I was so excited to review the cookbook Bal’s Quick and Healthy Indian by Bal Arneson, published by Whitecap Books. East Indian food is a world I had yet to really discover in my kitchen and I love trying new flavours and techniques. I bought all sorts of new spices, very excited to taste a brand new universe of food that came from my own kitchen, served on my own plates.
Her Mint and Ginger Chicken Kabobs with Spicy Raita was absolutely fantastic. I am not a big fan of mint so this was a real leap of faith when it comes to recipe testing and did it ever pay off. The chicken was flavourful (something I am not used to since I am not a big fan of chicken) and was probably the moistest chicken I have personal ever made.
My only issue was with the “spicy” raita. It was a dip with low fat yogurt, mint, chives, lemon juice, grainy mustard, salt and pepper. Where was the heat exactly?
Her Spicy Tomato Soup with Fennel Seeds was super easy, inexpensive, fast and delicious to eat. The fennel added a lovely exotic touch to a traditional dish but once again I was asking myself, if this is spicy, where is the heat? I was beginning to wonder if her idea of spicy is just, well, spices?! I think adding some heat to this soup would be a fabulous idea!
I was of course thoroughly impressed with her Crispy Pan-Fried Eggplant with Green Pea Sauce. Again, she made me enjoy an ingredient I am very picky about (eggplant) and turned it into a dish I would happily make for just about anyone.
The flavours of her Spinach and Basil Roti were great but I felt the directions kind of let me down.
Her broiled salmon was so boring and bland I had to turn it into salmon cakes (which were fabulous!). Her Spiced-Honey Chicken was just OK but gave me a stomach ache later on that night. I don’t think that has ever happened to me before!
The worst was her Minty Lemon Lassi which I thought was, for lack of a nicer term, hideous. Perhaps you were supposed to add honey or something but there was no sweetener listed in the ingredients and you put yogurt, lemon juice, fennel and mint together without it… Horrid! I seriously have no idea why anyone would ever drink this.
This is a beautiful trade paper cookbook with lovely photos. Often the photographs were of ingredients and not the final dish which was not very helpful when you are cooking. Some recipes did not have photographs at all. The layout was excellent, very easy to read and follow while cooking which I appreciated so much. My only issue with the design is I personally would have made the titles of the recipes slightly darker and less subtle.
Bal’s introductions to each recipe were lovely, just like her. I really felt she was there telling me about each dish and sharing a story with me. But! More rudimentary information such as what a “roti” actual is would have been very helpful for a novice to this cuisine like me.
The Spice Goddess really did want to spread the word that Indian cuisine can be healthy and not full of fat. Some recipes were fantastic but others were, well, really bad. It makes me sad. I adore Bal. She is the sweetest woman around yet I have to be honest, some of the recipes just did not work for me at all.
I can only give Bal’s Quick and Healthy Indian three out of five wooden spoons.
Good review. I love Indian food and never cook it often enough.
Cathy Webster (Olliffe) says
I just discovered Bal on the Food Network and she is pretty adorable. Your review was honest with a lot of depth – thanks!
I cook a lot of Indian food and spice doesn’t necessarily men heat, it means spice! It’s the mix of the spices that give Indian food it’s unique flavour.
Mother Rimmy says
Everything looks amazing – especially the chicken skewers. Yum!
I have to say, I have watched her a few times on tv and I haven’t found anything she is making to be very exiting. If you want easy, simple and tasty Indian, get a cook book by Madhur Jaffrey. She is a great introduction to Indian cuisine.
Suzie Ridler says
Thanks Shelagh! Hope you find time to do more East Indian cooking.
Cathy, she is adorable isn’t she? Oh I so wanted to enjoy the food more.
Amelia, that is what I thought. It’s too bad though because there seemed to be very little “heat” in her food which helps give healthy food some additional flavour and works well with this kind of cuisine.
Thanks Mother Rimmy! That chicken was amazing, I have to say.
Suzie Ridler says
Mamashack, I have heard so many good things about Madhur Jaffrey! I will definitely look her up and try her recipes instead. I just need MORE flavour, you know? I am not a subtle kind of gal.
All your photos look absolutely scrumptious. We really don’t venture much into Indian Cuisine here, but I do love watching Bal, she has such a lovely and soothing personality. The Minty Lemon Lassi is a bit of a head scratcher, I would definitely need a whole whack of honey before venturing a gulp of that lol.
Actually that’s exactly how we drink our yogurt too in the middle east, yogurt watered down with some salt, I love it 🙂
It’s an acquired taste I guess, refreshing but I will not go near the carbonated (or naturally fermented) kinds.