Pros: beautiful photography, not your average recipes
Cons: recipes often require use of pressure cooker
Pure & Special, Gourmet Indian Vegetarian Cuisine, is the new well-written and beautifully photographed book by Indian cooking authority, Vidhu Mittal. Living up to it's subtitle of being gourmet Indian vegetarian cuisine, this is anything but the average Indian cookbook.
Yes, you will find Indian restaurant staples such as saag paneer and roti (which happen to be two of my personal favorites and the recipes for them in this book are outstanding), but you will also find many more dishes that have a gourmet slant and could even be considered fusion. Cheese-filled chapatta are called Indian-Style Quesadillas, for example, and there is a cheesy gobi bake that the author refers to as Cauliflower au Gratin Indien. There's a Chinese-style noodle dish—Crunchy Oriental Medley—and even a western-style pasta dish, Chilled Macbean Delight.
But the area where this book really shines is in the food that is purely Indian but with a gourmet slant. There are numerous paneer dishes that are additively delicious, as are the many soup and kebob recipes (which in the west would be known as fritters). And there are at least six pages devoted to refreshing and simple to make Indian-inspired drinks.
This is also a very informative book; the first pages are devoted to ingredients. But what really separates this from other Indian cookbooks—besides its gourmet recipes—is how well the book is photographed with step-by-step directions. Each recipe has at least a few photographs, and the last chapter of the book, titled Cooking Processes, is loaded with not just basic recipes and photographs, but also detailed information on how to work with certain ingredients, etc. Here, for example, you'll learn how to shred fresh coconut, mince vegetables, roast a tomato, and how to make spice mixes.
As much as I truly enjoy this book there are a few criticisms, but none that cannot be overcome. One is that, while the recipes are relatively easy to follow, they at times may seem—at first glance—overly complicated. What I mean by this is that most recipes have many sub-recipes and/or references. In order to complete one recipe there are usually other recipes that must be completed first. Possibly if the basic recipes were given more emphasis and space in the beginning of the book the general recipes may seem less daunting for the novice. And also, if this book is being marketed towards Americans—as I'm assuming it is—it would be helpful if there were sourcing info for some of the ingredients. And lastly, many of the recipes call for food to be pressure cooked “to a whistle.” The average American household does not have a pressure cooker, thus the recipes could be translated for the foods to be simmered, poached or boiled. But with this said, the recipes were still easy to follow and all of those that I tested were delicious.
Pure & Special, Gourmet Indian Vegetarian Cuisine, really is an interesting book and the beautiful photographs will make you want to try the recipes. I have many other Indian cookbooks but this one will have a place of its own on my bookshelf for its uniqueness. The recipes in this book will appeal to vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike, and even to people who may be leery of the often spiciness of Indian cuisine...the recipes in this book are delicately seasoned and not spicy; one can tell that they were created by a cook with loving care and who has had many years experience perfecting them. As a professional cook, a home cook, and one who collects cookbooks, I highly recommend this book.