How many times have you craved a good home cooked Indian meal and then settled on an easy sandwich? The time consuming cooking that “ghar ka khanna” involves is sometimes just not feasible in the fast paced, do it all yourself, American life. But what if it was? Imagine a freshly cooked Butter Chicken with rice, ready in 20 mins? Reading Chandra Ram’s, recently released, The Complete Indian Instant Pot Cookbook made me realize that an Instant Pot can really turn those impossible food goals into a reality.
When I was given The Complete Indian Instant Pot Cookbook as a gift for Christmas, I read it like a novel. Wth beautiful pictures and easy steps it was a comprehensible and fast read. It reminded me of my childhood in the 1980’s and 90’s in India when there were endless TV and print ads about the pressure cooker. The pressure cooker really was an object of liberation for Indian women, they could now have some time to themselves (imagine that!) and still not skimp on making a perfect indian meal for their families. The whistling trails of the pressure cooker followed every child in any Indian household with the promise of an instant snack.
This book offers 130 traditional and modern recipes. Even though I had been an Instant Pot user before I was truly surprised by the creative things that one can do with this pot in terms of Indian cooking. The book is neatly divided into sections like Yogurt and Cheese, Pickles and Chutneys, Snacks and Chaats, Soups, Vegetables, Porridge and Rice, Biryanis, Lentils and Pulses, Meats, Breads and Desserts. It offers a diverse range of dishes to cook, whether you are a beginner or an advanced cook, new or old to Indian cooking. The real surprises for me were paneer, yogurt, lassis, cheesecakes, ras malai, roasted meats and many more unexpected items. The modern element involves some twists on traditional dishes like Matar Feta instead of Matar Paneer, using Chipotle Chilies in the Butter Chicken or making a Ginger Lime Cheesecake.
Chandra Ram’s warm introduction about her own half Indian and half Irish upbringing is very relatable. I found much pleasure in reading vignettes from her childhood trips to India where she ate peanut butter sandwiches to avoid the confusing and overwhelming flavors of Indian food. Her mismatch of a childhood reflects the state of many Indian American experiences imbedded with the love of Indian food and its pursuit to perfection.
A word of caution I would have for users of this book would be to understand the Instant Pot before attempting to use this book. Ram has a section in the beginning where she explains the functions of the pot such as the saute feature, releasing the pressure naturally and/or not naturally and the manual setting. Just like the pressure cooker, understanding the mechanism of the machine really helps to make sure your food is not overcooked or too watery. So don’t skip that section, because no one likes an overcooked Butter Chicken!
Preeti Hay is a freelance writer. Her articles have appeared in publications including The Times of India, Yoga International, Khabar Magazine, India Currents and anthologies of poetry and fiction.
The Complete Indian Instant Pot Cookbook: 130 Traditional and Modern Recipes: By Chandra Ram. Robert Rose Publishing. 288 pages.
Chandra Ram image by Geoffrey Smith.