The term “Indian Cuisine” covers such a broad range of food specialties that it defies definition. Foods vary greatly throughout India regionally and culturally, by geographical location and also by economics. And because there is great emphasis placed on the use of fresh produce, the cuisine is also seasonal.
In his 800-page book, 660 Curries, Raghaven Iyer takes on the daunting task of compiling recipes for curries that have originated from all parts of India. In the front of the book there are eight glossy pages with tantalizing photographs and descriptors that classify curries as vibrant, coastal, succulent, assertive, wholesome, contemporary and regal.
Iyer, who in 2004 won the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP) Award of Excellence for Cooking Teacher of the Year, brings his teaching skills to the table in this volume not only by compiling and presenting a wide array of recipes for curries, but also by teaching the basics elements that shape a curry in an important chapter called “the curry quest.”
Then Iyer teaches a short course on “spice blends and pastes” that gives practical guidance on how to buy, store and use spices and herbs. In regard to buying spices, Iyer says that “many of the spices are easy to find in your everyday grocery store, while some will necessitate a trip to an Indian or Pakistani store…If you don’t live near a city, there are hundreds of websites that will be happy to send you (even the next day) spices, legumes and herbs.” There are approximately twenty recipes for spice blends and powders in this chapter.
Following these two important chapters, the 660 recipes for the curries are presented. There are no photos, but in lieu of a photo each recipe has a descriptive paragraph or two tucked between the title and the ingredients to give the reader an idea of what to expect by the preparation of that dish.
Iyer’s definition of a curry is: any dish that consists of either meat, fish, poultry, legumes, vegetables, or fruits, simmered in or covered with a sauce, gravy, or other liquid that is redolent with any number of freshly ground and very fragrant spices and/or herbs. He groups his recipes by poultry, game and egg; beef, lamb and pork; fish and seafood; paneer (cheese); legume; vegetable; contemporary and biryani. Biryanis are described as “casseroles of marinated and braised meats or vegetables layered with buttered, flavored rice that is baked until the rice is tender.”
Vegetarians will find a huge selection of recipes to try, since vegetables play a large role in Indian cuisine. And for those persons who like foods hot, hot, hot, there are recipes to accommodate their taste buds, too.
660 Curries was published in 2008 and can likely be found in most library systems. Reviews are available on amazon.com describing first-hand experiences of persons who have prepared recipes from 660 Curries. Some reviewers indicate that the curries suit their taste perfectly, while a few others remark that they are spicier than they like and they needed to tone down the spice somewhat. Out of 61 reviews, there are 49 5-star ratings and eight 4-star ratings.
Iyer, Raghaven, 660 Curries, New York, Workman Publishing Company, Inc., 2008.