I met Ruta Kahate at an Asia Society's Off the Menu dinner a few months back. I had just received a review copy of her book, 5 Spices, 50 Dishes and was eager to try some recipes. Even better, that night I got to try a dish from the book, prepared by the author herself. The theme of the evening was Asian food myth-busting and there wasn't a better candidate for the job that Kahate.
"Indian food is hard to prepare and time consuming"
"Indian food uses tons of spices and everything is hot!"
"Indians don't eat meat, especially not beef"
Busted, busted, busted. In one dish, she showed how false each of those assertions are. The dish was a curry called Indian Brown Beef Stew and it has only three spices in it, along with fresh garlic and ginger. "Curry" just means a dish with sauce, though some curries can be on the drier side too. The dish is oniony and satisfying. It takes a little over an hour to make, but most of that is unattended. Special skills required to make it? None.
Last night I made yet another recipe from the book, Spicy Eggplant with Tomatoes and I was struck by how forgiving Kahate is, she inspires her readers to take on her recipes and at the same time grants them wide berth to alter her recipes to their taste. I admit I skimped on the cayenne, but otherwise wouldn't suggest changing a thing. A perfect Summer dish when your kitchen is overflowing with tomatoes and eggplants, it makes for a great vegetarian or a light-on-meat meal. In fact, many of the dishes in her book are stir fry and "one pot" meals. There are also salads, rice dishes, and even a couple of desserts.
Kahate's recipes are not necessarily the kinds of things you'll find in restaurants and that's a good thing. Cook the way Indians cook at home and you'll discover how easy it is to integrate Indian flavors into your own kitchen. The book is filled with tips and tricks for getting the most out of your efforts.