Celebrating an understandable Indian cookbook with asparagus, cauliflower, cashew and coconut curry

Cauliflower curryWhile we have not completely pushed Pushpesh Pant out of our kitchen, Gourmandistan’s latest Indian lodestone is definitely Meera Sodha’s Made in India, the runner-up in this year’s Piglet cookbook competition. We were charmed by the book almost from the moment we picked it up. Michelle was captivated by Sodha’s personal story of growing up in Lincolnshire, England with Ugandan-Indian parents and Steve by the recipe for Chili Paneer on page 27.

Made in India cookbook

We’ve spent the last couple of weeks making many delicious things, delighted that the recipes are clear, comprehensible and actually work without substantial revision. Our favorites have included “Maharani’s Favorite” (spiced lamb shoulder shredded and crisped in the oven after slow roasting) and Slow-Cooked Red Pepper and Paneer Curry. We’re happy that our spice rack and the mortar and pestle have been given a workout, and that Steve has quickly become quite good at making paneer and naan.

Indian spices

The only recipe we’ve substantially altered is the Cauliflower, Cashew, Pea and Coconut Curry.  We liked this dish very much the first time we made it, but wondered if the cauliflower would benefit from roasting and realized we likely shouldn’t have skipped frying the cashews. The follow-up included roasted cauliflower, oven-fried cashews and, substituting for out-of-season peas, asparagus. The crisp spears went quite well with the curry, and we did like the extra bit of char brought by the roasted cauliflower.

Cauliflower curry

In her introduction, Sodha asserts that “an Indian kitchen can be found anywhere in the world.” We’re very appreciative that, thanks to a clearly-written cookbook, Gourmandistan can now be part of that world. We’d better stock up on more Basmati rice.


(adapted from Meera Sodha’s Made in India)

  • 4 oz. unsalted raw cashews
  • Canola oil
  • 1 c. asparagus spears, cut into 1″ pieces
  • 1 lg. head of cauliflower, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 1-1/2″ piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 fresh green chili, finely chopped
  • salt
  • 2 TB tomato paste
  • 1-1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 1-1/4 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. chili powder
  • 14-oz. can coconut milk
  • 1/2 tsp. garam masala
  • Cilantro, chopped
  • Squeeze of lemon

Toss cashews in a small amount of oil. Place in a pie plate or on a cookie sheet. Cook in a 350° F oven, tossing occasionally, until browned.

Place asparagus in boiling, salted water. After a minute or so, drain, shock in ice water and drain again.

Toss cauliflower in a small amount of oil. Roast in a 425° F oven, tossing occasionally, until charred.

Heat 2 TB oil in a large frying pan. Add onions and fry for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden. Add ginger, garlic and chili and season with salt. Fry for about 3 minutes, stirring. Add tomato paste, ground spices and a little more salt. When spices are fragrant, add coconut milk. Stir, and cook for about 10 minutes. Add garam masala.

Add asparagus, cashews, cilantro and lemon juice. Stir. Serve with Basmati rice and other dishes for an Indian meal.


  1. Eha

    Since I have cooked Indian food since my late teens many moons ago am grateful to make acquaintance with a book about which I had never heard. Homework tells my favourite Australian on-line indeed keeps it even if at a price. Amazon critiques excellent . . . my only hesitation lies in the query: is this spiced authentically or ‘tailored’ to Western tastes, as the vegetable curry seems rather light on the palate . . . ? Only one way to find out: try 🙂 ! Thanks heaps!!

    • Hi Eha, many years ago i had an Indian girlfriend – she always said that a lot of the Indian food westerners eat is over spiced and far too hot – lots of their authentic, home cooked dishes are lighter than we sometimes expect. It also varies considerably by region.

      • Eha

        Fully accepted and agreed Mad, but my comment was made on the strength of having looked at a number of pages from the book at two booksellers and the fact that I have eaten and been taught to prepare absolutely authentic Indian etc for decades – my Hungarian husband ate lunch or dinner from the sub-continent about 4-5 times a week 🙂 ! I may be wrong and shall try a few before looking at buying the book for myself – have quite some shelves full of Indian ones !! Thanks so much for your comment . . .

        • I think, Eha, that it’s a very particular type of Indian food—decidedly home cooking, modernized and influenced by England by way of Africa. It really is a lovely cookbook with a fresh point of view. And the recipes are delicious!

          • Eha

            Michelle, you have summed it up most succinctly . . . . and probably made me buy the book. I did NOT mean to be ‘judgmental’ in any way but I have seen and eaten far too many ‘fusion’ dishes which did not deserve their original name. Especially Indian and Chinese!!! I must say I do like that ‘fresh point of view’ phrase . . . all the best . . .

  2. My mortar ans pestle didn´t have much to do either lately…and spring cleaning among the spices seems like a great idea. I don´t have many cook books, and not one about Indian cuisine. Perhaps that will change very soon!

  3. Indian food (and probably cook books) can be found in most parts of the world because Indians (at that time people from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh) traveled around the British Empire as indentured workers. They have had a very interesting influence on world foods. Roasted cauliflower is absolutely delicious and that book cover is quite enticing 🙂

    • So true. I’m always amazed at the combinations of spices. Like who’d have thought of putting cinnamon and ginger and turmeric together? But, as Steve said, “they’ve had a really long time to think about it.”

    • Thanks, Amanda! I love the Piglet competition. I’d probably never have picked up this book otherwise, maybe not even seen it. We bought the winner, Hot Bread Kitchen, too, which also is very good. Hope you’re doing well!

      • Michelle, thank you for reminding me of this contest. I’m reading the contest now and just swooning. I may have to get this book! It doesn’t look full of fried food and clarified butter, all of which I love, but cannot eat. This looks relatively healthy and still so full of flavor. Thank you!

  4. I’ve got Meera’s book (kindle version) and I do think her take on indian food is more approachable. Her ingredient list aren;t too lengthy and her recipe formats are way better than Pushpesh’s. But I’ve yet to make any recipes from her book. I’d have to give this cauliflower curry a go. Just wondering if the asparagus becomes the predominant flavour when added to the curry? Have you tried it with potato as well?

    • I haven’t tried this one with potato, but I did make a sort of dry curry potato dish from the book which was good. Really, I’ve loved everything we’ve cooked from it. It’s nice that it’s all so easy and quick yet still delicious. We were telling the truth when we said we haven’t totally abandoned Pant’s book. In the photo above is a minced lamb, pea and yogurt dish (with ghee unlike Sodha’s usual neutral oil) that I hated the first day, but totally changed my mind about on the second! So much to learn, but I surely can’t complain that Steve has done so well with paneer and naan!

      • I’ll have to get cracking on Sodha’s book then. And yes, paneer and naan are amazingly easy and delicious when home made. So great that Steve and you are enjoying indian food at home. 🙂

  5. Sounds excellent. I was so spoiled by very good Indian restaurant food in London that I avoid the disappointment that would surely be the result of making my own. I make simple vegetable curries that have little to do with Indian cuisine save for the addition of curry powder and spices that I wouldn’t use otherwise….but I do like the sound of yours:)

  6. Cashews and Chicken in a curry! I love it. The creamy cashews over a spicy curry is such a good combination, it also gives a nice texture to the whole dish

  7. Good to know about the book – I hadn’t heard about it. Funny, years ago I turned friends on to Indian food at the one decent restaurant in a nearby city. She begged me to teach her how to cook Indian. I kept telling her that it was the same as any cooking. Finally I had them over and we made a multitude of dishes (not naan) and afterwards, she said something like, “well that was really no big deal!” So when you said that any kitchen can be an Indian kitchen, it’s definitely true – all you need is ingredients!

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