Most cookbooks offer little to no photography. And if there is a picture, it’s usually the finished product. Stamped in the top corner of the page with a caption that might as well say, “This is what that thing you pulled out of the oven should look like.”
The photography in the books from My Cooking Class series is different. Rather than sitting in the corner, taunting your culinary efforts, the photos in these books fill the entire page and cover the journey step-by-step from raw ingredient to dinner.
Recipes are introduced with an overhead view of artfully arranged ingredients. They appear in mismatched dishes — some still in their measuring cups or spoons, some lie directly on the backdrop. Each step in the directions is also captured on film. Almost as an afterthought, the ingredient lists and directions appear in white boxes along the bottom of the pages.
James Lindsay’s photos in Indian Basics: 85 Recipes Illustrated Step by Step, one of the books from this series, reminds us to enjoy the creation of a dish.
Jody Vasallo, author of Indian Basics, introduces the novice cook to Indian cuisine with simple, uncomplicated prose. She begins with “Indian Essentials,” where traditional spices are introduced. From ajowan seeds to saffron, the spices lie against a muted pink backdrop.
Then, it is on to dals (split grains), photographed in bowls spilling onto the next two seafoam green pages. Vasallo suggests purchasing these at whole food, natural, or Indian grocery stores because their stock tends to have high turnover. She writes, “the older the dal the longer it will take to cook.”
Quick tips for six staples of Indian dishes follow the guides to spices and dals: ghee, paneer, garam masala, garlic-ginger paste, rice, and pappadams. The next six chapters expand on these essentials using one or more items from this introductory chapter to make nine different curries, six chutneys, pickles, dumplings, breads, desserts, and drinks.
In the final sections of the book, Vasallo provides more hints and tips for ingredients that may be unfamiliar to readers. She has developed eight menu plans and a short introduction to Ayurveda, a 5,000-year-old traditional Indian medicine, which Vasallo has been studying for years.
Cake Basics: 70 Recipes Illustrated Step by Step
By Abi Fawcett
Photographs by Deidre Rooney
Preserving Basics: 77 Recipes illustrated Step by Step
By Jodi Vasallo
Photographs by Clive Bozzard-Hill
Indian Basics: 85 Recipes Illustrated Step by Step is available from Firefly Books and at Amazon.com for a list price of $24.95.