Rasoi: New Indian Kitchen
by Vineet Bhatia
Publisher: Absolute Press, Country: UK
ISBN: 9781906650193, Year: 2009
Link to publisher’s page or site
This review is the personal opinion of the reviewer.

Overview

For those readers old enough to remember when parental warnings were placed on certain music, you might remember how that music became the ‘must have’ CDs and records for your collection. Vineet Bhatia opens his recently released Rasoi: New Indian Kitchen with “This book is probably not for the novice cook.” Such sweet warnings are rarely uttered in culinary books.

Full review

Vineet Bhatia is the owner and chef of Rasoi in London, and the first Indian chef to receive a Michelin star, an accomplishment he has twice achieved. Stars have been awarded by Michelin since 1926 which only magnifies the feat (or highlights a lapse on the part of Michelin).

Bhatia’s honest introduction of personal restaurant failures paired with his dreams to elevate his beloved cuisine is endearing, and when the pages turn to show the most beautiful Indian food that I’ve seen, it is clear that his training and failures have made him a chef deserving of his stars. Matthew Fort of The Guardian newspaper exclaimed, “Better to judge Bhatia’s cooking against that of Gordon Ramsay and Tom Aikens than against that of conventional Indian restaurants. By the standards of those masters, he must be seen to be at least their equal.”

Rasoi: New Indian Kitchen starts with forwards from Marco Pierre-White (“What he has done for Indian cooking is not so different from what Fernand Point did for French gastronomy in the 1940s and 1950s”) and Fay Maschler of the London Evening Standard.

The heart of the book includes a section on spices (with American translations and equivalents in the rear of the book), mise en place recipes (those recipes within recipes), chutneys, pre-starters and soups, starters, main courses, accompaniments, pre-desserts, desserts and petits fours. 150 recipes in all.

Indian cooking is notorious for its vast list of pantry essentials, and so Bhatia’s precursory warning should be heeded for a less experienced cook. However, if the thought of making your own chutney or masala isn’t intimidating, this book is within reach for any experienced home cook. And if you’ve already assembled a nice pantry of spices, then it may only take a few specialty spices to get you on your way.

However, the spices are only half the potential battle.

Advance planning is required. This is one of those cookbooks that includes ingredients in the recipe that required another recipe to be performed earlier, and in some cases those had recipes that needed to be done previously too. Luckily, none of the recipes are technically overtaxing. While I have some experience with Indian cooking, my repertoire is limited to palak paneer, aloo gobi and tomato chutney. The recipes read cleanly, although a bit sparse in basic instructions. Just read the recipes ahead of time (days, not minutes) to ensure that you’re ready to go.

Within a week of owning the book, I integrated four different recipes into my restaurant menu, all of which became immense hits that will be hard to remove any time soon. The crispy rice and masala cheese dumplings with spicy chilli garlic dip is a fantastic combination of flavors and textures along with its striking visual appeal. Lobster recharde, chilli and coconut panna cotta, tandoori lobster in a spicy marinade — these are not something you’ll find in your neighborhood Indian buffet. 24-carat black spice chicken, tomato chutney, chilli-coriander khichdi, yellow lentils, and mooli relish is worthy of its regal title. The inclusion of desserts that aren’t some form of sugar soaked cheese is triumphant – cheese ice cream, crushed cardamom biscuits, fresh fruit. Every recipe I have made has been a hit.

I most appreciated Bhatia’s explanation of selecting and using spices in Indian cooking. In fact, his explanation, while brief, was more illuminating to me than the half dozen other Indian cookbooks I won, all of which are much thicker and much less attractive.

And this is definitely an attractive book. With 272 pages, about half of the pages are filled with pictures from Lisa Barber, and each pops off the page and makes you want a spice-saturated bite. The hard cover is wrapped with a velvety patterned cloth, which may scare you from bringing it into the kitchen. My boards have already warped slightly even though I’m in a very dry environment, so there may be a question of the production quality.

My greatest disappointment, and my warning to purchasers – the sticker on the back cover is NOT intended to be removed! The front cover comes with a removable sticker, and the back sticker is not of a quality that fits the beautiful fabric. The result is that you may think that you’re supposed to remove the back sticker only to find out that it was meant to stay on. Now I have a ripped sticker on the back of my book which is unfixable. Disappointing.

But that is my only disappointment. This book has new ideas, new ingredients and new presentations of many classic dishes, and it will be one that keeps me busy for many meals to come.

This is an original review for The Gastronomer’s Bookshelf.
Main rating: 4. Recommended – good
Visual appeal: Beautiful
Suitability as a gift: Likely to be strongly appreciated
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Rating: 3.3/5 (4 votes cast)
Rasoi: New Indian Kitchen, Vineet Bhatia | 2010 | UK, 3.3 out of 5 based on 4 ratings

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