“Tiffin” is a large and handsome cookbook with a lot of cover appeal. The artwork on the cover and the drawings, maps and photographs throughout are very appealing.

The book takes its title from the traditional lunch pail that is used all over India. The recipes are also from all over India and have been garnered from chefs who specialize in regional cuisine. The editor has organized the book geographically, and each of the six regions has its own introduction and photographs of produce and kitchens. While editor Sonal Ved notes that there are few overlapping flavors in Indian cuisine, the book includes an illustrated glossary of spices and grains and a section on ingredients and techniques that may be unfamiliar.

The recipes – which range from appetizers to desserts – are not difficult, although they may require some spices and other items you will have to search for. Most of the recipes serve only two or weirdly, three people. My biggest complaint (I would say beef but this is an Indian cookbook that has fish, chicken, lamb and even pork but not one beef recipe) is the index. For the most part, the names of the dishes are not in English or familiar in any way. For example, the introduction says that a recipe for Butter Chicken has been included. But flip to the index, and you won’t be able to find butter chicken.

You must Google ‘Butter Chicken’ to learn that its Indian name is Murgh Makhani, which is neatly indexed under chicken. If you don’t speak Hindi, don’t expect to find dishes easily. That said, you will enjoy discovering recipes by leafing through the book.

Vegetarians will find lots of recipes such as a one-pot vegetable casserole with fenugreek dumplings tossed in aromatic spices.

I chose to make a spicy coconut chicken curry from the south of India. Although the dish is from a part of the country that rarely drops below 70 degrees, the chicken in a smooth and spicy sauce also suited a cold Maine winter’s evening when served with brown rice and roasted broccoli.

I admit that I did not use all the chilies called for as I was cooking for someone who doesn’t enjoy spicy hot food. I also chose bone-in skinless chicken thighs (four thighs weighing 2.2 pounds total made the 2 cups of meat that the recipe called for) as I prefer to cook chicken on the bone, and the cooking time called for was more than adequate to cook it thoroughly. Once the chicken was cooked, I removed it from the sauce, let the sauce simmer to reduce (it seemed somewhat watery) and then took the cooled chicken off the bone and added back to the sauce off heat.

The curry was delicious with a smooth sauce spiked with toasted whole spices.

If you don’t let the unfamiliar ingredients faze you, the recipes in “Tiffin” could provide weeknight meals, as the instructions are clear and for the most part unfussy. And, as a bonus, the curry that was meant to serve three, made enough for four people easily.

Kori Gassi

Recipe from “Tiffin: 500 Authentic Recipes Celebrating India’s Regional Cuisine.” You will need ghee, or clarified butter; curry leaves; and tamarind paste to make this recipe. You can find them at an Indian grocery, like Masala Mahal on Route 1 in South Portland. The books says that “whole spice,” which the recipe calls for, can also be found at Indian food stores: “It is all the components of garam masala but not ground. It is very rubble-y looking and you have to mix it up to get a range of the various spices.”

Serves 3

FOR THE PASTE:

1 teaspoon coconut oil

1 cup finely chopped onion

1 tablespoon garlic paste

10 dried red chilies

1 teaspoon ghee

1 tablespoon coriander seeds

3/4 teaspoon cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon fenugreek seeds

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Salt to taste

FOR THE CURRY:

1 teaspoon coconut oil

2 curry leaves

1 tablespoon whole spice mix

2 cups cubed chicken

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 tablespoon tamarind paste

3 cups coconut milk

1 teaspoon ghee

1. To make the paste: In a skillet over low-medium heat, heat the coconut oil.

2. Add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring, until the onion turns golden brown.

3. Add the dried red chilies, ghee, coriander seeds, cumin seeds, fenugreek seeds and pepper. Season to taste with salt. Cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring well. Transfer to a food processor or mortar and pestle and blend into a smooth paste.

4. To make the curry: In another skillet over medium-high heat, heat the coconut oil.

5. Add the curry leaves and whole spice mix. Cook until the seeds begin to crackle.

6. Add the chicken and the dried chile paste. Reduce the heat to medium and stir fry for 3-4 minutes.

7. Stir in the turmeric, tamarind paste and coconut milk. Reduce heat to low and cook 30-40 minutes, or until the chicken is thoroughly done.

8. Season to taste with salt and pour the ghee over the top. Serve hot.


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