Why buy it?
Salt, bitter, sour, spice and sweet. According to co-author Kumar Mahadevan, these are the cornerstones of Indian cookery, as well as a life well lived. This poetic line sets the tone for a heartfelt, authoritative and visually rousing cookbook and memoir by the acclaimed chef of Sydney’s neighbourhood favourite Abhi’s, and one-hatted Aki’s restaurants.
The story begins in India in young Kumar’s family home, where his grandmother’s fire for cooking inspires his own love of food. Woven between chapters are the hardships and successes Kumar endured to fulfil his dream; among them, going against Brahmin family traditions, then meeting his wife, Suba, through an arranged marriage, who partnered with Kumar to author the book. These events – the salt, bitter, sour, spice and sweet of Kumar’s life – guide the tempting recipes, which are divided by the five flavours.
The duo’s fine-dining pedigree lends sophistication to many of the dishes, enhanced by the vibrant, stylised food photography, but there’s still a sense that this is very much food that can be cooked at home, with recipes that range from Kumar’s grandmother’s specialties, regional food from across the country and signature dishes from their restaurants.
If you like coffee table cookbooks with substance but not too much weight, you’ll enjoy From India.
This is authentic Indian cuisine with a restaurant edge. Beyond everyday spices, you’ll need a trip to your local Indian food store to stock up on the more hardcore Indian varieties.
Aki’s railway goat curry. Inspired by the “traveller’s meals” on the Southern Indian Railways, this easy, slow-cooked curry has become a restaurant mainstay over the years at Aki’s.
Most surprising dish
Mughal bread & butter pudding, a dessert from the royal Mughal kitchens with ostensibly British flavours.
“Salt is the mother of all ingredients. When you’re choosing what salt to use, put a little on the tip of your tongue and taste its strength – you don’t want it to be too salty. A good salt has quite complex flavours and even a slight sweetness.”
Pretty cookbook collectors, Indianophiles or curious cooks wanting to sink their teeth into refined Indian dishes.
From India – Food, Family & Tradition, Kumar & Suba Mahadevan with photography by Mark Roper (Murdoch Books, $59.99, hbk).
Don't miss Madhur Jaffrey's Curry Nation on August 22 at 7:30pm on SBS ONE.