From Too Many Chefs -

March 10, 2005
Floyd's India

floyds_india.jpgFloyd's India, Keith Floyd, Harpers Collins Press, 192 pages, 15.99.

Keith Floyd was the first celebrity chef I ever admired. He was charming, he was witty, he drank too much and he had the funkiest introductory music on his shows. Floyd on Fish, Floyd on France, through the eighties and into the nineties, I followed him glass by glass as he sloshed his way around the world. His was never the kind of show that gave you precise measurements or summed up at the end so that you could dutifully write down each of the ingredients and the instructions. His shows were half travelogue, half cooking, half (yes that's three) ode to the joys of drinking and eating. It's no wonder I half fell in love with him!

And so, last year when his new series Floyd's India appeared on the television the Critic came up with the perfect gift: the cookbook to the series, which would allow me to try out all the nifty recipes and HIM to taste them!

This book is pure Floyd. If you already like Floyd, you will probably love it. If you love eating and drinking and reading the experiences of someone else who loves eating and drinking you will probably also love it. If you are Julian Barnes, you will hate it. (Julian Barnes' Pedant in the Kitchen is a book-long rant against imprecise over-casual recipe writers.) So, like Floyd's TV series, the book spends a lot of time (for a cookbook) on the background, some 50 pages on the various regions of India he visited and a page or so before each of the sections to explain the following recipes. The recipes are grouped by main ingredient - Masala, Rice, Thali (oops that's a kind of dish), Chicken, etc. So there are two parts to the book, the stories and the recipes.

The stories are lovely, Floyd at his best. In the Tandoori section he unashamedly vents his spite against British Airways: "In July 2001 I purchased for about 70 pence a tandoor oven that stood 3 feet hight. Unfortunately British Airways wanted, in my opinion, an absolutely outrageous sum of money per kilo to fly it back to the UK and it would have cost about 600 in excess baggage so sadly it stayed put in India. Afer this experience, the film crew and I changed our airline to Emirates, who were pleased to have our business and our filming equipment." His story of the carry leaves that had to be purchase some 20 times because the seller kept looking at the camera ("A cardinal sin in a director's eyes!") made me laugh out loud. Reading the first fifty pages, and especially gazing at the gorgeous photos, you can't believe you have wasted some 37 years of your life without getting to India.

And the recipes are also, in good and bad ways, pure Floyd. They are mouthwatering, they are instructive, they make you want to explore new vistas. They are also, unfortuantely, somewhat vague. Often the quantities are simply "cover with water" and he expects you to know your exotic spices well enough that you know yourself how much you want to add. I had never cooked with curry leaves before and so was a bit concerned about deciding how much a "pinch" would be. (Why couldn't he just say 3-4 or 6-8 or whatever he meant?!?) That said, I've tried several of the recipes so far and none have let me down. In fact, the Jodhpuri Pulau (recipe below) is so good that it has received the ultimate cookbook compliment in my kitchen: the page is covered with grease and the book opens naturally to the recipe.

So all in all, the book is every bit as good as the series was. However, I did find there was a little something missing from Mr. Floyd this time around, a certain lack of spark. This might be due to the fact that he was unfamiliar with Indian food prior to the series. In his own words: 'Then, one fine day, he gets a fax, "Go and do a series on India," it says. "I don't know anything about India," he replies. "Don't worry," they say. "We will send you all the information. All you have to do is pop on to a plane and get cooking." And so they did.' So maybe that is what is why he is missing his usual assurance. Or maybe it's the fact that Indian food does not give scope for the "one glass for the pot, one glass for the chef" method of cooking?

Nevertheless it has been a fun read. It doesn't include every classic recipe you'd like to see (e.g. no samosas, only one bread recipe) but then it has a lot of dishes that you'll never see in your British or American Indian restaurant. And so if you enjoy exploring new regions in photos and recipes with a master raconteur this is the book for you. If you are looking for a textbook on Indian cuisine with precise measurements, look elsewhere.

Floyd's Jodhpuri Pulau (serves 6-8)

I chose this recipe for two reasons: I was dying to use the lovely yellow lentils (dal) that I bought at the Indian market, and the photo looked mouthwatering, with bits of spice and caramelised onions perched on top. Despite the fact that my rice was too sticky both times I tried it (obviously I didn't rinse it as much as Floyd advised) I absolutely loved it. My comments and departures from the recipe are in parentheses.

50 g/2 oz split yellow or rend lentils, washed
600 g/1 lb 6 oz. basmati rice, washed under running water for at lest 15 minutes and strained (the greenie in me can't bear running water for 15 minutes just for rice)
1 onion
vegetable oil
100 g/4 oz. ghee
1 tsp. cumin seeds
3 cloves
2 pieces of cinnamon stick
4-5 cardamom pods
2 black cardamom pods
2 bay leaves

1. Soak the washed lentils in fresh water for three hours and the washed rice for one hour. (Ahem. I threw them all in the same bowl and just soaked them for an hour or so.)

2. Cut the onion in half and slice it very finely into half moon shapes. Heat a little oil and fry the slices until they are very crispy, then drain and put to one side. (This was easier than I expected. Fry the slices in small quantities if they don't fit in your pan in an even layer and as soon as the first of the onions are nearly as cooked as you want begin removing them. By the time you get the last bits out they'll probably be slightly more cooked than you wanted and the majority will be just right.)

3. Strain the soacked lentils and the rice. Heat a little oil and the ghee (notice those vague quantities again!) in a pan or kerai, add all the whole spices and teh bay leaves and stir while they crackle.

4. Stir in the lentils, then add the rice and stir gently so that all the grains are coated with the oil. Add just enough water to cover the rice and season with salt. Bring to the boil, then lower the ehat and cook gently, stirring from time to time until the liquid is absorbed and teh rice is cooked.

5. Serve garnished with the crispy fried onions. (And warn your guests to look out for the cloves, cardamom pods and cinnamon sticks in the rice, which should not be eaten!)

Posted by Meg in Sussex at March 10, 2005 11:59 AM | TrackBack

I've never seen Floyd, but I do remember your recounting of his boozy barging through Europe in Floyd on Food.

Posted by barrett on March 11, 2005 at 10:45 AM

Oh, excellent! We loved "Floyd on France". Thanks for the heads up! We'll definitely look for "Floyd on India"!


Posted by ejm on March 11, 2005 at 2:45 PM

The UK Observer ran an interesting profile of Floyd which revealed that Floyd's Devon pub went under due to his guaranteeing a 36,000 bar bill and that his cousin was the only person to show up to one of his book signings. Long live Floyd!

Posted by Meg in Paris on March 12, 2005 at 3:49 PM

I would like to have more of floyd's recepie,I liked the simplicity of the recpie

Posted by Birdi on May 25, 2005 at 11:08 AM

hi mr floyd iam from singapore.have u been to singapore grandmother loves to watch ur prog.she is abt 85 yrs old.when she was in london she will nvr miss ur prog .i love ur recipe.

Posted by siraj on March 20, 2006 at 4:27 AM

Can I purchase video (VHS or DVD) on Floyd's shows/travels?????

I love him and his travel/cooking shows!

Posted by Jeanne Cox on August 2, 2006 at 2:35 PM

Wanted Kieth Floyd BBC series "Floyd on France/Fish" etc. on DVD or Video.

Posted by Gregory on November 9, 2006 at 2:56 PM

Wanted Kieth Floyd BBC series "Floyd on France/Fish" etc. on DVD or Video.

Posted by Gregory on November 9, 2006 at 2:58 PM

floyd on india and far flung floyd, fantastic!
the man is a delight to watch.did anyone see his one off show on how to prepare christmas dinner,with a hangover,superb.

Posted by steve on November 21, 2006 at 4:42 PM

Would you believe: I can't find any instructions for boiling white rice. My son is in China. the language is the problem. I am ashamed to tell him I have forgotten how. I have tried the internet, Google and eveyone I could think of. Is there anyone out there who could give the simple instructions and amounts of rice to water?HELP!

Posted by fayette mindlin on February 15, 2007 at 11:49 AM

The problem with finding instructions for cooking rice is that different kinds of rice - and different recipes - have different methods. I would tell your son to wash the rice a few times in cold water to remove the starch, and then bring a large pot of water to boil. Add the rice, making sure you have at least twice as much rice as water and cook for eight minutes or so. Fish out a few grains of rice and see if they are tender or not. If so, drain the rice and if not keep cooking and testing. Different rices take different amounts of time to cook, so I'm afraid he'll have to play around. It's the same story with how much water to use: over time he may get a feel for how much water will be absorbed by the rice but until he has instructions for the rice he is using the best thing is to use too much water and then drain it.

Is there really no one he can ask there? He might also want to invest in a rice cooker, if he can find one that includes English instructions. I am told they are the most efficient (and delicious) way to cook rice.

Good luck and sorry I can't be of more help!

Posted by Meg in Paris on February 19, 2007 at 5:47 AM

I love watching Floyds show. His recipes are simple, easy to make and very delicious.

Posted by Josephine on July 17, 2008 at 5:05 AM

Dear Floyd
its me Shiva from India iam watching Ur program on TV every week so iam really happy to see that Ur way of cooking Indian food even in that i observed that Ur really not finding the traditional way of the Indian cooking with heart & soul so i just want to tell u that again in future if u come to India for the learning of spicy south Indian cuisine u can call me for that iam interested to help people like u
Ur good friend pshiva take care

Posted by pshivaprasad.p on January 23, 2009 at 12:44 AM


you have no clue about Indian food. Stop misleading people with your style. you lack passion and most importantly proportion.

Westerners and Non- Indians there are better sources for you to learn how to cook get a life and get your aware of what outside America and the UK

Posted by Blogger on September 22, 2009 at 10:01 AM

Hi! I have been watching food/cooking programmes on TV for long, but I find Floyd's way of cooking clumsy. You may find my usage "clumsy" strange but my usage is with regard to his method of wasting a lot of food raw material while coooking. This is repulsive in Indian society, where food is revered with godess Annapoorna. Even I cook my food, but I ensure that wastage is almost NIL. I wish he refined his cooking methods keeping this Indian sentiment in view, as such programmes have a big influence on the viewers.

Posted by Goutham Babu P on September 23, 2009 at 1:18 AM

Drives me mad when he says Chewmeric instead of Turmeric.

Posted by Alana on May 3, 2010 at 6:58 AM

Hey, this guy still seems to be in the "Raj" era.

The amounts of red chilly powder and "cheumerik" (as he prefers to call turmeric) he adds are ridiculous - he says he likes the colour ! Can't be more stupid if anyone knows a little Indian cooking. He thinks the spices will mix evenly by some magic -without stirring! And Oh Gosh - the waste he creates and his spillage of materials all around...

I just hope he sometimes tastes what he has cooked and tells the viewers what does it really taste like.

The locales are beautiful -but they are chosen by the series director and producers. Cant they chose a better chef ??

Posted by Arvind Ghode on June 19, 2010 at 2:51 AM