Malhi opens this books with the best introduction I have read in ages, normally I advise people either skipping the introduction or reading it when you have more time but she has managed to make it concise, interesting and useful. She has a clear approach to food and cooking that is respectful of the history of each dish but also sensitive to how hard it can be to cook Indian food in the UK without access to all the supplies you might want. There is also a great rundown of common ingredients and basic techniques.
The meat section was excellent although a little limited with the number of animals used, Malhi explains this in the introduction with the Hindu (no beef) and Islamic (no pork) influences on Indian cookery. The fish dishes were quite the opposite with a huge range of seafood used - lovely to see. Each of the recipes have nice and brief introductory notes on what the dish is and where it is from, very useful for less well known dishes.
The sections are clearly laid out and very basic so that it's easy to find exactly what you are looking for, this is also helped by a clear index. The font and layout was excellent, with the ingredients in bold and separated from the recipe itself. It was also great to see that none of the recipes over-ran one page, handy so that you don't need to turn the page which you're cooking but also means that none of the recipes are too time consuming. All together very easy to follow.
There were lots of pictures, nice and clear without being too fussy which suited the home style of the cooking and fitted well with the recipes that they were showing. There were a couple of recipes shown in step-by-step pictures as well which is usually a popular idea. Most of the recipes have a corresponding dish that Malhi recommends you serve together which makes meal planning easier.
The side dishes were my least favourite section in the book, although there were a few that I will be trying out. It might have been better with more photographs but it was not hugely inspiring, however the pickles were a nice addition. The sweets were also not as adventurous as I had been hoping for but there were some good classic recipes in there and not too complicated to do on an everyday basis.
My favourite recipes were the Lamb Rice (Hyderabadi Biryani), the Spiced Green Beans (Hari Phali Subzi) and the Aubergines in a Tamarind Sauce (Keralan Brinjals).
I'm normally very wary of 'Classic Dishes' type of books but this was very well done with a clear philosophy running through as well as a great combination of authentic ideas from a variety of sources and regions. Hamlyn and Manju Malhi have done a good job with a difficult idea and there are also 'Classic Chinese Recipes', 'Classic Vegetarian Recipes' and 'Classic Italian Recipes' in the series. I would definitely recommend this as an introduction to cooking Indian food although it may be too limited for those with experience of Indian cooking.
I would also note that there is an error on page 45 where the 'Kashmiri Chicken Curry' is in fact a lamb dish, but this just seems to be a typo with the title of the dish.
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