The New Indian Slow Cooker: Recipes for Curries, Dals, Chutneys, Masalas, Biryani, and More (Blogging for Books review)

Indian cuisine is my culinary final frontier; for many years, I’ve collected Mediterranean, Middle Eastern and Asian cookbooks, but didn’t have any in my collection that focused on the varied foods of India. I recently purchased Indian Cooking Unfolded: A Master Class in Indian Cooking, with 100 Easy Recipes Using 10 Ingredients or Less and reviewed Prashad Cookbook: Indian Vegetarian Cooking, gradually easing my way into various Indian regional cuisines.

So I was excited as soon as I heard that Ten Speed Press was bringing out an Indian slow cooker book to complement their other slow cooker titles and have eagerly been awaiting its release (note that this book is NOT related to The Indian Slow Cooker: 50 Healthy, Easy, Authentic Recipes). As soon as I received “New Indian Slow Cooker,” I read it cover to cover and marked several recipes to try. There is a pretty even balance between meat/seafood dishes (15 curries) and vegetarian options (11 veggie dishes and 11 dals). Many of the rice dishes are also vegetarian. There are also several “out of the cooker” recipes for sides, including chapattis, homemade yogurt, kachumber, raita, chutneys, paneer and a spice blend.

The book includes a very compact guide to Indian spices and ingredients; a few photos or illustrations would have been helpful here for those new to Indian cuisine, but there is detailed info (and Hindi names) for each ingredient. One thing I would have appreciated was knowing what ratio of dried curry leaves equal fresh, as that was all I was able to source in my area (the recipes call for a specific number of fresh leaves). One trick I started using was a bouquet garni bag; this easily allowed me to remove the bay leaves, cinnamon, cardamom, etc. at the same time without having to hunt around the slow cooker.

My all-time favorite discovery here was the mixed dried fruit chutney; I can’t stop eating the stuff! I’ve been using it on yogurt, as a sandwich spread, and I find myself sneaking back to the fridge with a (clean) spoon for another taste. You can mix and match whatever dried fruit you have on hand. This would go splendidly with turkey and squash as it has a strongly autumnal taste due to the fresh ginger and cloves. I also tried the Kerala fish curry (with the shrimp option), dum aloo, and channa masala.

Recipes call for you to put the slow cooker on high for 15 minutes before beginning to warm the insert. Because I have an insert that can go on the stovetop, I accomplished frying and cooking in the same insert. One thing I really liked was that most recipes were tested in a 6-quart slow cooker (I have two); many times, cookbooks are scaled for a much smaller cooker and I never know how to adjust the times accordingly, but everything I tried from “New Indian Slow Cooker” meshed with the times in the book.

I was able to source most of the ingredients at my local store without having to go to the local Middle Eastern market or mail order them (not true for other Indian cookbooks I’ve tested). Ingredients and instructions are straightforward, and prep time is generally low (other than preparing the tadka or masala). There are photos for every two or three recipes.

Overall, this is a good first introduction to Indian cuisine; the slow cooker is a natural for the many dishes that take advantage of braising, particularly dals and veggie curries, and Neela Paniz walks you through each recipe with a story or origin for each dish. I will certainly find myself turning to “New Indian Slow Cooker” the next time I am in the mood for Indian (and to keep a stash of the mixed dried fruit chutney on hand!)

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