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Feast of India: A Legacy of Recipes and Fables by Rani

For centuries, the seductive flavors of India’s most sumptuous dishes have been developed, perfected, and passed down through generations of the khansamas, the royal chefs who preside over the opulent palace kitchens of India’s moghuls and maharajas. Now you can savor these flavorful dishes with Feast of India, a collection of enticing Indian appetizers, entrees, breads, vegetables, and desserts. Masterfully adapted for use in American kitchens, these mouth-watering recipes are embellished with lavish tales of the history, traditions, and lore that embrace the sensuous cuisine of this mystical country such as the legend of one famous ruler Jahangir, who told his empress that she could rule his empire if she allowed him wine and meat. Included are such tempting offerings as:

• Emperor’s Saffron Chicken
• Muslim-Style Fragrant and Spicy Beef meatballs
• Sweet Mango Chutney
• Hot Coromandel-Style Crab Curry

Feast of India contains more than 150 delicious, easy-to-follow recipes, from Emperor Jahangir’s Lamb Curry to Hyderabad-Style Chicken Pilao Rice. This comprehensive cookbook includes recipes for authentic Indian poori and chapatti, spiced drinks, and delicious traditional desserts. A glossary of spices, herbs, oils, and legumes used in Indian cooking is featured as well.

A fascinating discussion of Indian astrology is also presented, complete with suggestions for how members of each sign of the zodiac can enhance their health, creativity, and longevity through food.

Masalawali chai -- Indian spiced tea

When our local farm stand opened a little café two summers ago at the intersection of nowhere and nowhere, and posted a sign outside announcing WE HAVE CHAI, I knew this wonderful drink had "arrived." This recipe, which is really a method for making many variations of chai, comes from Feast of India: A Legacy of Recipes and Fables, by Rani (Mahendri Arundale). Serves 6.

7 cups cold water
1 cup milk
1 cinnamon stick
6 green cardamom pods
6 whole cloves
1-1/4 inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and chopped
1/4 cup light brown sugar, honey or agave nectar
2 Tbsp Darjeeling, Assam or Nilgiris tea

In a pot, bring the water and milk to a boil over medium heat. Stir in the spices and brown sugar. Boil for 5 minutes, and turn off the heat. Cover the pot and let the spices steep for 10 minutes, then add the tea leaves and bring the mixture to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes. Strain the tea and serve immediately.

Los Angeles Times - Food Review by Barbara Hansen:
“Rani’s splendid table...

It took Rani… three hours to cook an Indian dinner. Could you call that fast food? Yes, because she produced an amazing number of dishes, far more than one would plan for an ordinary meal.

There were little disks of finely ground beef and lentils called shami kebabs, chicken curry, eggplant in a cream sauce, delicately spiced pigeon peas, basmati rice, yogurt-cucumber raita, big crisp pappadams and two chutneys, one made with fresh coconut and the other with mint.

... And she does a marvelous, super-fast Indian “hamburger, a blend of ground lamb, onion, garlic, ginger root and other tingly seasonings. The hamburger and other dishes she prepared are from her book “Feast of India…”


***** The incomparable Rani by Steve Murdock:
I have been using Indian recipes for years, and this is quite simply the most USEABLE collection of Indian recipes I have yet encountered. Every recipe works, and works the first time, and can work for any decent cook, and for the most part with easily available ingredients.

The recipes cover a wide enough assortment of styles to suggest the breadth of Indian cookery. The stories and anecdotes that accompany the recipes, while very interesting in and of themselves, also serve to place the recipes in context -- for instance, the way multiple spices in a dish should blend together.

A wonderful book and one of my most-used. I, and my dinner companions, have taken to referring to the author as "the incomparable Rani."

***** Excellent by Amazon Customer:
Feast of India is overlooked and underrated. There are no photos and not as much information about cooking technique as some other books have, but this book has the best selection of recipes that I've found. Rani's roots are in Andhra Pradesh which results in more southern Indian influence than you get in most general Indian cookbooks. I also own several Indian cookbooks including Madhur Jaffrey's Indian Cooking, Sahni's Classic Indian Cooking, Curried Favors by Maya Kaimal MacMillan, Dakshin by Padmanabhan and a few others I like less than those, but if I could only have one it would be Feast of India.

***** History and Cooking Combined by Marabar:
This is my 'go to' book for Indian food. I have owned this book for many years and ordered a second copy as a backup. I followed her recipes to make my own spice mixes (make sure windows are open when the skillet smokes as the spices brown!) and keep jars of them on the shelf. Have also learned new techniques along the way like putting raw onion, garlic, etc. in the blender to puree then adding to meat for kabobs as an example. (This is called sofrito in other cuisines.) You don't sautee the onion/garlic first so the taste is more fresh in the end product. She also tells you the history and stories of India between chapters that are fascinating. I own other Indian food cookbooks - some are 'fusion' cookbooks - but this one is the everyday food - with a legacy.

***** by Iris Kennedy:
I love this book. Every time I have guests over and am serving Indian food I make at least 1 recipe from this book. I own about a dozen Indian cookbooks and this is the one I always recommend. I just recently lost this book due to lending it out. LOL. She loves this book as well. The recipes are very user friendly and are not too difficult even for beginners. I seldom write "reviews" but, the fact that I am willing to buy this book twice speaks volumes about it.

The selling point for me was that it actually had the recipes for the curry blends. I think toasting the spices and grinding them yourself is better than a store brand curry. And there are recipes for homemade paneer to use in other dishes. The book uses recipes within recipes. So if homemade from scratch isn't your style this may be too advanced. On the other hand if you truly love Indian food and are not lazy this is a perfect book.

***** by Aspirant:
The operative word here is "useful." While it does not have detailed pictures, the recipes are easy to follow. And the results are tasty indeed! Throw in a few stories and this book is a gem!

For me, it was good to start out with basics and learn the cooking techniques. Since then I have moved on to Feast of India: A Legacy of Recipes and Fables by Rani. It has dishes from all the different regions of India, and includes dishes that were influenced by other cultures, like British and Portuguese.

**** Good Book by Amazon Customer:
I have tried some(6) of the recipes and they are pretty good so far. It seems also that the recipes are accurate in their ingredients. I read some of the Indian books (at Borders) before I went with this one.

**** by Booklist:
Traditional curries and kabobs, pilao and dals--some 150 in all... What differentiates this from the standard compendiums is Rani's nod to the past and the present."