, mashed banana and potato, then fried in balls and served with wither tomato or a mayonnaise based sauce (pg 43) and towards the back of the book there are serval Lassi recipes that I feel need to become part of my daily breakfast rotation. There are also things like a method for cooking boiled rice with spices that I think might be good for jazzing up a weeknight meal. Also, as well as a bit of a history on each dish and on regional variations, the book also has some interesting snippets and facts dropped through which I was really surprised to learn. For example, did you know that rice ages like wine and gets better with age?
So. Indian Spiced Potatoes or Masala Na Pepeta as they would more accurately be known. I love this quick, easy delicious and spicy side dish that can be made out of store cupboard ingredients as either an accompaniment for an Indian feast cooked out of the book, or how I’ve been enjoying them recently as a filling and delicious Winter lunch topped with chopped fresh coriander and a little natural yogurt to balance out the spice. This recipe serves 4 as a side, or two as a stand alone dish, and I have not changed it at all, as it does not need it.
A little side note about spices. Are they not the most amazing colour? In my cupboard I have such a mix of different herb and spices brands, everything from Sainsbury’s own, Schwartz, Barts, Waitrose refill boxes and some independent brands. However, recently I’ve started trying to buy all my spices in these little tubs from Spice Market, which you can both shop online or at their stand at Borough Market. I think they are much better value and of a much better quality than anything I have ever picked up in a supermarket. Just look at these amazing colours? Have you ever got this from supermarket chilli powder and turmeric before?
- 2 Large Potatoes, diced
- 2tbsp Sunflower or Rapeseed Oil
- 1/2 tsp Cumin Seeds
- 1/4 tsp Ground Turmeric
- 1/2 tsp Chilli Powder
- Lemon Juice
- Sea Salt
Par-boil the potato cubes for about 5-6 minutes in just enough water to cover them. Drain the water away and set them aside on kitchen towel to remove any excess water which could cause nasty spitting when you add the potatoes to the hot oil. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the cumin seeds. Fry them lightly until they release their fragrance but do not burn. Add the potatoes and the spices and toss well until all the potato is coated. Reduce the heat to medium and cover the pan allowing the potatoes to cook until tender. Toss occasionally to stop the bottoms of the potatoes burning and so that they crisp up evenly. Serve hot and enjoy.
I also promised a giveaway in the title of this post, didn’t I? Along with all of the other amazing bloggers who will be reviewing this book this week, (Urvashi, who you might recognise from the second series of The Great British Bake Off , Hannah, Tamzin, Zoe who is the real Indian food expert among us, and Dominic whom I feel sorry for being the only guy in our posse!) I’m giving a copy of Mr Todiwala‘s Bombay away. All you have to do is email email@example.com saying you’d love to win a copy of the book before Sunday and cross your fingers! I’m sorry though, this giveaway is open to UK based readers only.
Do any of you do much Indian cooking at home, or is it just something you save for when you are eating out or ordering a takeway?