‘Saffron Soul’ by Mira Manek is a new cookbook filled with 90 healthy, vegetarian heritage recipes from India. These bright, beautiful dishes will nourish you with an array of warming spices and unique flavours. Thank you to my pals at Quarto publishers for sending me this gorgeous book to review!*
This month I have been playing around with Mira Manek’s beauty of a new cookbook, Saffron Soul. It’s a collection of 90 stunning, flavoursome and healthy dishes inspired by traditional Indian cooking. There’s chai, poppadoms, curry and dal; dishes you might have heard of before. But there’s also an Indian-inspired detox smoothie, chia pots, sweet potato jars and courgetti salad!
I was really excited to receive Mira’s cookbook because, I must confess, I am not particularly familiar with Indian cooking. Sure, I do have my tried-and-tested spice blends I like to rely on – a favourite curry powder, and a love for a turmeric-cumin-coriander combo. But move me beyond my standard mixes and I’m in exotic, unfamiliar territory, in need of a guide.
Like many others too probably, I also often default to thinking of most Indian food as not being particularly healthy. Having grown up with my main exposure to “Indian food” being takeaway-type restaurants, this probably wasn’t too far off the mark in terms of what I’d tasted. Really heavy, creamy sauces (which I did not digest well, at all!) and enormous portions of white rice.
Saffron Soul sets out to change your perception of Indian food, with a fresher, lighter and more vibrant take on the cuisine. Mira has taken the base elements of pulses, vegetables, grains and spices, and spun out a book of nourishing food. This is such a timely book, as medicinally we’re becoming more aware of the healing powers of many spices that have forever formed the base of Indian meals.
If you’re a little unfamiliar with the basics of Indian cooking, Saffron Soul will definitely help you ease into it. The book begins with two super useful chapters: a glossary of Mira’s favourite ingredients, and then a few pages dedicated to key pastes and garnishes which are used in other recipes throughout the book. I read the ingredients chapter fully first, and picked up a few new gems of information on using asafoetida, fenugreek seeds and more.
Once you’ve got the basics down pat, you can launch into six more chapters devoted to different meals; breakfasts, mains, snacks, desserts and drinks are all covered. There’s a particularly beautiful chapter titled ‘Anytime Favourites’ which includes some yummy savoury pancakes, and a rice & lentil bake that would be perfect for snacking on any time of day.
My favourite chapter is definitely the one dedicated to thalis. Which, Mira teaches you, is an entire spread of a meal usually consisting of a variety of curries, dals, roti, rice, chutneys and snacks. There’s an art to getting the balance of a thali just right, and to that end Saffron Soul presents you sets of recipes for three complete thalis. I’m yet to prepare one of these sets myself, but they’d be amazing to put together for a dinner party.
Pictured above and at the end of this blog post is my recreation of one of the recipes in the book, Mira’s Indian Summers Salad. It’s a delicious blend including kale, berries and crunchy almonds, with a divine cashew-yoghurt dressing. I ate the whole serving myself! I can also vouch for the chai recipe. Great spicyness!
Saffron Soul is a really beautiful cookbook, and has introduced me to a style of Indian cooking that I’ve not experienced before. It is a vegetarian book, so you’ll certainly get your fill of plants, wholegrains, nuts and seeds using it – the good stuff we all need. When I saw more than one dessert recipe with carrot in it, I knew I was going to love cooking from this book!
Mira has very kindly let me share one of the recipes from Saffron Soul here with you – these gorgeous Saffron & Lime Chia Pots. The recipe includes a simple sweet saffron compote, which you can use in other recipes in Mira’s book.
I know you’ll love these colourful chia pots and all of the other recipes in Saffron Soul!
Makes 4 pots
The layers in this are so beautiful to look at, but very simple to create, so if you’re hosting a brunch or want to treat yourself to a delicious pot of something sweet, light and zesty, this is just the thing! The lime in the saffron compote adds the perfect balance and element of surprise to the honey yoghurt, while the coconut chips lend a wonderful mid-layer crunch.
For the saffron compote
- juice of 2 lemons or limes
- 1 teaspoon cornflour (cornstarch) or kudzu
- 2 tablespoons honey
- pinch of saffron
For the first layer
- 2 tablespoons chia seeds
- 100ml coconut milk
- 2 tablespoons Greek yoghurt or coconut yoghurt
For the second layer
- 1 tablespoon saffron compote (see above)
- 1 teaspoon desiccated coconut
- handful of coconut chips
For the third layer
- 6 tablespoons Greek yoghurt or coconut yoghurt
- 2 tablespoons honey
For the fourth layer
- 50g ripe raspberries, mashed
- juice of ½ lime
- desiccated coconut
- First make the saffron compote. Mix together the lemon or lime juice and cornflour (cornstarch) in a small saucepan off the heat. When combined, cook over a medium heat for a couple of minutes, then add the honey and saffron and cook, stirring, on a medium–low heat for 5–7 minutes until it thickens (it should be the consistency of a thin cream, but may thicken later). Leave to cool.
- To make the first layer, in a small bowl mix together the chia seeds and coconut milk, then leave for 10 minutes for the chia seeds to expand. Add the yoghurt and mix again.
- In another small bowl, mix together the yoghurt and honey for the third layer.
- When ready, make the chia pot by layering the pot(s) with the first chia layer, then add the saffron compote, a sprinkling of coconut flakes and the coconut chips to make the second layer.
- Top with the third layer of honey yoghurt and lastly add a few tablespoons of the mashed raspberries. To finish, sprinkle over some coconut flakes and serve.
Recipe extracted from Saffron Soul by Mira Manek, published by Jacqui Small, an imprint of The Quarto Group.
*Disclaimer: I received a free copy of Saffron Soul from Quarto publishers. This review expresses my own personal opinion of the book and I was not required to publish a positive review.