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Reviewed by Nandita Keshavan for Readers' Favorite
Spices & Seasons: Simple, Sustainable Indian Flavors is an excellent book by Rinku Bhattacharya, which consists of colourful, appetising, and simple recipes. Being US-based, Rinku maintains the importance of adapting cooking to suit local produce and reducing the use of imported ingredients. Stories of her backyard produce are informative to cooks who grow their own vegetables and also useful for people interested in sourcing seasonal vegetables from local farmers' markets. Being a working mother, Rinku shows that Indian cooking need not be very time consuming and there are several ways to simplify cooking. She also describes her views on sustainability in traditional and modern Indian cooking.
The book features vegetarian and non-vegetarian recipes, and classifies them as vegan/ vegetarian, gluten free, seafood and meat dishes. What would particularly appeal to beginners to Indian cooking is a description of an essential Indian spice starter kit. Also useful are the recommendations for oils and cooking mediums, and kitchen equipment. Despite the recipes and recommendations, Rinku advocates satisfying your own creativity and curiosity, cooking to your own taste and having fun with cooking. The book is very useful to people interested in adapting their cooking to use a slow cooker, whose advantages are discussed in the book, and preparation times are indicated for relevant recipes.
Featured in 12 recipe chapters and covering most food categories, the recipes are creative and appetising, and suited to serve four or more people. They all indicate preparation and cooking times which are under 30 minutes, excepting the dessert section, which features sweet dishes with longer preparation times. Beautiful and informative features per recipe are full page colour photographs and short introductions describing serving of the dish, variations, and occasionally inspirations. Several recipes also include “tips and tricks,” indicating ways to reduce preparation time for the time conscious cook. True to the title, Rinku describes the mood of each season beautifully and these are useful in describing the context and inspiration of the recipes. Each chapter also features its own introduction.
In addition to popular favourites, there are several recipes with modern touches which are simple and appetising. Without giving away the context, a few examples are blueberry and ginger sauce; mint and apricot; pepper, cranberry and lemon; a pomegranate and apricot glaze, and walnut and paneer. An interesting feature of the book is also European or American food with an Indian twist, such as Indian-spiced garlic bread, masala cornbread, and strawberries with saffron cream, and also traditional recipes adapted to incorporate ingredients available outside India, such as raspberry kulfi with a blackberry garnish. I could not cover the breadth and depth of the cuisine presented in a short review. I highly recommend this book to people who cook Indian food of all levels and locales.