Visiting India for the first time six years ago on an Eat, Pray, Love-esque journey of self discovery, (AKA a gap year), I immediately fell in love with the country.
From the tooting horns of rickshaw drivers swerving ambling cows in the road, to the colourfully dressed women in saris that looked fit for a celebration, arriving in the heart of India was a true sensory explosion.
Yet there is something more encapsulating of the Subcontinent than all else: the food. There doesn’t seem to be a street corner in the land that isn’t festooned with carts hawking some form of utterly delicious-smelling food – the sweet fried desserts (jalebi), the overwhelmingly spicy nibbles (samosa chaat was a favourite), the refreshing yoghurt drinks (nothing nicer than a lassi to cool you in the sweltering Indian heat).
You soon realise that in India, you don’t just taste food – you experience it.
Here in the UK, the richness, flavour and variety of Indian cuisine is often reduced to basic curries, paltry microwave meals or Gavin and Stacey-style sketches of ordering a takeaway.
Thankfully the tide is turning, not least in the supermarkets where the ever-burgeoning World Food aisle makes it easier than ever to buy authentic ingredients such as spice, pickles, sides and sauces.
We want to show you how easy it can be to cook proper Indian food by trying out Dishoom’s veggie Mattar Paneer, an easy weeknight dinner that will win over the whole family.
Whether you’re giving Indian cooking a go for the first time or want to add impressive Indian dishes to your repertoire, we’ve rounded up the best Indian cookbooks for you. Grab a pair of elasticated trousers, and get ready to dive in.
If you’re after a comprehensive guide to Indian food then look no further than this cookbook packed with over 1000 recipes from every region in the vast country. All the recipes are completely authentic but adapted to be suitable and achievable in a western kitchen.
The resulting dishes are as beautiful as the cover’s design. We adored everything from Goan Prawn Curry to traditional tribal foods found in villages in the northeastern part of the country.
The cookbook feeds you beyond the plate, giving you info on India’s colourful history and culture as well as delving into regional variations of much-loved dishes.
Don’t miss the section of recipes from 11 world-famous guest chefs who offer their spin on Indian cuisine.
Buy now £31.99, Amazon
The Nutmeg Trail
Spices are integral to Indian cooking. It’s not all about heat, spices can add depth, flavour and layers to cooking, as this wonderful cookbook reveals.
Taking the reader on a historical journey, this book features 80 recipes that profile various spices and show how they can be used and combined to create flavoursome recipes you won’t believe have come out of your kitchen. This book goes beyond India; it’s an exploration of the entire Asian continent and shows how spice and culture have become interwoven over the centuries.
Try the Tandoori roast chicken to liven up a Sunday lunch, or for those who can handle the heat, the delicious Rica Rica Prawns offer a beautiful kick.
Buy now £17.99, Amazon
Penned by Michelin-star chef Rohit Ghai, this cookbook has hundreds of recipes inspired by his native Punjab as well as from his experience working in some of London’s top restaurants. Meaning vegetable in Urdu, Tarkari puts a new, innovative spin on traditional vegetarian dishes. Our fave? The Jackfruit Masala curry and any of the chickpea-based ideas have made it onto our weekly dinner rotation.
Although some of the dishes appear complicated, the clear step-by-step instructions (alongside photography that’ll make your stomach grumble) make it easy to follow by both novices and culinary experts.
Buy now £15.94, Amazon
Home chefs know the secret to flavour is often slow cooking: leaving sauces to simmer and spices to roast for hours brings out notes that are practically impossible to replicate in a quick meal. Unless you have Sodha’s tome Fresh India to hand. It somehow manage to recreate the flavours in just a fraction of the time.
The 130 recipes in this book are quick, simple and designed for everyday cooking. What’s more is that all the recipes are vegetarian and ingredients can be substituted to make meals vegan too. Our favourite dish was the roasted cauliflower korma and we loved trying out puddings like peanut kulfi and pistachio cake.
Buy now £14.40, Amazon
Dishoom: The first ever cookbook from the much-loved Indian restaurant
Transforming the Indian restaurant landscape in the UK, Dishoom’s homage to its Iranian version of Mumbai has won over those looking for affordable and delicious traditional Indian meals.
This cookbook finally spills the secrets on much loved comfort dishes such as the Bacon Naan Roll, Okra Fries and Chicken Ruby. With recipes on how to make your own Garam Masala spice blend, ginger paste and Masala sauce, this cookbook is an absolute must for those who want to nail the basics of India cooking as well as creating impressive dishes for their friends and family.
Alongside beautifully curated recipes comes a tale of eating and drinking in Bombay with beautiful photography, a pull out poster and charming tales of such a culturally and culinary rich country.
Buy now £17.68, Amazon
Mastering the art of homemade curries can be no easy feat but we see this cookbook by Michelin-starred chef, Atul Kochhar, as a great starting point.
With over 100 recipes, this cookbook contains an amazing range of vegetarian curries that traverse the globe. Whilst most curries in the book have roots in Asia there are also plenty of lesser known, but equally as tasty, dishes from the Middle East and Africa.
If you’ve got people round, give the Masala Chips a whirl; it’s a quick, crowd-pleasing side dish. For those looking to cook a quick dinner for the family try out the Cambodian Mango Curry or the Japanese Aubergine Katsu.
Buy now £17.99, Amazon
Made in India: 130 Simple, Fresh and Flavourful Recipes from One Indian Family
With the subheading of “Cooked In Britain”, you can be sure that this cookbook finds the perfect balance between authentic Indian food and the British palate.
Alongside the expected curries there are also chapters on side dishes, puddings and scrummy street food such as feta samosas and chilli paneer.
Featuring sections such as First-Timer Recipes and Kid-Friendly cooking this is the perfect cookbook for the novice Indian cook who wants to get their whole family involved in meal prep. All in all there are 130 recipes that will look as vibrant as the book itself does.
Buy now £14.40, Amazon
Mowgli Street Food
If you’re looking to host the perfect summer party with tasty nibbles and dishes that will win over big crowds, then try making any of these delicious recipes from Mowgli Street Food.
Nisha Katona, founder of the famous Mowgli restaurants shares some of the most iconic recipes such as lamb curry, Fenugreek Kissed Fries and the wonderful Chaat Bombs – small crisp pastries filled with a special indian mixture that causes the perfect explosion of flavours when bitten into.
Alongside smaller bites, there are also bigger dishes as well as our favourite, the Chip Butty – a spice-filled potato roti.
Buy now £16.65, Amazon