Which country has the best vegetarian food in the world?
India — according to cookbook author and actress Madhur Jaffrey, who has been considered the 'godmother' of Indian cooking for over 40 years.
"We worked out not only which are the best nutritious meals to put together which are fully vegetarian, but also the medicinal properties of those spices and seasonings that we use, what goes with what, and what you eat in what season. Our ancestors have worked this out."
That inspired Jaffrey to travel the country and not just collect recipes but watch how other people cook the vegetarian dishes that have been passed down from generations.
The result is her new cookbook Vegetarian India, which is filled with over 200 recipes as well as the fascinating stories and photographs of the people and places behind them.
"There are many recipes that even Indians don't know, because India is so vast," she said.
Jaffrey shared a recipe from her latest cookbook with North by Northwest for Kodava mushroom curry with coconut.
She said the recipe comes from the Kodava people of Kodagu (or Coorg) in Karnatka, a region in southwestern India that has tropical forests, and grows coffee beans, cardamom and black pepper.
Jaffrey said mushrooms make up this curry because during the rainy season the locals forage for many different kinds of wild mushrooms.
But, "this is a dish anyone can make at home, with any mushrooms."
Kodava mushroom curry with coconut
- A 14-oz can coconut milk, left undisturbed for 24 hours to allow the cream to rise to the top
- 1 lb small button mushrooms
- 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
- 1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
- 4 tablespoons olive or peanut oil
- 6 tablespoons peeled and finely chopped shallots
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1/2 - 3/4 teaspoon nice red chili powder
- 2–3 fresh hot green chilies, slit in half lengthwise or finely chopped
- 1 tablespoon lime juice
2. Halve the mushrooms. Any large ones may be quartered. Place them all in a bowl and sprinkle the salt and turmeric over them. Wearing plastic gloves if you wish, as the turmeric can stain, thoroughly rub these flavourings into the mushrooms. Set aside for about 10 minutes.
4. Put the pan back on the stove, turning the heat to medium-low. Add the green chilies and stir a few times. Now add the mushrooms and their accumulated liquid. Stir and cook on medium-high heat for two minutes. Add 3/4 cup of the thin coconut milk and bring to a simmer. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes.
To hear the full interview listen to the audio labelled: 'Godmother of Indian cooking' Madhur Jaffrey travelled India to research vegetarian dishes for new cookbook