Cookbook Survivor: Neelam Batra, 1,000 Indian Recipes (Round 2)

Saturday's Child Works Hard for a Living

A thousand recipes deserves at least two weeks of testing.

I continue to struggle with the cookbook at the level of selection and format. One issue I talked about last time struck me even more forcefully this time: the book basically feels padded, so that it makes the title constraint. If you look at a type of recipe—say lamb curry, which is what I wanted to do this time—you see some of the basic regional dishes that pop up on your average Indian restaurant menu, which really are fairly different: vindaloo, which comes from Goa; rogan josh, from Kashmir, etc. But she also lists out relatively small variations in “everyday lamb curries” which I think you could collapse into a single basic recipe with a baseline technique and then list out some spice variations or modest preparation variations. That would probably collapse the book into about 500 recipes, but I’d find it a lot easier to use. It still works as a reference cookbook but somewhat frustratingly so. My eyes still glaze over every time I start leafing through it as I think about cooking something.

I settled on a Parsi lamb curry, gosht dhansak, because it’s got some preparation complexity and I don’t think I’ve ever eaten the dish before. In addition to the lamb, it’s got toor dal or split pigeon peas, and then some squash, potatoes and eggplant. Batra recommends doing it in a pressure cooker, so this is going to be an Insta-Pot prep, which I’m keen to do. (I resisted getting one for a while, and I’d still rather do a lot of stews on stovetop, but damn if they aren’t just perfect for some things, most especially beans/lentils/chickpeas) I’m also going to make parantha, griddle-fried bread, but with spelt flour rather than the whole-wheat she calls for, as well as some mint, ajwain seeds and black pepper, and a raita with cucumbers, bishop’s crown peppers and scallions to go with that. That’s enough to handle, I think, so if the dish is good, maybe I’ll book a third week to really explore the book—a week of nothing but small bites and street food might be great.