What’s the USP? Tarkari is Bengali word that refers to any vegetable dish and therefore a fitting title for this collection of vegetarian and vegan Indian dishes from one of the UK’s most exciting Indian chefs.
Who is the author? Rohit Ghai is the Michelin-star winning chef of Kutir restaurant in Chelsea and Manthan in Mayfair. He was previously chef at various other highly acclaimed London destinations including Gymkhana, Jamavar, Trishna and Hoppers. Tarkari is his first book
Is it good bedtime reading? `Takari is first and foremost a recipe book, the only extras are a short introduction from Ghai and a brief chapter on ‘The Magic of Spices’ with a description of Ghai’s favoured spices and recipes for masalas, spice mixes and pastes.
How annoyingly vague are the recipes? The recipe for aloo gobi requires ‘2 potatoes, diced’, size, weight or variety is not specified. Similarly, the other ingredients include ‘1 cauliflower’ and ‘2 tomatoes’, both of which can vary in size quite dramticaly . No doubt you can get away with your own judgement here, but the quantities of spices are quite small, two and half teaspoons in total, so you may end up with an underpowered dish if your veggies are on the large side. This is frustrating as there are more specific recipes elsewhere in the book. For example, Courgette Mussalam requires 250g of boiled and mashed potatoes. You see, it’s not that difficult is it? And yet Tawa Salad calls for ‘100g of beetroots’ (hurrah) and ‘2 carrots’ (boo). So, yeah, a bit annoyingly vague.
Will I have trouble finding ingredients? Starting with Ghai’s spice rack, you will probably have to resort to an online source for black moon flower (a key ingredient in his signature garam masala blend) and also amchur (dried mango powder), pomegranate powder, sambhar powder, fenugreek seeds and black cumin seeds if you don’t have a good Asian grocer near to you. I also had to order black lentils online for the rich and delicious dal makhani Kasundhi mustard may need hunting down, but pretty much everything else spice-wise should be easily obtainable.
What’s the faff factor? To get the most out of the book, you’ll want to spend some time making Ghai’s spice blends for which you’ll need a spice blender (a very affordable addition to your kitchen batterie if you don’t already own one) or a decent sized pestle and mortar. Once you have your spice pantry sorted, the complexity of the recipes vary from a simple Chickpea and Samphire Salad or Bhuteko Bhat (Nepalese Fried Rice) to the more demanding (but still very achievable) Punjabi Samosa or Chandni Chowk Ki Aloo Tikki with its multiple elements and sub-recipes. In the main however, these are dishes that any enthusiastic home cook will be happy to tackle and feel it was worth the effort.
How often will I cook from the book? If you love Indian food and observe a vegetarian or vegan diet then you could easily be cooking from Tarkari on a weekly basis, or even more often. If you are looking to cut down on meat, this book is full of dishes that would make excellent and delicious mid-week meals without too much effort required.
Killer recipes: Malabar cauliflower (spicy battered and deep-fried florets); mushroom and truffle khichadi (a dish of spiced rice and lentils) ; dum aloo (potato curry); jackfruit masala; chickpea and mushroom biryani.
Should I buy it? Covering everything from breakfasts to desserts with snacks, pickles and dips, curries, sharing plates, sides, and rice and breads in between, Tarkari is a one stop shop for vegetarian and vegan cooking. Ghai brings real flair and inspiration to the dishes making the book an essential purchase for anyone who loves Indian food or is looking for a comprehensive introduction to the vegetarian and vegan side of the cuisine.
Anyone who has had the opportunity to dine at one of Ghai’s restaurants may be disappointed that the book doesn’t include recipes for some of his sublime meat and fish dishes, but I imagine and certainly hope there will be a second volume on the horizon to cover those soon.
Suitable for: confident home cooks/professional chefs
Cookbook Review Rating: Four stars
Buy this book
Tarkari: Vegetarian and Vegan Indian Dishes with Heart and Soul
£25, Kyle Books