7 Books Recommended by the Iconic Madhur Jaffrey on Cooking & History of Food

Madhur Jaffrey's book recommendations

Here is a list of books that actor and food writer Madhur Jaffrey recommends on cooking, baking, food history, and more.

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Madhur Jaffrey dons many hats. She is an actor, author, cookery show host, and one of the first people to introduce Indian cooking to the US and UK. She was conferred with the Padma Bhushan this year for her contribution to the culinary arts. 

Jaffrey said she learnt cooking out of necessity after moving to London, as she was disappointed with the food available there. Her mother would send her recipes through letters from India in 1955, and her career as a cook happened quite by accident. 

Her first book An Invitation to Indian Cooking was published in 1973. She then hosted a show on BBC in 1982 called Madhur Jaffrey’s Indian Cookery.

Almost five decades later, both her acting and literary careers are going strong. 

Just like her work has inspired generations of cooks and food connoisseurs around the world, there are many works of literature that have, in turn, kindled her own culinary prowess. 

Here is a list of books surrounding food and cooking recommended by Madhur Jaffrey, compiled from various interviews across the internet: 

1. Modern Cookery for Teaching and the Trade by Thangam Philip

Modern Cookery for Teaching and the Trade
Modern Cookery for Teaching and the Trade

Thangam Philip is one of the pioneers of hospitality education in India. Her Modern Cookery Volumes I and II are used as a guide and reference by chefs and students in the catering industry. This book provides an introduction to cooking, fundamentals of food preparation and presentation.

Jaffrey called this book an “essential” on Indian food and cooking in an interview.

Buy the book here.

2. A Historical Dictionary of Indian Food by KT Achaya

A Historical Dictionary of Indian Food
A Historical Dictionary of Indian Food

Indian cuisine is as varied as any can get. Each state has different eating habits and traditions. The many invaders and immigrants to our country brought with them different food cultures, which have been integrated into our cuisine today.

This dictionary, in A-Z format, provides a huge amount of information on the food, the food culture, recipes, and cuisine of India. It traces the gastronomic history of the country by drawing from literature in Sanskrit, Pali, Tamil and Kannada. Achaya covers a wealth of information in different areas like history, literature, botany, archaeology to place each food item into context. 

This is also featured in Jaffrey’s essential books on Indian food and cooking. 

Buy the book here.

3. Indian Cookery by Balbir Singh

Indian Cookery by Balbir Singh
Indian Cookery by Balbir Singh

Another legend when it comes to Indian cooking, Mrs Balbir Singh was a chef, teacher and author. She wrote this book in 1961 and is considered one of the gold standards when it comes to authentic Indian cooking. It contains detailed recipes and exact methods to be used for each dish, so that you can cook with precision.

Jaffrey called this book “required reading”.

Buy the book here.

4. Mastering the Art of French Cooking by Julia Child, Louisette Bertholle and Simone Beck 

Mastering the Art of French Cooking
Mastering the Art of French Cooking

Julia Child, along with French cooks Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, broke down classic French dishes and made them palatable to an international audience through this book. 

It features 524 recipes and 100 instructive illustrations to guide readers, and focuses on key recipes found in French cooking.

“It was really my introduction to French food. This was in the early 60s and I just thought this explained to me in such detail about how to cook the food, what the food was. It later became a kind of model for me about how to write a cookbook. It tells you how not to make mistakes,” said Jaffrey to Five Books.

Buy the book here.

5. The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum

The Cake Bible
The Cake Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum

“If you ever bake a cake, this book will become your partner in the kitchen,” reads the foreword. 

This book is called a classic cake cookbook for anyone looking to bake a cake. Rose Levy Beranbaum deconstructs complex techniques into easy-to-follow recipes.

“What you need to know about baking, she knows. Every little trick of the trade to get it perfect, she knows,” said Jaffrey about Rose. 

Buy the book here.

6. Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking by Marcella Hazan

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking

This is a go to book for anyone cooking to cook an Italian dish. It is a manual for everyone from beginners to professionals. It brings together two of Hazan’s books, The Classic Italian CookBook and More Classic Italian Cooking. The book guides you through the process of cooking, right from choosing ingredients.

“It is written so well, so beautifully, that you want to read the text and see how things arrive at being what they are. It is the best Italian cookbook I know of. I make a lot of things from it, including an osso bucco, risottos, home-made pasta, and ravioli. She leads you through the whole range,” said Jaffrey about Hazan.

Buy the book here.

7. All About Tea by William Ukers

All About Tea by William Ukers
All About Tea by William Ukers

This book describes the history and cultivation methods of the world’s teas. Founder of The Tea and Coffee journal, Ukers travelled across the world to cover the historical, technical, and scientific aspects of tea. His research led him to Brazil, Sumatra, Colombia, India, China, Japan, Africa and Europe.

Jaffrey called this book a “tome on tea”.

Buy the book here.

Sources
‘Madhur Jaffrey’s 11 Essential Books on Indian Food and Cooking’ by Devra Ferst for Saveur, Published on 3 May, 2019. 
‘Madhur Jaffrey’s Top Book Recommendations’ Published in Shortform
‘Wonderful Cookbooks recommended by Madhur Jaffrey’ Published on 9 October 2017 Courtesy Five Books. 
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