The Curry Guy – A cookbook review

I enjoy eating and cooking Indian food. The chapati flatbread is a home favorite, I love naan and dishes with paneer (e.g. saag paneer) tend to turn out well. That said though, I’ve never really managed to make those true Indian curries. Dishes such as butter chicken or rogan josh just proved to be too hard. Instead, we had switched to pre-packed curry pastes. They tasted great, but nevertheless, I did want to understand how to make these properly.

In comes ‘The Curry Guy‘. I’d browsed his website now and again, and had mentioned I would one day like to have his cookbook. Someone remembered that and got me the cookbook as a birthday gift! It truly was a superb choice, since then I’ve made several dishes (including the Rogan Josh) from the book and they all tasted amazing. Sometimes, cookbooks just work better than finding a recipe online. This really is true for me for Indian cuisine. There are quite a lot of steps you have to take which for me weren’t always familiar and being able to flip through the book while cooking helped a lot.

Even though these recipes aren’t ‘real’ Indian food, instead, it’s British Indian, we’ve loved them. It’s helped me a lot already in improving Indian cooking as well as understanding the basics of Indian cooking. This post will be a little different than my regular posts, this time not as much focused on why steps are taken, but reviewing the book. That said, you can be sure to expect more sciency posts on Indian cooking soon as well. I’ve been learning a lot.

Who’s the Curry Guy?

The Curry Guy is Dan Toombs. Several years ago he decided to only eat Indian food for a year’s time, taking along his family. Dan lives in Britain, so more specifically he decided to cook and eat British Indian food. He visited restaurants and practiced and practiced all the time keeping up a blog to write down about his experiences.

Several years later, he’s still into British Indian Cooking (BIC as he calls it) and he’s got a beautiful cookbook full of stunning photos and great tasting recipes.

Why get an Indian Food cookbook?

Based on my personal experience, it’s hard to get the flavours right of Indian cooking if you don’t have that sense of spice usage and curry paste making techniques. When trying recipes from the internet I’ve had quite a lot of success with the recipes from Veg Recipes of India. However, as the name says, these are all vegetarian and since these are written from India I sometimes had trouble finding the right ingredients.

For me, having a cookbook with all the basic recipes (that you’ll often need for the more complex dishes) as well as spice mixes, etc. just makes life a lot easier. All recipes are together and a lot of them are actually recipes I’d like to try. Since the book is written from a British perspective, I’ve found it easier to find and get all the ingredients mentioned in the book (so far at least!).

What’s in the Curry Guy?

In my opinion, Indian cooking is all about spices and proper flavour development. Not only should the balance of spices be right, there should also be enough of them, they should have been treated such that optimal flavour is extracted and they should have had enough time to infuse the food.

The base recipes

That’s why the book starts with several base recipes. These are recipes that will be used throughout the rest of the book as a basis for a lot of other dishes. These base recipes, whether it’s spice mixes or a base curry sauce will form the foundation of flavour in your food. Since preparing these well is what makes Indian cooking take a long time, it is great that I’m able to make these well in advance now. That way, the actual cooking on the day itself clearly doesn’t take as long anymore. As an example, I’ve made about 3 l of curry base sauce, which I frozen in about 10 portions in freezer bags, to be used whenever we feel like making something from the cookbook.

The main courses & Sides

The cookbook then continues with a lot of curry recipes as well as grilled or barbecued meats and seafood. There are a lot of meat dishes, however, there are also plenty of vegetarian main courses as well as sides. And of course, it’s not just a boiled piece of broccoli, no, also these vegetarian dishes are packed with flavour! The book ends with a few chef’s specials and small side dishes such as pickles or chutneys.

There aren’t any desserts in the book, but that said, it’s probably best so. Adding desserts would have probably resulted in just a few simple desserts whereas now it’s quite a complete book for any main course or starter dish. Also, just eating these curries tends to full us up plenty, we don’t really need a dessert anymore after such a main course!

You don’t have to make everything yourselves

The Curry Guy doesn’t mind advising you to buy certain ingredients in the store instead of making them yourselves. That’s what we do as well with several of the spice mixes for instance. It’s nice to make everything yourself, but buying a brand of mix you like yourself as well truly doesn’t hurt and I’m glad the Curry Guy agrees with that. Just as he agrees with flavour being personal, the cookbook will be a great guide to get you started with Indian cuisine, but over time you’ll learn just how to use all those spices in the best way.

lamb rogan josh with naan from the Curry Guy

My personal experience with the Curry Guy

Having had the cookbook for not too long now, I’ve made at least 3 delicious curries. Our personal favorite so far is the lamb rogan josh. This is a dish we already liked before making this version and we thought it came out great. There was a very good balance of flavour and even though it’s not the easiest dish to make, the instructions were very clear allowing us to make it pretty quickly (after some prep several days in advance when making the case recipes).

The photo on top of the post is of Lamb Bhuna, a great curry with lamb meat, packed with flavour. The chapati is my own recipe.

A pre-requisite for a good cookbook in my opinion are plenty of nice photos. Honestly, I only really tend to make the recipes in a cookbook that have photo next to them. It helps choosing a dish and helps knowing what to aim for.

If, in any case, you’re looking for super fast quick and easy Indian recipes though, this book won’t be the one for you. These recipes tend to take time or preparation some time in advance. As a result you’ll have delicious food, but most recipes don’t tend to be ready within 30 minutes (unless, just like I did, you make at least twice the amount you need, on day 2 you can eat within 10 minutes!).

Not yet fully convinced? Try out one of his recipes form the blog. Just keep in mind that the photos in the cookbook are a lot more professional and beautiful than those online and that the cookbook will help you sort and order all the recipes.

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