Books & Literature

Cookbook Review: Tasting India, by Christine Manfield

A cookbook and travelogue, highlighting the various regions of India.

Heirloom family recipes from one of Australia's top chefs.

Chef Christine Manfield is as passionate about travel as she is about cooking. It’s no surprise then, that Tasting India is part-travelogue, part-cookbook.

The multi-award winning first edition of this book won numerous gongs including the 2012 International Cookbook of the Year from the International Association of Culinary Professionals in New York and the Best Culinary Travel book of 2012 at the IACP awards, New York. British and Australian awards followed.

This updated edition includes 30 new recipes and three new chapters, expanding on the regions covered to include the Punjab, Gujarat and Hyderabad. While perusing the recipes of each area, Manfield also writes about her experiences and discoveries of the food, people and cultures. In Delhi, Agra and Lucknow, for example, she takes the reader on a journey through the city, discovering the ultimate kebab, Indian breads and the Taj Mahal. In Kerala, she discovers a maze of waterways, Syrian Christian food and Ayurvedic medicinal practices.

Savour the words and the flavours.

Beautifully photographed by Anson Smart, Tasting India opens the reader to the plethora of dishes and tastes that go well beyond what most Australians consider to be Indian food. Yes, there is a butter chicken on page 125, but with more than 15 herbs and spices, it’s unlikely to match anything most Aussies have sampled.

For those who love the land of our South Asian cousins, Tasting India is an indispensable celebration of the land, people and food. For those wanting to go, it’s a glorious celebration of everything you dream about.

Punjabi Lamb and Spinach (Palak Gosht), page 126

This dish is very reminiscent of Saag Gosht, which is a beef and spinach curry often found in local Indian restaurants. Served with rice, plain yoghurt and pappadums, it is a delicious meal that elicits more credit than is due. Manfield provides easy to follow instructions that hit the spot. I only varied once from the recipe, throwing the lamb cutlets into a pressure cooking half way through to soften the meat more before adding the final ingredients. The addition of nutmeg adds a nice subtle touch to the finished dish. I’ve already been asked for a copy of the recipe by those who tasted it and it’s back on my ‘to do’ list for future dinner parties.

Coorgi Vermicelli Dessert (Semian Payasa), page 296

Dessert could not get much simpler and quicker than this filling dish. It’s a relative of a Keralan payasam, explains Manfield in her introductory notes to the recipe, calling it pure comfort food, served warm with tea. I must confess this one wasn’t to my taste, although I differ from others who tried it. I found the basic recipe quite bland, with the taste of ghee being far too strong. Quite a bit of extra cardamom provided the flavour it needed, with additional sugar adding the missing sweetness. I also threw in three times the recommended amount of pistachios, cashews and sultanas to provide more texture and colour.

Reviewed by Rod Lewis
Twitter: @StrtegicRetweet

Distributed by: Simon & Schuster Australia
Re-Released: November 2018
RRP: $49.99

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