Rinku Bhattacharya combines her two great loves―Indian cooking and sustainable living―to give readers a simple, accessible way to cook seasonally, locally, and flavorfully. Inspired by the bounty of local produce, mostly from her own backyard, Rinku set out to create recipes for busy, time-strapped home cooks who want to blend Indian flavors into nutritious family meals. Arranged in chapters from appetizers through desserts, the cookbook includes everything from small bites, soups, seafood, meat and poultry, and vegetables, to condiments, breads, and sweets. You’ll find recipes for tempting fare like “Mango and Goat Cheese Mini Crisps,” “Roasted Red Pepper Chutney,” “Crisped Okra with Dry Spice Rub,” “Smoky Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Puree,” and “Red Harvest Masala Cornish Hens,” to name a few. As exotic and enticing as these recipes sound, the ingredients are easily found and the instructions are simple. Rinku encourages readers to explore the bounty of their local farms and markets, and embrace the rich flavors of India to cook food that is nutritious, healthy, seasonal and most importantly, delicious.
- Who taught you how to cook?
I spent a lot of my early childhood years watching my grandmother cook. I learnt and absorbed a lot of watch she was doing, without really realizing that I was doing that. I later travelled quite far away to the US for university. I began missing home cooked food, the lighter flavors of home and that is when I began to draw on memory to start cooking. All said and done, a lot of my cooking is self- taught but heavily influenced by my mother and grandmother’s cooking.
- Are there family recipies included?
Absolutely! There are several family recipes from both my and my husband’s family. The chicken tikka kebabs (pg 39), the red lentils (107), Shrimp in a Caramelized Onion and Coconut milk sauce (pg 191) are all from my family. Seasonal Greens with White Cheese (page 129) The traditional red kidney beans are from my husband’s family (115). These are the first ones that come to mind.
- Which core ingredient do you prefer to cook with?
I like fish and seafood, very fond of seasonal greens and am quite addicted to tomatoes. Overall, we stick to a simple flavour palate working with whatever is in season. Hence the title – Spices and Seasons. You will find similar recipes all in this vein in my blog – Spice Chronicles. www.spicechronicles.com.
- What is your favourite spice/herb?
Cumin for spice and Cilantro or Coriander Leaves is my favorite herb.
- If you would have to prepare a 3 course meal consisting of dishes you like best, what would be on the menu?
I would make the Pineapple Citrus Chicken Wings for an Appetizer, Coconut Shrimp Curry as a Main Dish and my Chai Spiced Apple Cake as a Dessert.
- Do you think traditional dishes should remain that way or can they have a bit of a modern twist and why?
I do not think that there is an either or. I think both traditional dishes have their place and should be enjoyed when appropriate and when feeling like experimenting there should be room for modern flavors. Much like both Classical Music and Hip Hop have a place in our universe, it is just important to know when to work with what.
- Apart from the indian cuisine, which one do you consider a treat?
I love food! I enjoy Mexican, Thai and French cuisine, but can be persuaded to enjoy pretty much anything.
- A meal is not complete without dessert. Do you agree? Which one is your guilty pleasure?
Absolutely! Anything with Ghee (Indian Clarified Butter) and Cardamom calls my name.
- Do you sometimes cook together with family and/or friends or is the kitchen yours only?
Mostly the kitchen is my domain.
- I have never cooked Indian food. Which dish is perfect for beginners?
Actually, Spices and Seasons is probably a great book for beginners. The recipes are simple and very accessible. There is a lot of descriptive text on the ingredients and the recipes have been simplified. In addition, there are a lot of recipes in a contemporary style to make it accessible. Most importantly, there is a picture for every recipe.
However, to get started, try my Classic Chicken Curry on Page 239.
Thank you, Rinku Bhattacharya and Rachel’s Random Resources.
About the author
Rinku Bhattacharya (spicechronicles.com) was born in India, and now lives in a house with a vibrant backyard in Hudson Valley, New York with her husband, an avid gardener, and their two children. Rinku’s simple, sustainable approach to Indian cooking is showcased on her blog, Spice Chronicles, and in her Journal News column “Spices and Seasons.”
Rinku has been teaching recreational cooking classes for the past nine years, and works extensively with local area farmer’s markets on seasonal demonstrations and discussions. Rinku is also the author of The Bengali Five Spice Chronicles (Hippocrene Books, 2012), winner of the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards 2013 for Best Indian Cuisine. She writes for the Poughkeepsie Journal, the Journal News, and several online sites, and is a frequent guest on CT Style TV.