Book review: Atul’s Curries of the World

My father was obssessed with curry. He loved it so much he twice ordered kurzi lamb from our local carry out for Christmas dinner. He ate Indian takeaway on Friday nights and curry in microwavable cartons during the week. On weekends he spent hours in the kitchen, grinding, toasting and blending spices. My dad was always on the look out for authentic Indian cookbooks, but Madhur Jaffrey, of course, was his favourite.

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At first glance, I knew my dad would have loved Atul’s Curries of the World, the second cookbook by Atul Kochhar of London Michelin star restaurant Benares. Kochhar’s book contains a plethora of curry recipes from all over the world: exploring and explaining how Indian cooking methods and ingredients have influenced cuisines across the globe.

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At the back is an essential chapter on the ‘foundations’ of curry cooking, with recipes for international spice powders and pastes. The rest includes over 100 recipes for fish, poultry, pork, lamb and goat, beef, and a surprisingly thorough chapter on game. The only section I find disappointing is the relatively short vegetarian chapter. I suspect its brevity may suggest that Kochhar has a vegetable curry book coming out in the near future. I hope he does.

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I chose the Sri Lankan chicken for my first recipe test in memory of the holiday I had with my dad in Sri Lanka. It requires a Ceylon spice blend based on toasted coriander and cumin seeds. The mix is easy to make, but the recipe is for a quantity I just wouldn’t get through at home, so I make about a tenth. Because this is an unfamiliar way of cooking for me, I find it a bit annoying that I can’t make the mix exactly to the recipe but it is reassuring that the recipe is for a commercial portion. It suggests that these are the blends that Kochhar uses at Benares.

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Kochhar’s recipe works beautifully, and although it requires a bit more attention than I usually give to curry cookery, the results are worth it. The curry has a complex, deep and moreish flavour. I serve it to family with basmati rice and a salad of grated beetroot, mint and sour cream, and there is soon nothing left.

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My next test is a Keralan ‘meat coconut curry’ made with lamb neck fillet. By contrast with the Sri Lankan chicken, this dish is straightforward to make. I have never prepared a South Indian curry that involves adding raw onion and spices to par-boiled meat, and again, I am really pleased with the results. Although many of the components are the same as in the Sri Lankan dish, the Keralan curry is entirely and deliciously different. With a little extra coconut milk, my daughter enjoys it too.

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Atul’s Curries of the World isn’t an ‘aspirational’ cookbook. Instead, it has that rare and valuable quality of being a resource with the potential to change the way you make food for good. I’m sad that my dad isn’t around to try Kochhar’s recipes with me, but I am pleased to have found a recipe book to help remind me of the best meals we enjoyed together.

atul-101Atul’s Curries of the World by Atul Kochhar is published by Absolute Press 14 March 2013.

I received a free review copy of the book from the publisher.

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About Chloe King

I'm a freelance writer, designer and webby type. I live with my husband and daughter in the south of England. I like to cook and can throw a good party.

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