660 Curries by Raghavan Iyer -- Any recommendations?

Recently we decided to up our game on Indian cooking at home, so we bought 660 Curries.

The title should’ve tipped me to the size of the book – it’s huge! So far, we’ve only owned the book a few days but we’ve made two recipes: cabbage, potatoes and peas (badha kofi torkari, page 470) and lamb curry with sweet onion/tomato sauce (pyaaz tamatar gosht, page 190), which involved a sub-recipe for fried onion paste. Both made for flavorful, satisfying meals – the lamb was long-cooking (it was supposed to simmer for 45 minutes but the texture was much better at double that time) and better for a non-weeknight meal. The cabbage-potato-pea dish was surprisingly popular with my husband, who usually only likes Indian veg dishes if they have paneer in them.

One change I’d prefer is if the foundational recipes would have cross references–the first section of the book includes many basic recipes for pastes and spice mixes required in the main recipes, but – as in the case with the fried onion paste we made for the lamb curry – if you have leftovers, it’s not possible to look at the paste recipe to see what other recipes require it or find that info in the index.

The size of the book makes choosing the next recipe an adventure. Has anyone else cooked from this book? Recommendations on where to go next?

Yes, I love this book! It was a Cookbook of the Month on Chowhound a few years ago - here’s a link that will take you to all of the threads on the various chapters: http://www.chowhound.com/post/october-2012-cookbook-month-660-curries-871611

I make qeema all the time now (I add tomatoes and leave out the peas), and there are several chicken dishes that are regulars in my rotation. The palak paneer is also excellent. I agree with you that it would be nice to have the spice mixes and pastes cross-referenced - we discussed that on Chowhound and even asked the author, but no such reference exists.

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Fab–glad you liked it! I have qeema and palak paneer added to my list now.

660 Curries is my favorite cook book. Just started using it again after a 10 month hiatus. What I don’t like is the recipes within a recipe as you mentioned. When I first started using the book I made a big batch of the onion paste and froze it flat in a freezer bag for future use. This time around I’ve been avoiding recipes that call for sub recipes. I bought garam masala from whole foods and just use that now instead of making the specified garam masala that so many of the recipes call for.

Chicken with yellow split peas, page 144, has been my favorite recipe so far. We made garlic shrimp with a coconut sauce, page 264, last week and really enjoyed it. Made it with coconut milk instead of shredded coconut.

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I’m also a big fan of this book. Some of the recipes we cook regularly are the spinach-smothered whole green lentils, gingered red lentils, and slow-roasted bell pepper with red lentils (although I’m not a fan of green bell peppers so usually use red). I’ve got to branch out and try some new recipes though!

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Last night I made chana masala for dinner because the weather was terrible and we had all the ingredients at home. It had two recipes within recipes–one for garlic paste, the other for ginger paste–which required a huge amount of ginger and garlic plus prep time. As I only needed one tablespoon of each, I just used a garlic press (instead of pureeing 50 cloves of garlic, as requested). Perhaps the dish would have been better if I had made pastes as directed, but I don’t regret the shortcut.

The chana masala was very good, and I think using chickpeas that were dried and then boiled instead of canned made the texture much nicer than expected.

I really want to try chicken with split yellow peas and spinach-smothered lentils now. Very exciting.

When the book was COTM, I knew I’d be cooking from it a lot, so I made several of the spice mixtures and the onion, garlic and ginger pastes right away. The pastes freeze very well and I have found lots of other uses for them in other cuisines and my own improvised sauces, etc. I’ve also found other uses for the spice blends and have no trouble using them up before they lose their potency, although I still do keep a good commercial garam masala on hand in case I want to make something on a whim and am too lazy to make the spice blend called for in the book.

ETA: I was just looking at the Chowhound thread and I remembered that the Maharashtrian garam masala was one of my favorites - peanuts, coconut and chiles. Well worth making from scratch. The chicken recipe on 159 is a great use for it.

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Another recipe that I would HIGHLY recommend is the Kaaju Methi Murghi (Cashew Chicken with Fenugreek) on pages 124 and 125. If you’ve never used methi leaves, you’re in for a treat, although I’m not sure where you will find them unless you have an Indian market in your area. I prefer frozen or fresh to dried.

I just figured out that there’s an Indian grocery on Drummond Street in Central London, very close to me. I have high hopes I’ll be able to get the harder-to-find ingredients (so far, I’ve only picked recipes that use general supermarket ingredients like ginger, whole cardamom, etc).

I’ll definitely try this as my husband is a committed carnivore and wishes I’d make more meaty dishes – thanks for the tip!

From Raghavan Iyer via Twitter:

If there is anything you want to say to the author, please let me know and I will reply to him!

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I had the book prior to it being the COTM on CH. I’ve tried a number of recipes from it. I like the dal section, especially the masoor dal recipes as masoor is my quick go-to for weekdays. It doesn’t need to be soaked like some of the other dals. We adore the paneer with potatoes in spicy tomato/chilli/curry leaves sauce – I make it all the time, and can whip it up for dinner in about 15 minutes, complete with Trader Joe’s frozen naan on the side (we all prefer it with naan over roti or rice). Another favorite is the corn with green chillies and curry leaves – I use frozen corn kernels, which cook up nicely with the chillies and curry leaves. Excellent with some masoor dal and roti. I’ve even turned leftovers into quesadillas for lunch the next day.

As for the pastes, I always have a jar of ginger garlic paste in my fridge. It’s a quick shortcut for me for weeknight Indian cooking. You have to try different brands to find a good one. If I just need a little garlic paste or a little ginger paste, I just grate it on my microplane and scrape it in.

I don’t make homemade garam masala – I use store bought. I always have it on hand, but it’s not something I use in all of my indian cooking.

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