The aromatic flavors of Indian and Southeast Asian cuisine, particularly the curried dishes, are explored in four recent cookbooks, one of which already is a winner.
This spring the Julia Child Cookbook Award for best first book was awarded to "Curried Flavors: Family Recipes From South India," by Maya Kaimal MacMillan (Abbeville Press, $35). The author focuses on the curried dishes of southern India where her father is from. The flavors of the south are different from those of the north, which is the cuisine found in most Indian restaurants.
MacMillan insists that cooks blend all the spices for each curry dish to produce the right vibrant and distinctive taste. "You won't find references to commercial curry powder in any of these recipes," she writes.
Between the blending and the chopping, preparation time can be quite lengthy, but for each recipe MacMillan gives the time required, which helps.
The 100 or so recipes are clearly presented, making it easy for the novice to follow along. They run the gamut from snacks and light meals, soups, salads and chutneys to seafood, poultry, meat, breads and desserts.
Included are appam, a sweet rice-flour pancake, and pulisheri soup, a buttermilk soup filled with spices and cucumber, or egg aviyal, a classic dish made with eggs, potatoes, grated coconut, yogurt and a spice blend.
"The Curry Book," by Nanci McDermott (Chapters, $14.95 paperback), makes it easy to get into the pleasures of preparing curry dishes. Curry captured her interest while she served in the Peace Corps in Thailand.
What could be better warm-weather fare than curried tuna salad with red grapes and toasted almonds on leaves of romaine or spinach? Or colorful bowls of two cold soups, tomato and cool curry cucumber, in counterpoint to each other? McDermott's North Carolina upbringing appears in the curried black-eyed peas with eggplant dish. For something really fiery, prepare the pork vindaloo goa-style.
"Curry can be as easy as you want it," the author states. Unlike MacMillan, virtually all of McDermott's recipes call for curry powder or paste that is either "store-bought or homemade." For cooks wishing to take the traditional route, however, she provides a half-dozen or so recipes for curry blends.
"The Indian Spice Kitchen," by Monisha Bharadwaj (Dutton, $29.95), is a colorful, informative British product that explores Indian culture and demystifies ingredients used in preparing Indian food, from agar-agar and assafoetida (or asafetida) to tirphal and zedoary.
"The Vegetarian Table: India," by Yamuna Devi (Chronicle, $22.95), is the sixth volume in this attractive vegetarian series. Devi, an award-winning cookbook author and one of the foremost proponents of meatless Indian preparations, serves up 80 intriguing recipes. A shortcoming, perhaps, for those seeking more knowledge about Indian spices is the brevity of the glossary.
Nanci McDermott, author of "The Curry Book," calls this dish the "perfect party food -- simple to make, ready when you are and easy to eat." Chicken thighs and legs also may be used.
Honey-cured chicken wings
Makes about 28 pieces
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup honey
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons curry powder, store-bought or homemade
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 pounds chicken wings
Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
In a small bowl, combine the butter, honey, mustard, curry powder, cayenne and salt and stir well. Cut each chicken wing into three pieces; discard the tips or reserve for making stock.
Line a shallow baking pan with aluminum foil and place the wings in the pan in a single layer. Pour the sauce over them and turn to coat well. Roast until golden brown and cooked through, turning and basting twice, 45 to 50 minutes. Serve hot or warm.
Note: Sealed tight, the wings keep 2 days in the refrigerator and several weeks in the freezer. Reheat at 350 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.
This is a simple stir-fry from "Curried Flavors." It easily fits into a non-Indian menu, the author says.
Makes 6 to 8 servings
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
4 dried red peppers
10 curry leaves or 4 bay leaves
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 green chili (serrano, Thai or jalepeno), split lengthwise and crushed
2 packages (10 ounces each) frozen peas, thawed
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/8 teaspoon ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper (cayenne)
3/4 teaspoon salt
In a covered wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat, heat mustard seeds, red peppers and curry leaves in oil until mustard seeds begin to pop. Uncover, add onion and green chili, and fry until onion is soft.
Add peas, spice mixture and salt and fry for 2 minutes on medium-high heat, or until peas are cooked.
Pub Date: 10/08/97