Ammu: Indian Home-Cooking to Nourish Your Soul, written by Asma Khan, features an incredible collection of recipes and memories inspired by the author’s childhood and her Ammu, mother. A few highlights include Pyaz ke Pakora (Onion Fritters), Shami Kabab (Stuffed Meat Patties), Kancha Aamer Chutney (Raw Mango Chutney), Zaffrani Raan (Saffron Leg of Lamb), and Kesar Pista Firni (Saffron and Pistachio Rice Dessert). I will also be sharing her recipe for Nimki (Crispy Nigella Seed Snacks) following the review.
Disclosure: I received a copy of this book from Interlink Books in exchange for my honest review. All comments and opinions are my own. This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you purchase something through the link, I may receive a small commission at no extra charge to you.
Asma Khan grew up in Kolkata before moving to England to join her husband. She is now the chef and restauranteur of the all-women run Darjeeling Express in London.
The restaurant has been featured in Time Out, Harper’s Bazaar, the Guardian, and more. It was named one of the best restaurants in London in 2015 by the Evening Standard and one of the most impressive restaurant newcomers in 2017 by Eater.
She was also in Volume 6 of the Netflix award-winning series, Chef’s Table, and the author of Asma’s Indian Kitchen.
Asma begins Ammu with a wonderful introduction and descriptive stories surrounding the person who inspired this book, her Ammu, mother.
The pages are not only filled with a variety of food ranging from Bengali to Afghan, Mughlai, and fusion, but also the memories behind the recipes. She shares the dishes from her childhood and settling in England along with nostalgic recreations and celebratory meals.
Chapters are divided according to the following: Childhood: My Ammu’s Comfort Food, Cooking Lessons: The Dishes that Taught Me How to Cook, Nostalgia: Slow Cooking to While Away the Time, Celebration: Food for Big Moments and Lots of People, and Being Ammu: Quick, Modern Recipes for Instant Solace.
Asma even includes a section with suggested menus for weeknight meals, vegan options, family celebrations, and comfort food to help get you started.
The photography is provided by Laura Edwards with food styling by Tamara Vos. I especially love the beautiful family photos arranged among the pages between the food. Every recipe is paired with a full page photo of the finished dish.
Measurements are listed in US Customary and Metric. Titles are written in the romanized original language with the English translation underneath. Each recipe has a headnote with background information, personal stories, yield, helpful tips, and serving ideas.
Nimki (Crispy Nigella Seed Snacks)
These Nimki (Crispy Nigella Seed Snacks) were a particular favorite for Claire. A flour-based dough flavored with Nigella seeds, cut into strips, and fried until golden. They were inspired by Asma’s favorite chanachur wallah (snack vendor) in Park Circus Market.
The dough is incredibly easy to handle. After a short 30 minute resting time, I didn’t even have to use flour. Simply roll into a thin sheet just under 1/4 inch (5 millimeters) thick.
Cut the sheet into strips or diamonds about 1 1/2 inches (4 centimeters) long and 1/2 inch (1 centimeter) wide. Try to keep the pieces as similar in size as possible. This will help them all cook evenly.
I paired the Nimki with Adrak Masala (Chai-Spiced Ginger Tea) from Asma’s previous cookbook, Asma’s Indian Kitchen.
She states they can be stored in an airtight container (after cooling completely to room temperature and becoming crisp) for up to 2 weeks, but these little snacks were gone within a day.
Nigella seeds (Kalonji) come from the fruit of the Nigella sativa, a pale blue or white flower originating from southern Asia and northern Africa.
These black, triangular seeds don’t have much flavor when raw, but become more peppery with a smokey flavor when cooked. Nigella seeds are available in markets specializing in Middle Eastern and South Asian ingredients, larger spice stores, and on Amazon: Nigella 2.0 oz – Zamouri Spices.
I also made Malpua (Ghee-Fried Pancakes Soaked in Syrup), Khamiri Roti (Mughlai Roti), Honey and Soy Skewers, and Mushroom Hakka Chow (Calcutta-Style Noodles).
The Malpua (Ghee-Fried Pancakes Soaked in Syrup)/Not Photographed come together with just a handful of ingredients. Flour and yogurt-based pancakes are fried in a combination of ghee and vegetable oil until golden. Before serving, they are coated in a cardamom-scented syrup and garnished with rose petals.
Ammu is packed with an amazing assortment of bread recipes using different type of flours. So far I have made the Khamiri Roti (Mughlai Roti), but have many more on the list to try soon. This roti takes only a few minutes to prepare with a wheat-based dough rolled into rounds and cooked on a tawa or frying pan until golden. I especially love the thin layer of ghee brushed over the hot roti before serving.
Chad requested the Honey and Soy Chicken Skewers. They were such a hit with all of us! Pieces of chicken are marinated in a spiced soy honey mixture, then threaded onto skewers and grilled until browned.
Asma learned how to cook Hakka Chow from a street cart vendor during a trip back to India and it is now their Sunday dinner. I loved the flavors so much and how quickly it cooks for an easy weeknight meal. Egg noodles are tossed with thickly sliced mushrooms and other vegetables in a sweet and salty soy-based sauce.
Ammu is a wonderful pick for those interested in Indian cuisine and the beautiful stories of the family behind the food. Dishes range from appetizers and snacks to easy weeknight meals, celebratory feasts, desserts, and even a few vegan/vegetarian options.
Many of the ingredients are readily available in larger American grocery stores. Having a market with South Asian ingredients will be helpful in locating items such as ghee, besan (gram flour), tamarind extract, saffron, gooseberries, cardamom pods, moong dal, tej patta (Indian bay leaves), fenugreek leaves, dried black chickpeas, mustard oil, paneer, and rose water.
Nimki (Crispy Nigella Seed Snacks) Recipe
Excerpt from Ammu
Nimki (Crispy Nigella Seed Snacks)
- 2 cups (250 grams) all-purpose flour plus extra for dusting
- 1/8 teaspoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon Nigella seeds Kalonji
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 3 tablespoons melted unsalted butter or ghee
- 6 tablespoons cold water
- Vegetable oil for frying
- Sift the flour with the baking powder into a bowl.
- Add the nigella seeds, salt, and the melted butter or ghee and crumble into small lumps.
- Add the water a little at a time to make a firm but pliable dough. Alternatively, you can make the dough in a food processor.
- Cover the dough and set aside for 30 minutes.
- Divide the dough into four pieces (this makes it more manageable).
- Roll out to just under 1/4 inch (5 millimeters) thick. Using a knife, cut the dough into strips about 1 1/2 inch (4 centimeters) long and 1/2 inch (1 centimeter) wide. You could also cut them into similar-sized diamond shapes, but they should all be the same size and shape so they cook at the same rate.
- Meanwhile, heat a 2 1/2 inch (6 centimeters) depth of oil in a karai or wok over high heat.
- Reduce the heat to low and fry the Nimki in small batches until golden brown.
- As the Nimki are done, remove them using a slotted spoon and spread out on a non-metallic plate to cool completely and become crisp, before transferring to an airtight container, where they should keep for up to 2 weeks.