This cookbook was given to me by close family friends many years ago, and unfortunately, I've never really taken a good look at it. Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking by Julie Sahni is an older cookbook, published in 1985, but unlike a lot of "exotic" cookbooks of the time, this one is actually by an Indian chef and is intended to be a thorough look at real Indian cooking.
Flipping through it shows how comprehensive it is (and not just because it's 500 pages long) - the first 120 pages is an in-depth look into various vegetables, lentils, rices, and spices used in the cooking is different regions and castes in India. Just this section alone already puts this cookbook into my good column - there is a lot of useful knowledge and theory in here. There's also the full sweep of recipes in here - appetizers, dals, chutneys, breads, desserts, you name it.
At first glance the recipes look all quite straightforward - the titles of each recipe involve the real name of the dish, plus a longer explanatory name in English. So Urad Dal gets the more descriptive title of "White Gram Beans Laced with Onion Butter". There aren't any pictures of dishes, only a few illustrations, which helps give the cookbook the air that this is meant to be a practical tool, not a vanity cookbook.
As a spice head, I'm glad to see that despite this being a retro cookbook aimed for the Western market, they have not attempted to tone down the spiciness, only put in casual warnings. The recipe for Volcanic Sauce (Molaha Koyamboo) starts with: "Beware of this delicacy, for it can be shockingly hot for the unprepared palate." I'm ready!
The five recipes tested are: