Food on Fridays: Virtual Food Tourism

I love to travel, I love eating exotic food and trying new things, but this doesn’t happen as much as I’d like since having children. I get my culinary kicks by reading foodie blogs, eating out when I can, and reading cook books. I love food from India and South East Asia, so here are my top 5 books for cooking and also for browsing.

  1. Eastern Vegetarian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey is one of the first cook books I bought when I left home. (I’ll write about the very first one another time.) It is mostly text with a few black and white line drawings, but has been a great guide to everything from making flat breads to side and main dishes to how to cook rice. It is really comprehensive – what it lacks in colour it make up for with the sheer range of recipes.
  2.   Hansa’s – More Than Just a Restaurant… it’s My Life!: Celebrating 25 Yrs of Hansa’s Award Winning Gujarati Vegetarian Restaurant is one of my much more recent purchases. I ate at Hansa’s in Leeds occasionally when I lived in Bradford, so leapt at the chance to attend a tasting and book signing at a local bookshop last year. With a Good Food Guide rated restaurant Hansa is an inspiring business woman, and it was great to meet her. Her book explains about the history of the restaurant, a big employer of women in the area, and gives an insight into why Hindu’s don’t eat meat, as well as outlining Ayurvedic elements and how the relate to diet. Those are just bonuses, though, as the main matter of the book is fabulous recipes and beautiful photographs. I can personally vouch how delicious the recipes are – we’ve tried the Shrikand – strained yoghurt with fruit, as well as several of the starters. J, 6, went to the tasting with me and is starting to be a real fan of Indian food too.
  3. Now for a couple of TV chefs. My virtual food tourist is definitely inspired by watching others travel and cook. One of the first shows I watched and enjoyed when pregnant with D was Floyd’s India. I liked the food and the photography better than the presenter (!) but it was still well worth watching, particularly as Floyd explored the different areas of India and went from places specialising in meat, to those where fish was the main protein, to the vegetarian south of India. The book contains around 50 pages of travel writing, followed by 130 pages of recipes. The recipe section works well for me: you can learn about masala, thalis, chutneys and pickles as well as the main dish recipes. It’s an amusing read – it is easy to imagine Keith Floyd in the various situations – and I’ve enjoyed cooking from it too.
  4. I find Rick Stein more personable, and recently got a bargain copy of Rick Stein’s Far Eastern Odyssey for just £5. Unlike Hansa and Floyd’s Indian books, this one covers much of South East Asia, with recipes and travel tales from Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh. I’ve much less culinary experience in this area, so this book introduced me to Vietnamese Banh Mi, and has a great section with recipe basics and an ingredient guide to help beginners. I probably read this one more than cook from it, but it is no less enjoyable!
  5. My newest book in this group is Reza’s Indian Spice, by Reza who cooks on This Morning. The interesting thing about this book is the way it that takes the best of Indian flavours and combines some more international ingredients. If you love Indian food and want some innovative ideas and fresh approaches (beetroot samosa anyone?) this is a great book. Beautiful design and photography complement clear recipes and inspiring ideas. Pick from quick meals to slow cooked specialities A pleasure to read as well as to cook from.


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