Some are new finds, other older friends. Each of them is a treasure trove of delicious recipes and poignant, beautifully told stories, which make me feel like I’m having a chatty conversation with the author, peeking over their shoulder and learning some of their kitchen secrets. Each book is also so unique, which serves to highlights the diversity of Indian food, and its narrative. So here, in no particular order, is my list:
Note: These books are all available on Amazon; my links, however, are to indie / independent bookstores.
I bought this book in Mumbai on my last trip to India—and promptly lugged it across the country over the next three weeks, and then back to Frankfurt. Given that it weighs in at about 3 kilos, it might have been wiser just buying it here, but there was a special delight at purchasing it in a beautiful bookshop in the city whose cuisine it pays homage to. Dishoom is a love letter to Mumbai: Its table of contents is a suggestion about the different mealtimes one might indulge in in a day, starting from breakfast and ending with a third dinner with about 8 courses in between. It conveniently has beautifully shot recipes to go with the suggestions: Eggs Kejriwal, Jeera biscuits, Phaldari kofta and Rajma are just a few of my favourites.
Nik is both author and photographer of this gorgeously shot cookbook, in which he presents “beautiful food with big flavours”. His is an immigrant gay story, told through food. Moving to America allowed him the freedom to live true to his identity, and it also allowed him to explore his love of cooking in ways that bridge originality and tradition. I love how he plays with ingredients and textures, creating dishes that are delicious, seemingly familiar yet very fresh. Some of my favourites so far: Rainbow root raita, naan (now firmly cemented as my favourite naan recipe!), Egg Salad with Coriander, Batter-fried okra. I’m looking forward to trying his savoury granola with spices…
I believe Meera Sodha to be a culinary genius—and East, her third book, just reinforces my complete faith in her food. Though not solely just Indian, these are recipes that sing with flavour in a joyous celebration of plant-based produce. The dishes you end up with are pretty enough to wow dinner guests, yet their simplicity means you don’t need to slave for hours in the kitchen prior to dinner. I also love her writing style and how she manages to combine a tongue-in-cheek humour with nostalgia and a genuine love of food and sharing meals. I’ve gifted this book a few times and recommended it dozens of others, and I know I’ll be cooking from it for a while to come. Curent favourites: Pumpkin Malai Kari, Mashed potato paratha and Kung Pao cauliflower—each finger-licking good. Also available in German.
The blurb on the beautiful hand-painted cover of Jikoni reads “proudly inauthentic recipes from an immigrant kitchen”. This is a food love story that spans different continents, with its roots tracing back to India, from where Ravinder’s grandfather immigrated to Kenya, the country in which she was born. She uses beautiful prose to weave stories of love, loss, mealtimes and her grandfather, who was responsible for her association of food with pleasure. If I found myself nodding in recognition in places at her recollections of family and growing up, her recipes just leave my jaw hanging. The imagery is evocative and beautiful, and each is an interesting and intriguing combination of ingredients and techniques. On top of my list: Ajwain seed mathis with apple pickle, Coconut Kadhi with pakoras and Saffron and orange blossom creme caramel.
This one isn’t new to my bookshelf, but as it features food from the state of Andhra Pradesh, where my ancestors hail from, it has a very special place in my heart. Archana’s book is a gesture of love for her grandmother and the food she made for her children and grandchildren. These are delicious, flavour-packed dishes that celebrate spice and nuance, and the stories that she tells alongside are moving and fun. Cooking some of these recipes transports me in ways that are hard to describe, and it’s been a wonderful experience to learn more about my very specific culture through Archana’s detailed recipes. Favourites include: Uppu Venkaya, Mirchi ka Salan and Tomato pachadi.
Text & Images: Vatsala Murthy