Mimsy Were the Borogoves

Food: Recipes, cookbook reviews, food notes, and restaurant reviews. Unless otherwise noted, I have personally tried each recipe that gets its own page, but not necessarily recipes listed as part of a cookbook review.

Mimsy Review: The Indian Spice Kitchen

Reviewed by Jerry Stratton, February 14, 1998

Review of The Indian Spice Kitchen, with a recipe for Bengali Dal.

AuthorMonisha Bharadwaj
Length240 pages
Book Rating6

This is a heavy book. I bought it in San Francisco while at MacWorld, at the Border’s bookstore in the Union Square area. And then I had to lug it all the way back home! This is not the first time that this particular Border’s has weighed me down with heavy cookbooks. They seem to remainder some very useful books. Perhaps they just know when I’m going to be in town and want to welcome me.

The Indian Spice Kitchen is ordered by spices, in various sections: spices alone, spice mixtures, dried herbs, vegetables and fruit, nuts, dals & pulses, cereals, and treats.

This is a beautiful book filled with useful and mouth-watering photographs. Each ‘spice’ has a description of how it grows, what it looks and tastes like, and how it is used, and then a few recipes using that spice as the primary flavoring.

Spices: dill, celery seed, mustard, chilies, caraway, cassia, cinnamon, coriander, saffron, turmeric, cumin, zedoary, cardamom, cloves, asafoetida, fennel, star anise, bay leaf, mango powder, nutmeg/mace, nigella, poppy seeds, allspice, aniseed, pepper, rock salt, pomegranite seeds, sesame, ajowan, fenugreek, tirphal. The Spicy Chickpeas with asafoetida is one of my favorites. It combines a large number of the exotic spices listed, including pomegranate seeds, mango powder, and garam masala (as well as the aforementioned asafoetida).

Spice Mixtures: garam masala, sambhar powder, goda masala, tandoori masala, panch phoron, kholombo powder, . Bengali Dal (sweet-and-sour bengali lentils) combines panch phoron with red chilies, mango powder, and raisins. Panch Phoron is a mixture of fennel, mustard, nigella, fenugreek, and cumin.

Dried Herbs: lemon grass, mint, curry leaves, holy basil. The mint chutney, very simple, and the mint (“green”) chicken are noteworthy here.

Vegetables and Fruit: onion, garlic, coconut, melon seeds, amla, kokum, licorice, tamarind, apricots, raisins, ginger. Ginger fudge! With coconut, very tasty.

Nuts: cashew nuts, peanuts, walnuts, pine nuts, betel nuts, chirongi nuts, pistachio nuts, almond. Pistachio ice cream is very, very nice on a hot day.

Dals & Pulses: white chickpeas, black chickpeas, val, black lentils, gram lentils, red lentils, yellow lentils, horse gram, moath, mung beans, lima beans, red kidney beans, dried peas, black-eyed beans. Tangy lentil curry, with aniseed and ajowan seeds is a very unique and wonderfully tasting dish.

Cereals: basmati rice, patna rice, ambemohar, red patni rice, flaked rice, puffed rice, rice noodles, rice flour, wheat flour, semolina, cracked wheat, vermicelli, jowar flour, bajra flour, gram flour, cornstarch/cornmeal. Sweet saffron rice, with cloves, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, raisins, and almonds is a very sweet, dessert-like rice dish.

Treats: pappadams, pickles, sago, jaggery, agar-agar, subja seeds, ghee and oils, edible silver foil, essences, citric acid, vinegar. Of these, the most intriguing (I haven’t tried it) is the edible silver foil. It is used as a ‘garnish’ of sorts on top of, for example, creamy milk squares, and is meant to be eaten with the dish. It really is silver foil, but so thin as to be edible.

This is a fun book to cook from because it goes out of its way to show off spices and foods that you normally do not cook with (unless you are from India!). You will need to find a source for these spices, an Indian spice or grocery store in your area, but it will be well worth it.

Bengali Dal

  • 1¼ cups channa dal,
  • 3½ cups water,
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder,
  • salt,
  • 2 tsp sugar,
  • 3 tblsp corn oil,
  • 2 tblsp panch phoron,
  • 4 dried red deseeded crumbled chilies,
  • 2 bay leaves,
  • 1 tsp mango powder,
  • 2 tsp raisins.
  1. Soak lentils 1 hour.
  2. Simmer until soft and mushy.
  3. Add turmeric, salt, and sugar.
  4. Blend well.
  5. Heat oil in small pan and add panch phoron.
  6. When it crackles, add chilies, bay leaves, mango powder, raisins.
  7. Reduce heat.
  8. Sauté for a minute and pour the oil/spice mixture over the lentils.
  9. Add water if required to adjust consistency to that of thick soup.
  10. Bring to a boil once and serve hot.

The Indian Spice Kitchen

Monisha Bharadwaj

My cost: $7.00

Recommendation: Worth reading

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