Books & Literature

Cookbook Review: Christine Manfield’s Indian Cooking Class, by Christine Manfield

Christine Manfield guides you through the deeply fragrant world of Indian home cooking and mastering the incredible array of spices and techniques.

There’s no doubt than anyone with a craving for a subcontinent supper is going to find too many choices.
4.5

At almost 450 pages, Christine Manfield’s hardcover masterclass in Indian cooking is as hefty as anyone is likely to be after working their way through the delectable selection of dishes on offer.

Having penned several award-winning cookbooks, Manfield is one of Australia’s leading culinary ambassadors. Her experience in educating others in the art of cooking shows in the thoughtful layout of this book, from the informative glossary of spices where she imparts personal knowledge and preferences, to the separate index that highlights dairy-free, gluten-free and vegetarian recipes. Selected recipes also come with an additional multi-page pictorial spread to demonstrate each step of that recipe.

Lovers of Indian food will be pleased with the variety of regional dishes, covering all parts of India’s vast cultural and culinary landscapes. Furthermore, in her encouraging introduction, Manfield focuses heavily on easing the reader into getting comfortable with spices and coming to understand the chemistry of blending flavours.

Her recipes are a combination of her own, those she’s adapted, and some she’s adopted. The writing is big, on thick, glossy paper, with many recipes complemented by Alen Benson’s food photography. Chapters come with their own introduction, as do the individual recipes. There are 13 chapters: snacks, soups, salads, vegetables, curries, dal and lentils, breads, desserts and so on. Each recipe is also flagged when suitable for particular dietary requirements.

There are no prep or cooking times given, and the serving sizes are sometimes questionable, but these are minor quibbles. The instructions are easy to follow despite coming in chucky paragraphs rather than dot points. The larger font compensates a lot for this.

Christine Manfield’s Indian Cooking Class caters to beginners and more experienced cooks with the difficulty level of different recipes being quite broad. There’s no doubt than anyone with a craving for a subcontinent supper is going to find too many choices inside the cover.

ONION BHAJIAS (PAGE 33) WITH CUCUMBER RAITA (PAGE 121)

Never have I ever been successful at this, finding that my onion pieces separate, and the whole thing ends up as one big mess. Until now, that is. Manfield successfully overcame my sordid love-hate relationship with this classic Indian snack, resulting in a tasty plate of crispy, nicely shaped onion bhajias. Manfield’s recipe is simple to follow, with a couple of unexpected ingredients that added to the subtle flavours in every mouthful.

More surprising were the ingredients in her cucumber raita. This popular accompaniment is sensational and takes just a few minutes to make but be warned, her suggestion that it serves 6 is well off the mark. There was so much left over, even after serving it with a few additional meals, at least half had to be discarded in the end. I would recommend halving this recipe unless feeding a large family.

KERALA FISH CURRY (PAGE 254)

Firm, white fish fillets are what’s recommended for this curry, with several examples given, but ultimately, any fish will work because it’s the long list of spices that really make this curry sing. The recipe is once again straight-forward, done in just a few stages, but the result is pure magic in the mouth. Your taste buds will thank you as much as your guests. I’m not normally a great lover of curries that use coconut milk but this one works because the balance of ingredients favour all the other flavours, preventing the coconut milk from being its usual overpowering self.

Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Twitter: @StrtegicRetweet

This review is the opinion of the reviewer and not necessarily of Glam Adelaide.

Distributed by: Simon and Schuster
Released: November 2021
RRP: $59.99 hardcover

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