Review: Tasting India by Christine Manfield

Tasting India by Christine Manfield
Published by Conran Octopus, November 2011, £40.00
Photography by Anson Smart

Combatants in the fight over e-cookery books versus printed ones have new ammunition. Or should that be heavy artillery. If you believe paper books take up too much room, you’ll no doubt point accusingly at Christine Manfield’s new book, Tasting India. It’s vast – the biggest, heaviest and most lavish cookery book I’ve ever seen. Its turmeric yellow satin cover embossed with vivid pink peacocks is just about as showy as it’s possible to be.

Yes, it’s impractical – one splash from an unruly, bubbling pan of dahl and its gleaming golden jacket would be ruined. And yes, its girth puts it in the super heavyweight class. It’s not a book to amble through so much as rock-climb over. But, call me a romantic if you like, I’ve fallen in love with it.

The Australian chef Christine Manfield has been visiting India for more than twenty years. Her reverence for the country, tempered with a pragmatic understanding of its faults, shines through the text. It’s part travelogue, part encyclopedia, part memoir, part cookery book. Where she’s been so shrewd is to avoid a pedestrian, dogged tramp through each region. That’s not how cuisine works, and certainly not in India. As she says, ‘For me, part of the excitement of contemporary Indian cuisine lies in the way each cook or chef carries the recipes and heritage of their homeland with them, wherever they happen to find themselves.’

Immerse yourself in the pages of this book – there are nearly 500 of them, so it will take a while. Marvel at the stunning photographs by Anson Smart. Savour the recipes for tea-leaf fritters, scallops in spiced coconut, desert-bean koftas with onion curry and curd dumplings soaked in saffron milk. Just imagine what they must taste like, or throw caution to the wind and lug this book into the kitchen and actually cook from it. Either way it’s entrancing.


  1. Looks a stunning book and I'm sure the photos in it are great, but on the evidence of one only I reckon yours would give the photographer a run for her money.

  2. You're so kind, Jakey – I feel very flattered. I'm sure you'd love many of the recipes in the book.

  3. Love your new site design! But call me nostalgic but I also miss the old 🙁 And I would love sitting on the sofa in the livingroom cradling this beautiful book in my lap and read and read it! And maybe cook from it! I adore Indian food!

    1. Jamie, I’m so happy you like the new persona. It still gives me a slight surprise every time I see it! I’m sure you’d love Tasting India – it’s beautiful.

  4. I love new technology but I cannot imagine ever only using ebooks. I love my paper cookbooks and this looks like a definite must have to me!

  5. I too have this book for review and I was a little taken with it too. I love the fact that it has a truly luxurious silk cover, it really brings the book to life and it’s quite unlike anything else I have. Definitely a coffee table rather than a kitchen book, but still lovely. xx

    1. It’s interesting that since I wrote this review, I’ve referred back to the book many times. More for inspiration than for hard-core cooking, but there’s a place for that.

I'd love to know what you think - do leave a comment