La Porte Des Indes Cookbook by Mehemosh and Sherin Mody
La Porte Des Indes is perhaps London’s most unusual ‘Indian’ restaurant. Not only is it a remarkable space, carved out of an Edwardian ballroom, it is equally unique in serving food influenced by the French Creole cuisine of Pondicherry. No Chicken Tikka Masala’s here, thank you very much, but fine dining dishes that defy the clichés set up by the mostly Bangladeshi Indian restaurants that are the norm across the UK. Mehernosh Mody is the Head Chef at La Porte and has been since it opened in the early 80’s. That it’s taken him so long to come up with a cookbook is not surprising given the lack of free time running a massive, and massively successful restaurant provides. Here it is though and well worth the wait.
Firstly the pictures are good enough to eat, certainly more than enough to set stomachs rumbling on just a flick through. Rarely if ever is this kind of attention brought to bear on an Asian cookbook; it’s gastro porn with added spice. The recipes are wide ranging and tempting with names that are often French, such as Demoiselles de Pondicherry, a dish of scallops in saffron sauce that brings a new angle to scallops by using assertive spices that don’t mug the scallops’ own special flavour. Tandoori foie gras is another superb idea, with tamarind pulp’s bitter tones adding something intangible to this luxury ingredient. Here too is a Cassoulet de Fruits de Mer which no Frenchman could ever imagine; gone are the traditional flavours and in their place comes coconut milk, coriander and ginger to create a spicy stew.
The best recipes from the restaurant are all here, some familiar that you may also have eaten elsewhere but not to this standard. Most will be completely new. Introductory chapters cover ingredients and techniques, as well as the tricky subject of which wines to drink. The recipes, and there are over eighty of them, are all clearly written and easy to follow and it’s unlikely the average home cook will have any problems getting the ingredients, certainly not in London . A final section on desserts and cocktails makes this a cookbook to use as well as admire.