There are many ways to judge a cookbook. By its size (bulky, handy, slim), the cover jacket (you may judge a book by its cover when it’s on food) and of course how gastronomically accomplished the author is. Even if one fares poorly on these grounds, good recipes and inviting pictures can trump most shortcomings.
Culinary expert Vidhu Mittal’s latest offering Pure and Special: Gourmet Indian Vegetarian Cuisine aces on all these fronts. But her biggest achievement is simplifying the art of cooking. Right at the outset, she promises to show through her book how cooking can be a joyful even relaxing activity and walks the reader through an exhaustive picture glossary of the different types of spices, vegetables, nuts, lentils and even fruits—leaving little doubt as to what is what as you enter the kitchen. Those who have always struggled to tell dhuli urad dal from the sabut one or identify all the masalas correctly will thank Mittal from the bottom of their hearts.
The book is divided into six sections (Drinks, Soups, Salads; Snacks and Appetizers; Main Courses; Rice and Breads; Accompaniments, Dips and Sauces; and Desserts). There is a final and quite thoughtful section devoted to the cooking processes where Mittal illustrates through pictures how to set yoghurt, make cottage cheese, cook pastes, roast select ingredients and even cook rice, making the cookbook ideal for beginners.
There is plenty here to engage the experts as well. From trying a date yoghurt dip to perfecting the roomali roti, the book has a healthy mix of traditional as well as contemporary fare. With beautifully shot photographs of the dishes set in an attractive, clean design layout, Mittal scores big on presentation. Each recipe is accompanied by useful cooking tips. So whether you are a culinary expert or novice, Pure and Special would be a valuable addition to your kitchen shelf.
Strawberry Rice Pudding
■ 1/3 cup /50 gm Basmati rice, soaked in plenty of water for 2 hours, drained
■ 5 cups/1 lt Milk (at room temperature)
■ 1 tsp/5gm Strawberry
■ ½ cup/100gm Sugar
■ A few drops of red
■ 1 tsp/5ml Strawberry
For the Garnishing:
■ 10 medium strawberries, hulled and sliced
■ A few sprigs mint leaves
■ Grind the rice with very little water to a smooth paste in a mixer/ food processor. Sieve and set aside.
■ Take 2 tbsp milk, add the strawberry custard powder and mix well till smooth.
■ To the remaining milk, add the sieved rice and custard powder paste, whisking well to remove any lumps.
■ Transfer to a wok (kadhai) and cook on moderate heat, stirring constantly till the mixture comes to a boil. Turn off the heat, add the strawberry essence, sugar and the food colouring; mix and then turn the heat back on.
■ Continue cooking on moderate heat, stirring constantly, till bubbles begin to appear in the centre of the mixture.
Take 1 cup water (at room temperature) in a small bowl, drop in ¼ tsp of the rice mixture, if it forms a ball, it has cooked completely.
■ Immediately turn off the heat and spoon the pudding into individual serving bowls or a flat 8’’ diameter dish. Bring to room temperature and then refrigerate covered with cling film for 8 hours.
■ Serve garnished with strawberry slices and mint leaves.