Book review: Tarkari

By James McAllister

- Last updated on GMT

Book review: Tarkari by Kutir chef Rohit Ghai

Related tags: Rohit Ghai, Cookbook, Chef, Book review

Kutir chef Rohit Ghai’s first cookbook is a celebration of vegetarian and vegan Indian recipes for the home cook.

Rohit Ghai’s Tarkari ​takes its name from a Bengali word that refers to any vegetable dish and, according to the chef and author, is used across South Asia. It covers everything from curries and stir-fries, to side dishes; all of which are explored by the chef in this beautifully presented and neatly considered debut cookbook.

Writing Tarkari has clearly been a very personal project to Ghai. The decision to focus solely on vegetarian and vegan dishes is a reflection of his own upbringing in Punjab, northern India, with the recipes inspired by those taught to him by his mother. The book itself is also dedicated to her.

Ghai notes in the introduction that one of his mother’s favourite sayings is: “If you cook with your heart and soul, you don’t need special ingredients.” And in that vein, a lot of effort is made to make each recipe approachable to as wide an audience as possible, with detailed methods, accessible ingredients, and the majority of dishes able to be prepared within 30 minutes to an hour.

Each of the 80+ recipes to feature have been put together after being considered against four key elements: balance of flavour, texture, colour, and consistency. Curries play a central role, of course, with a substantial middle section of the book dedicated to them and including recipes such as jackfruit masala; guncho keema; baingan ka bharta; and mushroom and truffle khichadi, a signature dish that Ghai serves at his flagship restaurant Kutir in London’s Chelsea.

Split into eight sections, other areas covered include ‘breakfast and snacks’; side dishes; rice and breads; pickles and dips; and desserts. There’s also a selection of ‘small sharing plates’ that include inventive recipes for Indian-style salads that include a chickpea and samphire salad; seasonal greens couscous sala; and an apple and roots dhokla salad. Vegans are well catered for throughout, with many dishes opting to use dairy alternatives such as rapeseed oil or soy butter rather than the more traditional butter or ghee.

Meanwhile, an early chapter is dedicated to spice blends, another nod to Ghai’s mother, who eschews using ready-made mixes in her own cooking. All of the spice blends to feature are the same as those used by Ghai in his London restaurants and include his own version of garam masala; Chettinad spice mix; and chilli and garlic paste.

Author:​ Rohit Ghai
Number of pages:​ 208 
Must try dish:​ Paneer makhani
Publisher and price:​ Kyle Books, £25

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