Vij's restaurant in Vancouver, B.C., is well-regarded as one of the region's best and most inventive Indian restaurants. Owners and husband/wife team Vikram Vij and Meeru Dhalwala released their second cookbook last year, Vij's at Home, to share recipes tailored for the home cook. The subtitle of the book is "Relax, honey," as in "Sit down, pour yourself a glass of wine, and let's talk about our day while we cook together." This charming philosophy infuses the entire book, which includes recipes for simple weeknight curries or long braises perfect for weekend cooking projects.
The introduction includes extensive explanations of various Indian pantry staples and spices. For cooks already familiar with Indian cuisine, there are still valuable insights and advice about what they prefer to use in the kitchen at Vij's. There is also information about pairing wines with Indian food, as Vij is a certified sommelier.
Recipes in Vij's at Home are about half vegetarian and half carnivorous. There are half a dozen chutneys, staples like paneer and eggplant raita, vegetarian dishes such as eggplant and paneer pate, and over a dozen vegetable curries. The chapters on poultry and meat include lamb, beef, goat, pork, chicken, and duck. There is even a recipe for roasted crickets. It's in the seafood chapter, since they are in the same family as prawns. For things like goat and crickets--which aren't as common in Western diets--there is information about the nutritional value and sustainability, compelling enough to make you want to get out of your comfort zone with these ingredients.
Each recipe includes estimated cooking and prep times, which are based on Dhalwala's slower cooking speed, as the authors explain in the introduction. Sometimes the recipe headnotes are longer than the recipe, as they often include valuable tips and tricks, serving suggestions, and possible substitutions. Many recipes are as simple as throwing ingredients in a pot and letting them simmer. Yet the deviled-egg recipe is one of the more complex recipes for the dish I've ever seen. It's likely delicious, though, as the egg yolks are mashed and combined with yogurt and a wet masala (a mixture of spices and sautéed onions, garlic, and tomatoes).
There are only a few dessert recipes in Vij's at Home because, as his wife explains, Vij prefers to consume sugar in the form of wine.
Meeru Dhawala will be teaching an Indian cooking class at Sur la Table in Kirkland on Sun., August 14 from 4 to 6 p.m. Cost is $69; register online at surlatable.com.