Saturday, 8 September 2012

Book Review~"Chakle India" Cookbook by Aditya Bal

When you have a handsome young man smiling at you in a beautiful kitchen you pick the book upJ. Then you realize it is Aditya Bal the host of NDTV Good Times you start reading the book. And he is endearing. 

“Chakle India” is about cooking and what Aditya has learnt during his NDTV Show and his travels across the country for the show.

In the ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS, that Aditya Bal has penned from his heart, he has said, “Though the recipes are mostly traditional, they are essentially my version of authentic regional dishes around India.” So I suppose what he essentially means is adapt the dish to suit your tastes. That’s fine with me I do it anyway.

I loved reading his INTRODUCTION which gives you a glimpse of the making of the man that he is today.  His discussion about the INDIAN PANTRY and KITCHEN ESSENTIALS, BASIC RECIPES are a great pointer to what basics you need in the kitchen in term of ingredients and cooking gear.

Under the title COOKING TECHNIQUE Aditya has mentioned different cooking techniques and described them. I was surprised when I saw BAGHAR is,” where spices and aromatics are fried in hot cooking medium …… and then they are discarded and the flavored medium is used.” News to me, as for me BAGHAR, TEMPERING and TADKA are all the same. I never waste any of the spices or the medium. But I do wish he had discussed DEGLAZING here something about which he has spoken a lot in his recipes.

As the book has no index I leafed through all the pages, drooled over the pictures wished there were more details in the picture  not just close ups.

 I loved the pictures of the SEAFOOD and the MEATS, but as I have never cooked non-vegetarian food, I am unable to comment on them. Therefore I turned to the VEGETARIAN section, the part that interests me the most.

In a country that is as wide and varied as India, where there are so many religious taboos on eating meat, where vegetarianism is the most accepted thing, and as more and more people in the world are turning towards vegetarianism, it was disappointing that “Chakle India” discusses only 10 vegetarian recipes!

The ones that I was interested were Amaras ki Kadhi, something I can make next season of mangoes. However the proportions of 1 large cup ripe mango puree and 1 cup raw mango puree seems skewed, then to make it mix it with curds 1 ½ diluted with 1 ½ cup water! I will leave out the raw mango out totally. Beetroot  Pachadi and Moru Sambhar are made out of a mix of tamarind and curd/buttermilk.  This is combination of curd and tamarind in a sambhar or pachadi is new to me. The only time I have had it was in chaat.  I wanted to make Carrot Gojju, but the description, I quote,
” 9. Pour in the a little water and deglaze the khadai, lifting up the rich pan deposits on the base. Mix everything together well, cook and steam carrots for 3-4 minutes to cook thoroughly.
10. Uncover the pan and turn up the heat to reduce and concentrate the gojju.”

Will the carrots be” perfectly cooked but retain a delicate crunch”?
In the first steaming they will be cooked and when you concentrate the gojju they will be overcooked. The picture given here in the book I thought was misleading.
Here is the picture

The only option left to me was Amritsari Paneer.  

 I made it as Aditya has said in the book. The only change I made was I switched off the gas immediately after I added the paneer as in my experience the paneer when overcooked takes a rubberlike texture. Let the pan covered till it cooled a bit and added my coriander leaves and squeezed ½ limes and added the butter.

 The verdict at home was not encouraging. 

So in the evening I made changes. In a kadhai/wok I fried 1 medium onion finely chopped, used one more tomato then I doubled the proportions that Aditya has indicated in his spices.
For a good measure then added garlic, garam masala, ½ tsp of Kolhapuri masala (I know but I needed the balance), added 2 pinch so ¼ tsp of amchur powder. And everyone enjoyed it with fulkas!

My expectation for SNACKS is that they should  take very little preparation time yet be healthy and tasty.  The only 3 options for vegetarian snacks are Hara Bhara Kabab, Paneer Tikka and Chola Masala, I will not make these for us every day.

The SWEETS that are discussed are delicious and a representation of the few of the well known sweets that India boasts of. I have bookmarked a few for making later like the Badam Kulfi, the Doodhi  Ka Halwa as he uses jaggery in place of sugar, and the Aam Ka Kheer.

What I liked about the book
·                    ·        Aditya has covered a wide variety of dishes. It’s a feast galore for                             
                non-vegetarian   dishes and sweets.
·        I also like the fact that his description of the recipe is not only for the amateur but for a well seasoned cook as well.
·        I love the fact that I am expected to taste the food first and he has described how the dish needs to taste.

What can be improved upon
·           ·       An index please.
·       More vegetarian side-dishes, pulaos. I was surprised that there was not even mutter pulao also a basic for any cookbook.
·       Healthy snacks! Fast ones where  no planning is needed. You have a lovely picture of Aditya with a vendor selling bhel; at least that should remind you of putting some chaat recipes.
·       The proportions of the ingredients are not precise. Its okay for someone well versed in Indian cooking but I will not recommend it to kitchen newbie.
·       Aditya has said he loves baking I was surprised there was not even one baking recipe.

My recommendation
This is a good book for a person who knows Indian cooking and is capable of adjusting the quantity of ingredients, as the book represents cooking recipes across the length and breadth of the Indian subcontinent. For the others there will be better books for the price of IR 395/-.

This review is part of the Book Reviews Program at blogadda
I’m one among a few to receive this book for review.  

All rights reserved on photographs and written content are copy-written @The Mad Scientist’s Kitchen!! unless mentioned. Please Ask First


  1. Very nice and honest review Archana, you have given a detailed explanation of what is good and can improve. A few blogger friends (virtual friends) in Delhi met him and they too reviewed the the book with similar feedback!
    You hit the nail on the head, only someone who know Indian cooking can cook these recipes, its not for a novice!

  2. wow this is a great review. even I felt the pics are not great and index too is missing

  3. looks like the book has a wide collection of useful recipes. Good review Archana!

  4. nice review. definitely seems interesting :)

  5. Archana, I liked the review and particularly the Carrot Gojju one!
    :-) Many of us in the blogging world shy away from actually reading a post and following up with a relevant comment.
    It is understandable with the constraints of time...

    On a lighter note...
    I remember reading somewhere about how to make food in advts appealing- that thick Mayo/Cream oozing out might be fevicol! :-D!


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