Whenever one has to cook an authentic Indian meal, the barrage of convoluted recipes and never-heard-before ingredients may make it a very intimidating ordeal. Some of us may attempt to go the old-fashioned way, while others may give up even without trying. And while most recipes are uncompromising, and look down upon store-bought paneer and tinned condiments, Mallika Basu’s cookbook ‘Masala: Indian Cooking for Modern Living’ gives an affirming nod to all the kitchen shortcuts that a busy person needs to use without having to give up quality, delicious food.
Masala takes us on a journey through Mallika Basu’s culinary experiences in her early years and how they evolved as she went on to leave her hometown of Kolkata and move to London to pursue a Master’s Degree in Journalism. The book has recipes from Mallika’s own household as well as plenty traditional Indian recipes, but instead of lengthy methods, these recipes are surprisingly quick and taste just as delicious as if you slaved over them for hours.
In the book, the food writer proclaims that she is not ashamed of saying she loves gadgets and packets, and if fussing doesn’t alter the change by too much then why not use shortcuts? We couldn’t agree more. The book is divided into several sections: Classic Curries, Quick Fixes, Slow Feasts, Brunch, Small Bites, Big Platters, Side Dishes, Drinks, Sweet Treats, Chutneys, Pickles and more. And while every section has amazing recipes, shortcuts, and time-saving hacks, the fact that there is a trouble-shooting section at the back of the book makes it reassuring for amateurs. The troubleshooting section has helpful tidbits about why a particular recipe may go wrong or already went wrong.
At the beginning of every section, there is a little write-up about what kind of recipes one can expect and what occasion would be ideal to cook them. Sometimes the author also gives a personal story, sometimes about the section, dish or her own experience, this makes it an engaging read, it’s not just a recipe, it’s a story.
Other than being a great recipe book, Masala would also be very helpful for non-Indians hoping to get into Indian cooking and also understanding Indian culture a little better. Mallika talks about Eating the Indian Way, Serving Indian Food, Regional Variations and the importance of andaaz in Indian cooking, and while these topics span over only a few pages of the book, Mallika still manages to cover how yogurt soothes your tum after a spicy meal while also touching upon Ahimsa and why some Indians don’t consume flesh.
Masala: Indian Cooking for Modern Living is perfect for those busy folk looking to ditch buying take-out every night and settle for a quick-and-easy meal that tastes right out of granny’s kitchen. The book can be bought here.