What makes a good recipe book (and a recipe for beef curry)

The other day I went to this secondhand bookshop and found a recipe book that is more than 20 years old.  It goes for only RM5 and most of the products advertised there aren’t even available in our market anymore.  I like it because the contrasts of the recipes then and our current batches of boring modern recipe books differ so much.  There are no frills but real, good food and simple ingredients.  BTW, do you notice how many hundreds of titles of recipe books are out there, especially in cheaper bookshops?  Some of them are exhorbitantly priced and yet, it doesn’t evoke the kind of enthusiasm expected from recipe books.  Good recipe books are those that makes you confident of going into your kitchen and easily find some ingredients to prepare at least 50% of those recipes.

I have many recipe books that fall short of this.  Most of them ended up  in the shelves after I thumbed through their photos.  Sometimes, I buy them just to learn their angles of photography.

I find some recipe books like to add in one or two extra ingredients to common dishes to ‘glamourise’ their recipes and yet, if you really follow their exact measurement of cooking, the dish tastes bland.  Then, there are others whose recipes  have so many steps that even  decent cooks like me get lost after reading a few lines.

Back to my old recipe book, here is what I picked up :

Kari puri lembu or Beef puree curry (actually the puree is the tomatoes, not the beef :)  )

500 grams beef (buy local beef, ask the seller to cut into cubes for you)

Two large potatoes, cut into chunks

One can of tomato puree  (I used an Italian chopped tomato)

10 shallots – slice
1 bulb garlic – slice
2 inches ginger – pound

2 sprig curry leaves

The spices: (which you can easily buy from supermarkets)
2 tablespoon of chilli  powder (more if you want it spicier)

2 tablespoon of jintan manis (fennel powder)

2 tablesoon of jintan putih (cummins)

and I added two tablespoon of poppy seeds powder (kaskas)



Heat some oil in wok
Mix the spices with some oil, add into the heated wok with the curry leaves, fry till you sneeze.  :P  Then, add the garlic, shallots and ginger.  Fry till fragrant, add in beef and tomato puree.  Add some water to simmer till soft.  Keep adding water but not too much.  You want it to have just some thick gravy.  Season with salt and a bit of sugar.

The taste is really, really simple and very nice.  It is one of those  curries that you can pour generously over your white rice and finish a whole plate.  Notice how little spices are used and yet, things taste so good?

This is what I call good recipe.  Simple, cheap and definitely turns out good.

8 Replies to “What makes a good recipe book (and a recipe for beef curry)”

  1. Honestly, nowadays recipe books are very expensive and not accurate lagi. I also go and pick up second hand books or i purposely go and look for old recipe books. Sometimes, my friends send to me from other country where they also get it from the old bookshop – that one lar baru ada sedap sedap punya recipes.

  2. hi lilian,i love your blogs!they’re so informative n helpful in so many ways.you are really inspiring~ i have a question about one ingredient. what is the differences between shallot and onion?will it differ much if i replace it wif onion instead?

  3. Have you ever tried Japanese Curry? very lembut (how to say in English ar? -mild). Sweet with lots of fruit and chutney.

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