Capital Spice: 21 Indian Restaurant Chefs/More Than 100 Stunning Recipes
by Chrissie Walker
Publisher: Absolute Press, Country: UK
ISBN: 9781906650728, Year: 2012
Link to publisher’s page or site
This review is the personal opinion of the reviewer.

Overview

Britain has long been known as a mecca for Indian food, especially London which boasts over 1000 Indian restaurants ranging from street fare to Michelin-starred venues. As a natural extension there are an increasing number of cookbooks being published highlighting British Indian food – food that incorporates local produce, fish and meats. Capital Spice is the latest to show the best that London has to offer.

Full review

Capital Spice: 21 Indian Restaurant Chefs/More Than 100 Stunning Recipes has been compiled by Chrissie Walker, a renowned British reviewer of cookbooks and restaurants for Absolute Press. She has compiled recipes (by her own admission) that are not necessarily from the best restaurants, nor are they the best recipes, but rather “venues that have been happy to donate some time and recipes.” Walker either feigns British modesty or is truly lacking in salesmanship.

Each restaurant is given a section to share their history and philosophy followed by a number of recipes. The restaurants include Benares (with Michelin starred chef, Atul Kochhar), Dockmaster’s House, Quilon, and La Porte Des Indes, along with 17 others. The recipes lean toward the beginner’s side of the pantry with not so many unusual ingredients and virtually no tools that won’t be found in most kitchens.

As a chef, when I review cookbooks I immediately give a half dozen recipes to my staff to see if they can prepare them easily, and then we throw the dishes on the menu for a weekly special to gauge our customers’ reactions. For this book we focused on the seafood dishes knowing that we would have to find substitutes for the various fish that are not available in the Unites States.

We prepared Karam Sethi’s (Trishna restaurant) Hariyali Bream with Tomato Kachumber (although we substituted cod), Prahlad Hegde’s (Bombay Brasserie) Masala Sea Bass, Cyrus and Pervin Todwala’s (Café Spice Namaste) Leeli Kolmi Ni Curry (prawn curry), and Vivek Singh’s (Cinnamon Kitchen) Grilled Salmon with Dill and Mustard Pea Relish (along with others). Each was easily prepared, scaled to home use, and turned out well enough for us to serve. The Hariyali cod was a particular favorite among our customers.

And there are many more recipes that we look forward to trying like the Teetar Ka Achar (partridge pickle) and Masala Nu Roast Gos (lamb shank).

It is a shame that Walker chose to package the book as one that has recipes just from those chefs who were willing to donate them, whereas in reality, regardless of how she came by the recipes, the book is a nice compilation of London-based Indian cooking. The recipes range from very traditional to Londonized, and from classic curry house favorites to haute cuisine.

Beyond the recipes, the book is scant on essays or any background of interest. The restaurant overviews seem direct from their publicity teams and the recipe introductions are generic and do not add to the reader’s enjoyment. However the book can still survive these weaknesses.

Buy Capital Spice to expand your passion for Indian cooking. You’ll broaden your cooking skills and understanding of Indian cuisine – albeit British-Indian cooking. Don’t let Walker’s lack of enthusiasm dampen your enjoyment, and be prepared to impress your friends with some wonderful new meals.

This is an original review for The Gastronomer’s Bookshelf.
Main rating: 3. Recommended – some flaws
Visual appeal: Attractive
Suitability as a gift: Quite nice
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